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Call for Action: Write letters to your Senators about life-saving aid programs

Now that the election is over Congress will turn their attention to the budget. There is a concern that they could cut life-saving aid programs like Feed the Future and climate adaptation. These programs are crucial and positively affect millions of poor and hungry people.

We need your help to write letters and get the message out to not cut back on this life-saving aid to Illinois' Senators: Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk . Oxfam America drafted a sample letter that you can use to help you get started. See the attached file below.

Write your letters and email them to us at Chicago.OxfamActionCorps@gmail.com with the subject line "Lame Duck Letters."

A few tips:
  • Address your letter(s) to Richard Durbin and/or Mark Kirk
  • Write your letters in your own voice.  Personal experiences of traveling to another country recently or working in a foreign country are great experiences to mention. Make your letters personal to really get their attention!
  • If you want more information on foreign aid, check out our Foreign Aid 101 guide here.
Example of what to say:

Dear Senator [NAME],

I am a constituent and (vocation) from (city/town) writing to urge you to support the Senate’s FY13 funding level for the International Affairs Budget in order to protect poverty-focused accounts throughout all upcoming budget negotiations, including negotiations to avert or delay the sequester.

While I recognize our nation's fiscal constraints, poverty-focused assistance represents less than 1% of the federal budget. Cutting this funding would not close the budget gap, but it would negatively impact our national security, and how the world views our humanitarian values.

If deeper cuts are made to poverty-focused development assistance, a number of effective programs will be in serious jeopardy, such as:
  • Feed the Future, an initiative that fights hunger by supporting small scale farmers.
  • The Global Climate Change Initiative, which enables vulnerable communities to build resilience to water scarcity and extreme weather shocks.
  • The Global Health Initiative, which addresses maternal and child health, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
  • The Millennium Challenge Corporation, which rewards countries that promote democracy, human rights, economic freedom, and the rule of law.
  • USAID Operating Expenses, which supports reforms at USAID to make aid more effective and efficient.
These tools are critical for sustaining American leadership to build a better, safer world. I urge you to fully fund these effective programs and oppose any cuts to assistance for the world's poorest communities.

Feel free to include a personal note on why this matters to you.

(Your name and address)



Thanksgiving with the GROW Method

Looking for ways to Buy Local, Eat Less Meat and Dairy, Cook Smarter, Reduce Waste for Thanksgiving? And what better time than now, a weekend to celebrate family, friends and what we have over a delicious meal. Here are some simple recipes to start.

 Try this Salad to start your family meal.
  • 4 fresh Butternut Squash or 2 bags of butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar Splenda* or regular brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of Agave or Honey
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of EVOO
  • Spinach or mixed greens - washed & dried
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds

Heat your oven to 400 F.
Chop squash into cubes
On a large baking sheet, toss your squash with  EVOO, brown sugar & honey.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Toss pecans, cranberries, salad together. Top with baked squash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds


 This is a great Panzanella to use farm fresh ingredients packed with antioxidants!
  • 5 cups of hearty, peasant bread torn into chunks
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus some for drizzling)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 large, ripe tomatoes cut into large cubes or wedges
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons/shredded (chiffonade)
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf, Italian parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus some for seasoning the bread)
  • freshly cracked black pepper
 Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread chunks in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes until dry and barely toasted.
In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, parsley and salt. Fold tomatoes into dressing.
Serve at room temperature.

Vegetable Tian Enjoy the season's best Midwestern Fall Harvest with this layered entree that offers a hearty vegetarian tian.
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium winter squash
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Cup Shredded cheese of choice (Fresh grated Italian cheeses are great!)
  • S&P

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Saute both in a skillet with olive oil until softened (about five minutes).

While the onion and garlic are sauteing, thinly slice the rest of the vegetables.

Spray the inside of an 8x8 square or round baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of the dish. Place the thinly sliced vegetables in the baking dish vertically, in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and thyme.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, top with cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

There is so much to try with broccoli, brussel sprouts, root vegetables and more! Check out the newest recipes on the Oxfam GROW method Pinterest page.

-Compiled by Megan Nakra


WATER OR GOLD? The Case of El Salvador

Next Wednesday, November 14th the CRLN (Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America) is hosting its annual luncheaon.  Oxfam America has partnered with CRLN to bring Salvadoran Franciscan friar, Brother Domingo Solis, this year's speaker for the CRLN's 2012 annual luncheon.  From CRLN's website:

"CRLN has partnered with Oxfam America to bring Salvadoran Franciscan friar, Brother Domingo Solis, as the speaker for on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 from 12-2 pm at Old St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Chicago. Brother Solis is a spokesperson from the Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica (National Working Group on Metal Mining) in El Salvador. The Mesa Nacional was recipient of the "2009 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Prize" presented by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. 
The Mesa Nacional has successfully mobilized the Salvadoran public to demand that Pacific Rim Mining Company be prohibited from initiating gold mining in El Salvador, since gold mining will threaten El Salvador's limited water resources.  In response, Pacific Rim sued the government of El Salvador under the U.S. Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), because the Salvadoran government rejected Pacific Rim's application for a gold mining operating license. 
This places El Salvador on the front line of confronting massive transnational corporate mining operations which have proliferated across the hemisphere over the last 15 years.  Gold mining is among the most aggressive and environmentally-damaging types of mining operations.  Gold prices have risen by shocking 420% in 10 years: from just over $250/ounce in 2002 to $1,700/ounce in 2012.  This price spike has generated an unprecedented modern-day gold rush by powerful transnational corporations across the planet. 
Mass scale transnational mining was the top issue among hemispheric human rights and social organizations at the May 2012 People's Summit, which met in Cartagena, Colombia, parallel to the Summit of the Americas.  Alejandro Villamar, coordinator for the watchdog organization Mexico Network on Mining Impact (REMA), asserted that in the last 12 years of pro free-trade governments in Mexico, 2½ times as much gold has been mined in Mexico as was mined during the first 300 years of the Spanish Conquest.  During the 2012 Ecumenical Advocacy Days, CRLN learned that 30% of Mexico's national territory is under mining exploration concession, as is 30% in Colombia and 40% in Honduras.   

Because these transnational mining companies are based in the U.S. and Canada, Latin American environmental and human rights leaders have urged North American citizens to take action."

For more information on the luncheon, check out their website here.
If you are interested in attending the luncheon, you can still purchase a ticket at this site: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4400299414/eorg#


The Politics of Poverty

From Nick Galasso
Oxfam America research and policy advisor on inequality and economic growth.

Fighting Poverty Means Solving the Inequality Problem Last week, the World Bank released a new report assessing declining income inequality over the 2000s in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Each country experienced significant reductions in inequality over the last decade. This finding is not new, but the authors helpfully tease out some nuance behind the trend.

Their findings suggest two factors drove the contraction in inequality. First, the skills premium (the wage distribution based on education) fell. In other words, the difference in pay between skilled versus unskilled workers declined. In Argentina, declining labor income inequality was driven by a boom in trade that caused a drop in demand for skilled workers. These conditions were bolstered by strong unions and a rise in the minimum wage. Focused government spending on higher education increased the supply of skilled labor in Mexico. Both factors—reduced demand and increased supply for skilled workers—were in play in Brazil.

The second factor is more progressive government transfers, as expanding coverage of cash transfer and social security programs played a significant equalizing force in the distribution of non-labor income in each country.

All three cases put in relief that solving inequality is fundamentally a problem of politics, not economics. In each, government spending on education, conditional cash transfers, and other social expenditures helped drive down inequality.

The authors provide some astounding figures highlighting why tackling inequality is crucial.

In Mexico, nearly 60 percent of the poverty decline since 1996 is attributed to reducing inequality. Argentina’s inequality drop accounts for 40 and 50 percent of extreme and moderate poverty declines, respectively. For Brazil, 50 to 60 percent of extreme poverty decline is attributable to reducing inequality.
These figures remind us that the fight against inequality and the fight against poverty are one in the same.

First Person: Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty