The idea of trying to make an impact on “the world” can be overwhelming. The world’s needs are so great, and we are but a small, seemingly insignificant part, trying to reach out and make a difference. “How much good can we really do?”
That question haunts me every time I think about trying to organize a Food Packaging Event for the children of Haiti. It seems like such a big task. The needs of the children, of the country, are so great. We are but one small community trying to make a difference in the lives of people we may never have the opportunity to meet. But then…
But then I have had the opportunity to travel to Haiti and here is what I have experienced:
There is a program entitled “Thrive for Five” in a small town in the foothills of central Haiti. Moms and dads bring their children (from as far as 1 ½ hours away by foot) who are five years and younger to a feeding center, where they can get at least one good nutritious meal for their child that day. It is important to be feeding these children because we know that their development, both physically and mentally, needs that nutrition in these early years in order for them to be able to someday begin to break the patterns of poverty through a good education. We want to give them every opportunity to grow healthy minds and bodies. In December of 2013, I had the opportunity to hold some of those children and feed them that meal. For many of those children, that will be the only meal they get that entire day. And on the box where the meals are stored it says, “Packaged in Nevada, Iowa.”
There is a school that has been designed for children who cannot hear. In Haiti, these children are considered the lowest of the low. Many of these children have simply been abandoned by their parents. I have visited this school to see where they live and I had the chance to play soccer with them! (Truth is, I just chased them around and they laughed at me.) These children are just like the children in Nevada. They want to grow up to have families and jobs and homes. When I went to see them in 2013, we took a truckload of boxes of food that will help feed them through the winter and summer of 2014. And on the boxes where the meals are stored it says, “Packaged in Nevada, Iowa.”
There is a local hospital that serves a large portion of the area residents, both city and rural folk. There is no such thing as health insurance and medicines are at a premium. Most people who come to the hospital for care are simply given a bed, whereas they probably did not have one at their home. There is no such thing as pre-natal care, so there are many premature babies struggling for life. The rate of AIDS patients remains high in the country of Haiti and many are dying for lack of access to proper medicines. There is no cafeteria that feeds these patients or their families. I have sat by the bedside of these people as they are given a hot meal to help them heal, if not physically certainly emotionally. And on the boxes where the meals are stored it says, “Packaged in Nevada, Iowa.”
I know a young man who feels drawn to reach out to the mentally disabled in this small community of Haiti. There is no mental health care. There is no support group to reach out to the disabled. There is no homeless shelter that will give them food and a comfortable bed. They sleep on a piece of cardboard that they carry with them, and every day some of the mentally disabled travel to a small room in a corner of the city, where they know they will be safe, and every day this young man shows up with a hot meal for these people. And on the boxes where the meals are stored it says, “Packaged in Nevada, Iowa.”
You get the point. Yes, the needs are great, but we can – together – make a difference. On Saturday, April 19, at Gates Memorial Hall there will be another Food Packaging Event for the city of Nevada. There are many ways that you can be involved in the morning’s activities. There are two shifts for packaging food. One shift is from 8:30–10:30, and the other shift is from 10–noon. You can sign up for a shift by going to the Nevada Chamber of Commerce website at www.nevadaiowa.org for online sign up or call the Chamber of Commerce office at 515-382-6538. If none of those options work for you and it comes to the morning of the 19th of April and you just want to show up…great! We’ll find a place for you to package food. There will always be more room at the table! Perhaps you and your friends or workmates would like to form a team and come together to spend a couple of hours making a difference. You can also contribute financially. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to package 80,000 meals. If you would like to make a donation, you can make a check payable to “Outreach, Inc.” and mail it to Jon Augustus at 1110 Sixth St., Nevada, IA 50201.
I end where I began…”How much good can we really do when the needs are so great?” Somewhere in Haiti there is a box of food and on that box there is a label that reads, “Packaged in Nevada, Iowa” - to that child or that family that opens that box, it can mean the difference between hope or hunger.