Social Justice Challenge: Hunger

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Social Justice Challenge 2010March became an “Observer” month for me on the Social Justice Challenge and I’m only now posting about the April topic – Hunger. At the beginning of the month we were asked to post a picture depicting hunger. For contemporary heart-rending photographs, read the post links here.

The picture I’ve chosen is an old one – an illustration by George Cruikshank from Oliver Twist, which we haven’t quite finished yet.

Cruikshank illustration for OliverTwist - "Please, sir, I want some more."

Cruikshank’s cartoon, where Oliver, having drawn the short straw, dares to ask for more gruel, is as much an exchange between the hungry Oliver and the pompous Mr Bumble, as it is a metaphor of the stand-off between the haves and have nots – or, today, poor countries in thrall to wealthy countries, in terms of debt. Hunger and poverty go hand in hand – but you often don’t have to look too far away from the have nots to find the haves.

Another book we read in April (and I’ve talked about both of them in my recent update of the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge) is John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The theme of hunger runs through the book. The contrast between the situation of the two boys, Bruno and Shmuel, is often thrown into sickening relief by Bruno’s unquestioning observation of his friend, who is fading away before his eyes. As he leaves the house to go and see Shmuel, Bruno often grabs a snack to take to his friend – but more often than not he ends up carelessly eating it himself because he happens to feel a bit peckish. It makes you want to weep. There is also an excruciating scene in the kitchen of Bruno’s house.

Both these books have historical settings, but we have related them to today’s world. We turned to that superb resource for both young and old, If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith (Kids Can Press, 2002, updated 2007). The section on Food, which I have mentioned before, says:

There is no shortage of food in the global village. If all the food were divided equally, everyone would have enough to eat. But the food isn’t divided equally. So although there is enough to feed the villagers, not everyone will be fed:

50 people do not have a reliable source of food and are hungry some or all of the time.
20 other people are severly undernourised.

Only 30 people always have enough to eat.

There are natural reasons for hunger – crops failing, drought, natural disaster – but human action and inaction, whether through conflict, economic policy etc. are as far-reaching and probably more insidious.

Have a read of this article, 12 Myths About Hunger – it dates back to 2008 but it is still thought-provoking and relevant. And one of the things I’m resolved to keep up for the rest of the Social Justice Challenge, and hopefully beyond, is regular clicking on the Hunger Site – if you don’t know it, you can click on the flashing button at the end of this post, which will take you to the site where one click will contribute towards a donation of food (and consider visiting its sister sites too).

The Hunger Site

Social Justice Challenge: Water

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Social Justice Challenge 2010This month’s focus for the Social Justice Challenge is Water, a precious, life-giving resource that many of us take for granted. It is only relatively recently that awareness is growing everywhere of water being a finite resource. Many of us just have to turn on the tap for a ready supply of clean water for drinking, washing, even playing – but it is shocking indeed to think that nearly half the people living in the developing world do not have access to clean water; and that, according to UNICEF:

“Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.”

Ryan and Jimmy: and the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together, by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, 2006)Older Brother and Little Bother cite a statistic they believe comes from WaterAid that 3 people die every 10 minutes because of a lack of clean water. In an attempt to turn this remote, hopeless-sounding figure into something they can get their heads round, we are currently reading Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, 2006). This is the wonderful and inspiring story of how the determination of one small boy in Canada, Ryan Hreljac, captured people’s imagination so that he was able to raise the $2,000 needed to buy a well for a community in Uganda – and then go on raising money to fund drills for more wells – so that now, the Ryan’s Well Foundation, with the now eighteen-year-old Ryan at its head, is working to bring safe drinking water and increase sanitation and hygiene awareness in 16 countries around the world.

Another engaging book and superb resource for raising young people’s awareness about water is (more…)

Social Justice Challenge: Religious Freedom

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Social Justice Challenge 2010As soon as I spotted the Social Justice Challenge button dotted all over the blogosphere, I knew that I would have to come up with some very good arguments not to take it on… so you will now find said button in our side-bar and here is my first post as an Activist for this month. If you haven’t already, I really do recommend you read this post, which explains the workings of the Challenge much better than I ever could… I will just say that this is a Challenge to do, as well as to absorb

Launching January’s theme of Religious Freedom, which happens to run parallel to our own current theme of Respect for Religious Diversity, we are asked to answer a few questions:

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of religious freedom?
Peace and harmony – when we all learn to respect the right of each individual to follow (or not) the religion of their choice without fear of persecution, the human race will come close to achieving them. And education also comes to mind – because children (and adults) need to find out about the different world faiths, and learn to value both the diversity and shared values that they have at their heart.

What knowledge do you have of present threats to religious freedom in our world today?
I have some awareness of religious intolerance across the world – but I’m not going to go into it here…

Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month?
With my sons, I’m going to read Many Windows: Six Kids, Five Faiths, One Community by Rukhsana Khan with Elisa Carbone and Uma Krishnaswami (Napoleon, 2008) and The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix (Holiday House, 2009), both of which I have already read… I haven’t chosen something new for myself yet… if I hadn’t recently read Wanting Mor (also by Rukhsana) , I would choose that…

Why does religious freedom matter to you?
It is a human right.

New PaperTigers Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Continuing with our current December/January bimonthly theme of Respect for Religious Diversity, we have added two new book reviews:

The Grand Mosque of Paris by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix (Holiday House, 2009)The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix (Holiday House, 2009);

Let There Be Peace: Prayers from Around the World selected by Jeremy Brooks, illustrated by Jude Daly (Frances Lincoln, 2009)and Let There be Peace: Prayers from Around the World, selected by Jeremy Brooks and illustrated by Jude Daly (Frances Lincoln, 2009), which is also our January Book of the Month.

Both of these are superb books and would be perfect for sharing with children as part of the Social Justice Challenge, whose theme of Religious Freedom for this month happens to coincide with our own – I’ll be posting properly about this demanding and potentially hugely rewarding reading challenge soon…