Chronic hunger affects around 805 million people worldwide. InterNations Volunteer Group Consuls Elisabeth, Jacken, Alejandra, Dianka and Susanna are doing their part in working towards the goal of World Food Day, which takes place on 16 October, to make food available for everyone.
Distributing Food and Helping Children Grow Up
Jacken Zheng, Beijing, Guangai School
“If you want to help the underprivileged, you should have a clear goal and focus and have a long-term vision.”
Jacken Zheng is one of the Consuls of the Beijing Volunteer Group. Together with the members, he works to provide monthly food support to orphaned children. Volunteers have the opportunity to bring food to the school or help prepare meals there. That way, they don’t only make sure the children don’t go hungry, they also get to interact with them. “We cook together. We play together. We try to understand their stories, their thoughts about the future, their gift,” Jacken says.
Already, many more people have joined their efforts and they hope to help the children grow up, too. So far, 16 students have received funding to attend junior middle school.
Elisabeth Grimsø, Bangkok, Duang Prateep Foundation
“I think the best thing is to see happy children but also happy volunteers!”
InterNations members in Bangkok also support their local community. With the help of their Consul, Elisabeth Grimsø, they prepare and eat lunch with children at the Duang Prateep Foundation. “Together with the volunteers, we help serve the food and prepare the table. And obviously a big job is the ice-cream scooping after lunch! The children absolutely love this special little treat.”
But the group’s activities go far beyond ice-cream scooping. “We help finding sponsors for the children, so that they can stay in school after they ‘graduate’ from the Duang Prateep kindergarten.”
Eating Is a Basic Thing
Susanna Kukaj Rossi, Rome, Street Feeding
“To eat is a basic thing. It is difficult to do anything on an empty belly.”
Together with other members of her Volunteer Group and the help of an organization called Sant Egidio, Susanna started to take food for homeless people out onto the streets of Rome. The best thing for her, though, is not just the opportunity to feed the homeless but to offer them the opportunity to interact with the volunteers. “They are not just waiting for food but also have a chat,” Susanna explains. “The chat is just as important to them as the food.”
Dianka Elodie Songo, Brussels, Les Samaritains
„The feeling I get by helping others, and by seeing all those who want to join me and help too, makes me feel that I have achieved something.”
The Volunteer Group in Brussels, led by their Consul Dianka Elodie Songo, is also serving food to the homeless. For her, it’s about drawing attention to those who are often overlooked and to give something back to the community. “I chose food distribution because it gives us volunteers the chance to get in contact with homeless people, listen and hear their stories,” Dianka says. “It is important to talk to them and understand the fact that they are first human, and then homeless.” The Brussels Volunteer Group supports the local organization Les Samaritains, which is often short on volunteers to help with the food distribution.
Alejandra Müller, Berlin, Berliner Tafel
“When I think about all the people that will enjoy a warm meal due to our work, it is a nice feeling that compensates for the hard work.“
The Berlin Volunteer Group, on the other hand, works with the Berliner Tafel to collect unused food from local supermarkets and give it to people in need. Group Consul Alejandra Müller was impressed with the organization’s work from the beginning and was happy to support them. “For me this concept of collecting leftovers from supermarkets to repackage them was totally new and a very good idea!” The hard work of the InterNations volunteers seems to pay off. Not only do the group members enjoy the activity and are happy to lend a helping hand, but the thought of all the people who get to enjoy a warm meal because of them makes it worthwhile.
At the same time, they have developed a great relationship with the Berliner Tafel. The organization is happy to get in touch with Alejandra whenever they are short on volunteers.
Helping and Learning
Throughout their volunteer work in their communities, all Consuls have learned a thing or two about how to approach volunteer projects aimed at fighting chronic hunger. Jacken realized early on that “if you want to help the underprivileged, you should have a clear goal and focus, as well as a long-term vision.”
Elisabeth found out that it makes a lot of sense to involve the community and the foundation that the Bangkok Volunteer Group is partnered with directly. “They get a much better deal on food than we would, so we let them order the food and we pay for it. This also allows them to go to local vendors, which in turn helps the community.”
For our Brussels Consul Dianka, it is important to be well prepared from regular meetings, but all preparations aside, the most important thing is to “continue to enjoy it and know your limits.”
Susanna realized that it doesn’t need a big charity event to give something back. “I have learned that people can make a difference on a small scale. We don’t need 350 people or more to do something good.”
Image credit: 1) InterNations 2) Elisabeth Grimsø, 3) iStockphoto, 4) Dianka Elodie Songo, 5) Alejandra Müller