blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff
New York Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) Workshop
By Cherilyn Sprague
On June 26th, 2012 the Global Youth Connect delegation in NYC had the pleasure of having a workshop* put on by NYCCAH in effective volunteering.
We heard a rousing speech by Joel Berg, executive director of NYCCAH who explained to the Global Youth Connect delegates the reality of poverty and hunger in America and why it is that government programs are often more efficient and effective then volunteering at a soup kitchen. Joel worked in senior positions in the USDA under the Clinton administration, so his knowledge of America’s public policy on hunger and poverty is vast. Those in the group not from the United States (and probably some who were too) were probably shocked to hear that the United States does not define economic rights as human rights. Mr. Berg told us that the only US president to ever do so was President Roosevelt who helped move America through the Great Depression. Not only does the United States not define human rights- but he spoke of vast wealth inequality which results in such statistics as the USA having 400 billionaires while having 49 million people who can’t afford enough food (many of them children). His solution to hunger was that of successful public policy- most notably his support of a living wage for all workers.
After Joel Berg finished speaking, we also heard from Valerie Boucard, who spoke to us more about what New York City Coalition against Hunger does to alleviate hunger in the United States. They are focused on education and policy change because they do not believe that charity and food pantries are the way you are going to solve hunger in America.
After lunch, Global Youth Connect delegates were given the chance to be involved in an effective volunteering project. We were put into groups and given a location in Queens to spread information to residents about a free summer meals program run by the USDA and Department of Education. This program is to replace summer meals that children would normally get at school but because of financial strain may not be getting at home. There is no proof of enrollment or age needed and students just need to go to a site, many of them public spaces such as parks, to receive the free meals. Besides meals, children will be provided a safe place to play and do fun and educational activities. GYC delegates were surprised at how easy it was to spread information about the program to residents of the communities we went into and how few of them knew about the program. This experience was very rewarding for all of us involved and it helped us to practice effective volunteering, hopefully taking the things we learned on with us for future volunteering opportunities.
*The room that we used for this workshop was provided by Global Kids, who’s mission (according to their website http://www.globalkids.org) is “to develop youth leaders for the global stage through dynamic global education and leadership development programs. Global Kids inspires underserved youth to achieve academic excellence, self-actualization and global competency, and empowers them to take action on critical issues facing their communities and our world. Our vision is to create an ever-growing network of young people from diverse backgrounds who attain leadership on all levels of society and enter fields of international affairs and public policy.”