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Presbyterian Hunger Program meets with participating countries on poverty, hunger issues

Partners in Joining Hands initiative look to the future

Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Participants in the Joining Hands initiative meet in Huancayo, Peru, Aug. 16, 2017 Chenoa Stock

LOUISVILLE – For more than 17 years, the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP), through its Joining Hands initiative, has been tackling the root causes of hunger and poverty. PHP staff recently gathered with representatives from several countries to look at the progress and where to go from here.

“Every four years, we have had a consultation with participating partners to see how the work is going and meet with churches to ensure they understand why we are still dealing with these problems,” said Valéry Nodem, the PHP’s international associate. “In the past, we’ve met in the states of Washington, California and Illinois. This year, we held a smaller consultation outside the U.S. for the first time, gathering in Peru.”

Nodem said the weeklong session of sharing, reflecting and planning was an important step in helping member countries address some of the root causes of hunger and poverty.

“We brought partners from all of the involved countries that are doing this work together, sharing approaches, tactics and trying to determine how to move forward,” Nodem said. “It was a very exciting time.”

The Joining Hands initiative was launched by PHP in 2000 to address the systemic and root causes of poverty. Currently, there are eight participating networks in eight countries: Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Haiti and India. All of the partner networks in these countries address long-term poverty by working to improve policies and corporate practices at the local, national and international levels.

“With funding for this kind of work becoming more and more scarce in general, we discussed ways to make sure the good work that we started continues even if PHP’s participation is reduced,” Nodem said.

Nodem added that they were encouraged by the success stories that were shared.

“It’s really powerful to have everyone in the same room and hear from one country to the other about progress that’s been made,” Nodem said. “In Sri Lanka, for example, the group we’ve supported has been able to gather fisher folk, farmers and women; people with little power individually are now coming together and resisting efforts to confiscate land.”

While the work has been challenging, the Joining Hands partners have been inspired by the progress.

“People in these countries are speaking up and gaining confidence, like Peru, where giant multi-national corporations are polluting the air, soil and environment,” Nodem said. “People are saying it’s not okay, resisting corporate efforts and prompting leaders now to propose new ways to design mining operations in the country.”

With funding sources getting smaller, Nodem encouraged participants to write grants and seek new funding partners.

“We’ve tried as long as we could to keep grants untouched, but we are also reaching the point where we can’t sustain the funding anymore,” Nodem said. “We had a lot of conversations on how to better connect with more U.S. churches and how to communicate the impact of our work to ensure the networks continue to be stronger and more efficient.”

Nodem said he’s been working to pull together a list of foundations and donors that support the kind of work that Joining Hands is involved with.

“We encouraged them to diversify more. You don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket,” he said. “There is a lot of opportunity through grant writing, and we are here to help. If they have a proposal they wish for us to review, we are happy to do it.”

Nodem recommended a four-step process for the participating countries to keep moving forward. The first step, he said, is to continue to meet with other countries and share approaches, tactics and strategies.

“The second step is to make new connections while remaining connected with the church. There are many groups in the U.S. and Europe doing the same kind of work and there needs to be global synergy around this,” Nodem said. “Third, diversify the sources of funding, and the fourth step is to share the stories of impact so that people are aware of what’s going on.”

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is made possible by gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing.

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