child poverty

This is a video preview of an upcoming MPR project. The stats are sad, but it is the reality of our neighbors.

Here is a link to the entire project: Civil War Kids

For 24 hours, starting at 8:00 am on November 17th, every donation made through will be eligible to receive a portion of the $500,000 match. These funds were contributed by the Minneapolis Foundation, St. Paul Foundation and Bush Foundation.  Also, generous funders are defraying donation processing fees on this site, so 100% of your gift goes straight to the organization!

In addition to the matching funds, the three nonprofits that receive the most individual donations will receive cash prizes: $5,000 for first prize, $2,500 for second, and $1,000 for third.

Over 36,000 organizations have a profile on the site.  So I helped narrow it down for you.  Below are 21organizations that I’ve had some interaction with and would support with my own money if I had lots and lots of it.  I threw in a random 22nd for diversity’s sake!

Youth Development

  • Longfellow United for Youth and Family have played a huge role on my work here in MN.  LUYF is a coalition of community members and churches that provide a free tutoring program and strongly support the work of the Sanford Job Corps – one of my primary responsibilites at Sanford.
  • Elpis Enterprises has been another great partner for my work in MN. Elpis or Hope provides teenagers the opportunity to gain work-related skills and leadership through screen printing and other businesses.  My first encouter with Elpis was with their bird feeder program.  We bought kits and Paul brought out one of his employees and they helped my kids build 20 bird feeders in 1 hour!
  • Achieve Minneapolis is more or less a foundation that supports programs within the Minneapolis Public Schools.  They provide grants for classrooms, teacher professional development, field trips, host career fairs, and much much more.
  • Urban Ventures is a youth leadership program located in my neighborhood that provides youth opportunities that might not otherwise get.  This includes tutoring, mentoring, family support, entrepreneurship programs and much more.
  • Best Prep does a lot of things surrounding financial education, including supplying classroom volunteers to talk about their career paths. I used them to bring in entrepreneurs to talk about their businesses and ventures they supported.
  • Junior Achievement is a better known cousin of Best Prep.  JA is best known for their Biz Town program where students visit their city and apply themselves in different roles such as CEO, Mayor, barista, etc. JA also does classroom volunteering programs in partnership with corporations.
  • YWCA provides a variety of services to pretty much every population.  They focus primarily on racial justice and empowering women and girls.  In Minneapolis they also operate 3 fitness facilities.  We are a member of the YWCA.
  • YMCA also provides a variety of services and operates a lot of fitness facilities around Minneapolis and the West Metro.  Some of our friends work for the YMCA, though none of their facilities are conveniently located for us.
  • CommonBond Communities provides affordable housing and supportive services in the Twin Cities.  I put CommonBond under youth development because I volunteered with them during the summer of my Americorps*VISTA service.  I served as a program assistant in a summer program that combined fun and learning during the afternoons for children residents of the Seward Towers.  They provide many more services to their residents.
  • Cookie Cart is an innovative teen led and run business venture in North Minneapolis.  Teens make, bake, and sell the cookies out of the West Broadway store front in the midst of a tough part of the city.
  • Search Institute is a nationally recognized leader in youth development.  Most famous for its 40 Developmental Assets I worked alot with these principles while in Indiana.  They provide resources to enable every adult to have a positive impact on the youth in their lives.
  • Bolder Options is a great youth mentoring program that connects youth and mentors through running (and biking) activities.  I would highly recommend volunteering as a mentor with Bolder Options.

Refugee Services

  • World Relief helps refugees adjust to life in Minnesota and America. This is the umbrella organization for the English literacy site that Christy and I co-coordinate.  They also provide job training, initial welcoming services, housing assistance and much more to refugees as they walk off the plane and into the sometimes harsh tundra of MN.
  • Center for Victims of Torture helps refugees and other immigrants who have been tortured in their home countries or at any point in their journey. They are a great advocate of human rights and the dignity of all peoples.
  • MN Literacy Council is probably the largest provider of literacy services in the Twin Cities and around the state.  We have attended their trainings and they are excellent.  They work with refugees, immigrants, children, adults, and families.


  • Books for Africa sends used books to African partners who have a need for books! My school donated a bunch of textbooks that we never used last year.
  • Minnesota Public Radio is a great news source for both local and national issues.  They also have a rocking music station that plays a lot of local bands.
  • Feed My Starving Children is a well-respected Christian organization that pre-packages food here in MN that then gets shipped to over 60 countries.
  • Second Harvest of the Heartland is a large food bank that is helping to end hunger in MN.  It is affiliated with the national Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest Network) and does some great work here in the Twin Cities.
  • Somali TV of MN is my random organization.
  • Citizens League is a nonpartisan grassroots organization that focuses on a civic action for policy change. Think League of Women Voters with a younger group and a focus on grassroots advocacy and information sharing.
  • Team USA – MN is a post-collegiate training center and group for runners to be coached and supported while they strive to fulfill their athletic goals.

A challenging story of how a successful Christian, CEO answered God’s calling reminds us that sometimes we have to do more than just sit in a pew.  Rich Stearns, is the current President of World Vision and is well respected within the international development community.  I had never heard his story before, but am amazed at how God worked in his life.

The Hole in Our Gospel, is more than just an autobiography though.  He critiques the modern church for missing a large part of the Gospel message Jesus shared.  Stearns sacrificed his lifestlye as the CEO of a chinaware company to become president of World Vision.  It is a cool story and one you should read.  But as he makes clear in this excerpt, he is not calling us to get rid of everything in our life:

However, I don’t want to also suggest that all true followers of Christ must forsake everything to bring comfort and justice to the poor. I
only propose that genuine concern for “the least of these” that finds tangible expression must be woven into the pattern of their lives and faith. That expression might involve small but regular gifts to compassion ministries, advocating on behalf of the poor to government representatives, or regular volunteering at a soup kitchen, the local nursing home, or the Ronald McDonald House…. Even Jesus did not spend every waking hour helping the poor.  He dined with the wealthy, celebrated at weddings and feasts, taught in the synagogue, and perhaps did a bit of carpentry.  Still, there is no question that His love for the poor found consistent and concrete expression in His life and ministry.

Yes, this book contains numbers and statistics that are overwhelming, even to me.  But his focus is more on telling the story about how God redeems us and redeems our brothers and sisters around the world.  Stearns will not allow you to get bogged down in the numbers, but will help you remember that each number represents a living person that Jesus died for.

Pick it up, read it, discuss it, share it with a friend.

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This is part of a recent ad campaign from World Vision. It came to me via Christianity Today’s daily news e-mail.  I thought it was thoughtful and though provoking.

What are your thoughts?

I think we all now that at some level our new President is going to sign some type of  economic stimulus package.  We may disagree on the need or scope of the package, but we all would agree that if you are going to do it, it needs to be done right with accountability and ensuring that we get the post bang for our buck.

Unlike some of the first “bailout” money which helped line corporate coffers and plush resorts, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan has some real potential to impact real people, with real issues.

Obama’s original plan included:

  • Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
  • Modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.
  • Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized.
  • Equipping tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.
  • Expanding broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
  • Investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.

A version of this bill has already passed through the House of Representatives.  I received an action alert from a hunger related organization in Minnesota with some encouraging news that current bill included:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance: $20 billion to provide nutrition assistance to modest-income families and to lift restrictions that limit the amount of time individuals can receive food stamps.
  • Senior Nutrition Programs: $200 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals.
  • Afterschool Meals: $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and to encourage participation by new institutions by increasing snack reimbursement rates.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program Information Systems: $100 million to improve state management information systems for the WIC program.

Obviously alleviating hunger is an important part of ending poverty and ensuring everyone has a chance to be successful, especially during a recession. Food is often cut from family budgets so that they can continue to live in a warm house.  Obviously conservatives are against government handouts, even in the form of food aid, but that is sad.  Two of these hunger related items will have a lasting long-term impact on the economy.  Improving the management of WIC programs is an investment in the future of the important program which assists mothers and new born babies – ensuring proper nutrition.  Another is the after-school meals.  For many students the only food they recieve is at school and for many more, the only hot meal they recieve is at school.  Again this is an investment in the education of our future generations.

Call your Senator today and say:

Food insecurity impacts nearly 10% of our population.

The most effective response to hunger in this economic crunch is to improve low income (your state)’s  access to and participation in federal domestic nutrition assistance programs.

Food assistance also helps unemployed citizens make the transition back to self-sufficiency.

Increased participation in these programs also brings millions of additional federal dollars into the state’s economy.

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Treat one another justly.
Love your neighbors.
Be compassionate with each other.
Don’t take advantage of widows,
orphans, visitors, and the poor.
Don’t plot and scheme against one another—that’s evil.’
Zech. 7:9

Poverty Update

Finally some good news on the fight against poverty! A slight decrease in poverty figures was announced Tuesday by the US Census Bureau. The 2006 poverty rate was 12.3% which is down from 12.6% in 2005. This is the first time the poverty rate has declined since 1999.

This is good news but the overall report is mixed because the median income across the country increased slightly (to $48,451)but is still not above a “pre-recession high in 1999” according to the Washington Post. Other bad news is that 2.2 million people have been added to the uninsured ranks, mostly due to declining employer-sponsored programs. The total percentage is 15.8 of all Americans lack health insurance, unfortunately 11.7% of children (those under 18) lack health coverage (a significant leap from 10.9% in 2005). This also represents the second year in a row that this number has increased.

The new census data show that many of the newly uninsured are working Americans from middle- and high-income families. Of the 2.2 million people who became uninsured in 2006, 1.4 million had a household income of $75,000 or higher. About 1.2 million of the newly uninsured worked full time. WaPo

An interesting study done at Washington University in St. Louis and reported by the Christian Science Monitor says that while poverty figures at any given time may be declining, more Americans are experiencing poverty at some time during their lives than at any time in the past 30 years. Fortunately, those that do experience poverty, experience it for a shorter period of time and are less likely to be chronically poor.

In an e-mail the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) urges caution when looking at national data, and says we should also look at state data and the disparity between rich and poor.

Although the poorest households had the largest percentage income gain from 2005 to last year, income inequality remains at a record high. The share of income going to the 5 percent of households with the highest incomes has never been greater. WaPo

CHN states that the national poverty average of 12.3% is one thing, but Mississippi’s is over 20% and 7 states and the District of Colombia all report poverty levels exceeding 15%. Additionally median income in Puerto Rico is $17,621 while Maryland’s is $65,144 with the national at $48,451. Indiana’s poverty rate is 12.7% (an increase of 0.5% or 37,500) according to the Indy Star and the state’s median income was $45,394.

In its press release CHN’s Executive Director Deborah Weinstein says

Congress should seize the chance to invest in improvements that strengthen families and should reject the President’s unwarranted cuts. Today’s findings prove again that millions of America’s families are not sharing in the nation’s prosperity.

The Church’s Response?

How should the church respond to this mixed data and ongoing need? Jesus said we shall have the poor with us always in John 12:8. Sadly this is often taken out of context, Jesus knowing the heart of Judas, who was actually embezzling money from the community treasury (12:4). Judas didn’t really care about the poor, but Jesus did and wants us to do something about it. That is quite clear from the several thousand verses in the Bible that directly mention caring for the poor or promoting justice for the poor.

Maybe looking at the story of the Good Samaritan will help us understand a little bit better. It begins with a lawyer who asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded with a question which was answered like this,

That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself. The Message Luke 10:27

Jesus was happy with that answer, but the lawyer wasn’t and tried to find a “loophole”. Jesus deftly closed the loophole with a parable using the most despised person possible (a Samaritan) to the Jews as the story’s hero. The Samaritan loved his neighbor like a brother and took care of the desolate stranger. We are too often the priest or Levite, too busy to love our neighbor. Zondervan’s Handbook to the Bible sums it up nicely saying (pg 610)

A real ‘neighbor’ is one who does the loving thing whenever and wherever occasion arises, regardless of the deepest enmity or antagonism.

So the response of the church should be to love those who are in poverty. Go back to Luke 10:27 to see what loving your neighbor looks like, it should be like we love ourselves!

We give ourselves the best food, but give away our scraps to the poor. We buy the latest Abercrombie and give away the tattered out-of-style clothing from our closet. We drive a Lexus while giving away a broken bicycle.

What if we truly sacrificed for the poor? What if instead of providing handouts of food we taught someone a marketable skill? What if instead of being upset at the Burger King Mom who made a small mistake we provided free child care for working mothers? What if instead of building more and more houses in the suburbs we relocated into an urban area and sought to understand and be friends with the poor? That is radical.

But Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was a radical statement of love. Does He expect anything less from us his beautiful bride? Jesus died to redeem and restore the world, can we be His hands and feet?

Let’s be radical lovers of Christ and seek to love those around us.

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Since yesterday’s post 27,000 children died around the world. That is according to a website called Global Issues.

Around the world, 27–30,000 children die every day.

That is equivalent to:

  • 1 child dying every 3 seconds
  • 20 children dying every minute
  • A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring almost every week
  • An Iraq-scale death toll every 15–35 days
  • 10–11 million children dying every year
  • Over 50 million children dying between 2000 and 2005

The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. In spite of the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.

Anup Shah, Today, over 27,000 children died around the world,, Created: Sunday, May 06, 2007

Large numbers are always hard to put into perspective. I’ve used this website in the past to compare the cost of universal education to the amount spent on cosmetics, etc.

The G8 is getting ready to meet again and they/we must be held accountable for letting this atrocity continue. Governments and organizations have made promises, some have followed through, while others are completely slacking off and not living up to even simple promises.

DATA provides some great information about the failure of governments to fulfill their promises and outlines some new information:

Bono, Bob Geldof, Herbert Grönemeyer, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) call for an “emergency session on G8 promises to Africa and credibility” and outline:

  • new evidence that effective aid works in Africa
  • alarming new data about low levels of forthcoming aid
  • a new path for G8 countries to avoid a crisis of credibility and keep their commitments

DATA’s press release also highlights some great news:

The DATA Report 2007 demonstrates that aid is effective in poor countries and improving the lives of millions of people. Because of assistance to global health programs, every day 1,450 Africans living with AIDS are put on life-saving medications. Due in part to debt cancellation and increased aid, 20 million more African children are going to school for the first time in their lives.

Visit ONE to find out how you can take action on this crisis.
Also visit this interesting website for an interactive approach.

Today is actually Hunger Awareness Day. Click here to help America’s Second Harvest FOR FREE!!!

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