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30 Hour Famine Ambassador Elva Hsiao returns from Kenya and calls attention to the effects of climate change on poor communities (7/14/10)

30 Hour Famine Ambassador Elva Hsiao recently returned from a visit to Kenya with World Vision Taiwan. From July 2 to 9, 2010, the celebrity singer visited Moyale District in Northeastern Kenya, an area that has been severely affected by prolonged droughts. During her visit, Ms. Hsiao followed a hungry family to forage for food in the wilderness, joined a local community in a food-for-work project, and witnessed how Taiwan-funded food aid programs have made a difference in the lives of children and their families.
"This trip has shaken me deeply. The children live a life I could never imagine – with no water, no electricity, and even no food,” said Ms. Hsiao.
Among the families she visited, Ms. Hsiao was particularly moved by single mother Mrs. Barwaqo and her four children aged from 20 months to 8 years old.
"I was brought up by my mother alone and am the big sister in my family. My personal background made me easily identify with Mrs. Barwaqo and her oldest daughter Dahabo Guyo (age 8),” said Ms. Hsiao.
Ms. Hsiao spent an entire day with Ms. Barwaqo’s family, following the children to venture into thorny shrubs to look for resin, stem tuber, and wild peas as food.
Ms. Hsiao especially took notice of Dahabo as she climbed up a tree to draw resin for her younger siblings waiting under the tree, who immediately put the substance into their mouths. Then Dahabo handed the largest piece of resin to Ms. Hsiao as if Dahabo was worried her new friend was also very hungry.
"The resin tasted like chemicals and was sticky. It’s hard to imagine this is food,” said Ms. Hsiao.
"This family has to look for food in the wilderness just so they can go to bed without hunger,” said Ms. Hsiao. "Unfortunately, all this ‘food’ can only fill their stomachs. There is no nutritional value at all.”
"I used to order a lot of food whenever going to a restaurant because I liked to see delicious food in abundance,” admitted Ms. Hsiao. “Now I’ve seen how difficult life was for this family. I’ll never waste food again.”
Ms. Hsiao met another needy family, Mr. Rob Guyo and Mrs. Diramu Rob, who used to own 70 cattle to provide for their nine (9) children before a severe drought last year wiped out their herd, except for one. Without livestock and other skills, Mr. Guyo’s family is living in despair.
When their daughter, Safia Rob (age 10), told Ms. Hsiao on their short herding trip that her biggest wish was to have a few more animals, the celebrity immediately decided to buy a pair of cattle for the girl. This gift finally brought a smile to Mrs. Rob’s face and a little hope to the family.
Due to climate change effects over past decades, Kenya has been devastated by alternating droughts and floods, with hunger and food insecurity as major challenges facing the country.
Despite the immense needs, Ms. Hsiao also witnessed the impact of Taiwan’s support. Through the 30 Hour Famine, World Vision Taiwan has helped feed the hungry in Moyale, Kenya since 2006.
Today, World Vision operates food-for-work projects to mobilize communities to build sustainable assets, such as digging water pans to store rainwater for household and livestock use.
People in Kate Village, for example, used to walk over 10 kilometers to fetch water from Bori borehole. Through food-for-work and with the tools provided by World Vision, the community people have dug a water pan, which is only a 5-minute walk from their homes.
Ms. Hsiao observed, “All the people and animals in this community depend on the water pan even though the water looks yellowish. It’s very precious to them.”
She also joined the community people to expand the water pan. The workers were so grateful and joyful that they sang as they labored together.
"I felt I was so useful. I talked to them, cared for them, and joined them in their work to build a better life,” said Ms. Hsiao.
Mrs. Sarah Ahmed received food regularly from World Vision by joining the food-for-work program. She has also received seedlings and seeds and learned to grow drought-resistant crops such maize, green grams, and passion fruits.
"They were the happiest family I have met in Kenya. They had a hopeful look on their faces.” said Ms. Hsiao.
In Kenya, Ms. Hsiao found everyone was struggling hard to survive. However, a life without water, electricity, and even food did not mean a people defeated. Their joy and gratefulness deeply moved Ms. Hsiao.
"I had thought I was a gift to them. Then I came to realize they are a gift to me. The children’s stories opened my eyes,” said Ms. Hsiao.
This year, the 30 Hour Famine campaign aims to raise NT$172 million (US$5.3 million) to support emergency relief programs in 32 countries including Kenya and Taiwan. From July 1 through September 31, donations can be made at 7-ELEVEN’s 4,717 stores island wide.
On coming August 8, 30 Hour Famine Ambassadors Elva Hsiao and Stanley Huang will join an estimated 15,000 people at the Hero Rally in Linkou Gymnasium to show their concern for global issues, such as climate change, and help feed the hungry.
‧30 Hour Famine
‧2010 30 Hour Famine Ambassadors


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