Fighting hunger, one family at a time

Pam found herself drawn to an article about hunger in America. Accompanying the article was a photograph of a young girl, lying on a tattered mattress with a torn up plywood wall behind her, sucking on chicken bones.

“I looked at this and I knew I had to do something,” Pam remembered. “I spent the next 24 hours tracking down the writer from the Times and tracking down the pastor who was featured in the story. I made contact with the pastor and I said, ‘I want to help, what can I do?’ And, I’ll never forget this, he said: “I prayed for a miracle.”

“I said, ‘I’m not a miracle. I’m just an ordinary mom and I want to help.’”

Pam’s organization, Family-to-Family, allows families who have more to adopt families who have profoundly less. The [impoverished] families receive a monthly food allotment that arrives at the end of the month when their food stamps run out.

Once the group got set up, Pam had to figure out how to get the food from Hastings-on-Hudson, to Pembrook, Ill., which was 1800 miles away. So, she started sending emails to FedEx, UPS and DHL. The emails read simply, “Hi, I’m Pam Koner. I’m a mom. Here’s what I’m trying to do.”

“FedEx sent me an email, which I almost deleted because I thought that it was junk mail, and it said, “Hi Pam Koner, we’d love to help you, Lisa Daniel.” Pam recalls. “I jumped up with joy. I just couldn’t believe it.”

Family-to-Family shipped 17 boxes in November of 2002 and has slowly, but surely grown into a national hunger relief organization. But perhaps even more satisfying for Pam than this growth was the opportunity to meet her adopted family. She was especially excited to meet the mom, Lily.

“Lily’s son was sitting in front of a space heater, wrapped up in clothes playing a Game Boy, and there were the boxes I had sent over the last two months,” Pam said. “Her little daughter came out wearing my daughter’s red L.L. Bean jacket. And there was the vacuum cleaner and an old microwave I’d sent. “

For a moment Lily and Pam just looked at each other. Then they both walked out, hugged again, and cried.

Maybe Pam’s story has inspired you to make a difference; if so, here are some words of advice and encouragement to help you along the way.

1. “Believe in yourself.”

If you are interested in doing anything that involves creating something from nothing, which is basically what Pam did, you have to believe that you can make a difference. Believe that you can crash up against barriers and that you can crash through.

2. We, as women, know in our guts when things are valid. Trust your gut.

If someone out there feels they have a cause or an interest, or something that they want to affect, Pam has some unconventional advice to offer.

“Most people would tell you to go out and research it. I say, Go with your guts,” Pam declared. “We as women know in our hearts and in our guts when things are going right. Find something that’s really powerful for you to focus on, then start with baby steps, set achievable short term goals and talk to everyone you know.”

3. Stay focused on the possibilities not the limitations.

When struggling with something, whether it’s work, family or friends, Pam turns to this personal mantra: Stay conscious of the possibilities, not the limitations.

“When you feel the limitations of something, break through,” Pam said. “And if you can’t feel the possibilities, get out of the situation.”

Creating a community that helps other communities, she said, has made Pam feel less significant, but in a good way.

“When you do this work, you realize how your own self isn’t nearly as significant as the work you do,” she said. “This experience has changed how I perceive everything.”

Learn more about giving back from these helpful sites.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Families Unite
A nationwide nonprofit founded by Pam that’s committed to connecting families with more to families with less.

One Child At a Time
The Children’s Hunger Relief Fund works to provide safe drinking water and meals to impoverished children all over the world.

Donate, Advocate, Volunteer
America’s Second Harvest – the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief organization – distributes more than 2 billions of donated groceries a year. Get involved!

Find Your Purpose
Volunteer Match can pair you with causes that are close to your heart and close to your home.

Walking the Walk
Known, loved and feared for its ability to move the masses through grassroots efforts, MoveOn.org is committed to uniting people for political change, whether to elect a president or stop a proposed strip mall from stealing land from a public park.

Gardening for a Cure

Linda’s mother was 86 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctors wanted to perform experimental radiation therapy, rather than go in and biopsy and try to take out anything. Because of her age, they were afraid she wouldn’t make it through the experimental surgery. Linda and her sisters told their mother she didn’t have to go through with it.

“Are you kidding?” her mother responded. “Even if it doesn’t do anything for me, I will do this for you, I will do this for your daughters and their daughters.”

After her mother died, Linda wanted to do something to honor her, something concrete. “I wanted to do something to help her, something concrete. Then she had an epiphany that truly changed her life.

Rather than become paralyzed, Linda was able to keep the memory of her mother alive and share her process of healing with others. Visit Personal Sanctuaries blog to find out more about taking a garden tour.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Garden All Over the World
Love gardens? This all-inclusive tour will take you from Ecuador’s tropical flora to China, where the blossoms grow.

Preserving the Beauty
The Garden Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s most beautiful historical gardens.

A Breast Cancer Lifeline
Understand symptoms, treatments, research and how to lower your risk. It could just save your life.

Think Pink!
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website lends a helping hand to women coping with chemotherapy-induced side effects and shows you how to get involved.

Why Me Wisdom
Blogger Whymommy describes the pleasures and perils of raising two young boys while battling inflammatory breast cancer.

Check Yourself!
The circle, the line, or the wedge? Health Central’s handy instructional video teaches you three ways to give your girls a thorough self-exam.

Save the Ta-tas
Make funding a cure fun and fashionable with sassy t-shirts, skirts and sweat suits designed by Julia Fiske. Save the Ta-tas has used its two greatest assets to donate almost $100,000 to the fight against cancer.

Why I left my successful career to dig wells in Africa

Kristen had been a television executive in Hollywood for 10 years when she realized she wanted to change her life. She loved the creative aspect of her job, going onto the set and mixing with the actors and the producers. She found it very fun and social. However, she never felt like she was doing anything meaningful.

“The job just wasn’t in line with my spirit. I’d always had this dream of going to Africa. My last day of work, I packed up my office, went to my goodbye lunch and that afternoon I was on a plane to Kenya.”

Kenya was definitely one of the most challenging experiences of Kristen’s whole life. She had the opportunity to travel with a female tribal leader and went through out the bush and talked with other women. Day after day she heard the same story. “These women spend their entire lives looking for water.”

Women look for water all day, so it does not leave them anything thing else to do during the day, such as have a job, or care for their children. The women don’t have the ability to make money or to have freedom. They are oppressed and live under the rein of the men in their society.

“They don’t have the ability to make choices, such as saying yes to having sex with their husbands who are infected with HIV. Because they don’t have water the kids don’t go to school. The list just goes on!”

After spending many weeks with these women and learning about their issue with water and not having it, Kristen decided she wanted to do something to help these women change their lives. “What I decided was that if I was going to do anything I was going to help them get water. So I came back to L.A. and started The Samburu Project which is a non-profit organization that helps bring these people water.”

Since starting this project, every aspect of her life has changed. Kristen used to make money, and now she doesn’t. She has had to scale back, in order to run a non-profit organization and hold four other odd jobs all at the same time.

“I realize now I wasn’t unhappy with my life in Los Angeles, I just didn’t feel like I was doing what I was supposed to do, what my spirit was called to do. Now, I feel like I am doing what I was supposed to do. In [America] we have the luxury of following our dreams…and that is what I am doing, my dream.”

If you would like to get involved, check out the following resources.

The Great Project
Kristen came up with the Samburu Project after traveling through Kenya. The project aims to build 25 wells in parched Samburu, Kenya.

Give Til It Feels Good
You’ve got that giving gene in you, and Just Give helps you feel even better about your generosity with inspiring stories of change and challenges to do more.

Find Your Purpose
Volunteer Match can pair you with causes that are close to your heart and close to your home.

One Child At a Time
The Children’s Hunger Relief Fund works to provide safe drinking water and meals to impoverished children all over the world.