September 8 marks the 51st UNESCO International Literacy Day. Rise Against Hunger supports education programs to promote literacy around the globe, and I recently had the opportunity to witness our impact in that area.
I joined in my first Rise Against Hunger event in 2013. My grandmother organized it, my family and friends went to Rise Against Hunger’s Raleigh location where we had a blast packaging meals. The event facilitator told us that many of the meals went to school kids, but I never thought about what that would look like, or why school meals might have more of an impact than other types of feeding programs.
Four years and four Meal Packing Events later, I found myself working for Rise Against Hunger. I was sent to Nicaragua this spring, where I met some of our Impact Partner organizations and met the kids who eat our meals.
North Country Mission of Hope is one such partner. Their organization empowers children and schools by assisting with supplies, tuition, and of course, food aid. They help support schools like colegio Hilario Sanchez outside Nicaragua’s capital, Managua.
The school is perched on a wooded hilltop. My little group of visitors drove up to meet the students one Friday in March. The school kids were excited to learn, but they were even more excited to play baseball with a few of our group members.
Vice Principal Angelica Espinales showed the rest of us around the campus while the baseball game started. Open-air classrooms rooms face a central yard. Several pigs cooled off in the ditch outside. Across the road were the students’ family houses. Some homes appeared to be built sturdily, while others looked to be built using whatever was at hand.
Hilario Sanchez School used to have an attendance problem. Vice Principal Espinales described attendance as extremely low just a few semesters ago. Many kids just couldn’t attend — they were too busy earning money in order to eat each night.
Then North Country Mission of Hope brought in Rise Against Hunger meals. With the promise of a good lunch, the kids could come and eat and learn and chase after baseballs. Vice Principal Espinales reports that academic performance has increased. The kids there on the Friday of our visit clearly wanted to come to school to learn. With food aid from Meal Packing Events like the one my grandmother organized, they were able to. Vice Principal Espinales now reports an attendance rate of almost 100%.
These students need to be able to read in order to thrive in society. Literacy and stable, decent-paying jobs go hand-in-hand in Nicaragua and across the world. But with over 750 million illiterate adults in today’s world, there are more illiterate adults than there are residents of North America. Two thirds of those illiterate adults are women.
So how can you help kids grow up literate? Schedule a Meal Packing Event today. Make a donation to support our overall mission of ending world hunger. Become a Hunger Champion, call your Senators and Representative to ask them to support hunger-fighting legislation.
Together, we can make literacy and zero hunger a reality for people around the globe.