Emmanuel Levinas famously observed that to look into the eyes of someone else is – necessarily – to learn. There’s a lot that our partners, volunteers, staff, and Hunger Champions around the world don’t have in common. We have different homes, histories, creeds. But we share a conviction intrinsic to the nature of our work: that expanding our thoughtfulness to those outside of our immediate context is not only important, but our responsibility. And when we see, listen to and think about someone else – we hear their voice.
As an organization, when we hear the resilient voices of the individuals, families and communities we serve, there is only one possible response: to hear, learn from and amplify these voices. This process marks the beginning of the journey we take together toward empowerment and sustainable change.
This is the “why” for our Senior Manager of Faith & Civic Partnerships, Rev. Kevin Magee. We are all compelled to meet our mornings head-on for a variety of reasons. But for Kevin, each day is framed by the moment-by-moment opportunity to amplify the voices around the world he knows to be just as valuable as his own. Let’s hear from Kevin!
Q: Kevin, the floor is yours. Why do you feel compelled to lift up voices of those that might otherwise go unheard?
A: There are so many motivations that compel us to give of our time, talents and resources but one of the main reasons I am drawn to this work is because, on a very human level, we are all the same. We all have the same basic wants for our children and loved ones. We all want food, clothing and shelter. We all want to belong. We all want to be loved. However, the unfortunate reality is that there is a general global acceptance that some voices just are not as important as others. It is my conviction that every voice matters – equally – regardless of birthplace, wealth, religion or ethnicity, and it is the responsibility of those who have influence to lift the voices of those who are often ignored.
Q: Kevin, you manage some relationships that are not only critical to the efficacy of our organization, but also to the nutritional security of communities around the world. What have you found to be the principal factors behind our faith and civic partner’s motivation to make a global impact?
A: I will answer this in two parts:
From a faith perspective, most faith traditions preach and practice (sometimes more the former than the latter) the support of our fellow humans through the difficulties of life; sickness, poverty, hunger, grief, etc. Many would call this Compassion which derives its meaning from the Latin compati – to suffer with. In some translations, we are to take upon one’s own grief or physical condition as our own. When this support is lived out, it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. One of the reasons I love our meal packaging program so much is that I do not know of many experiences where I can physically stand shoulder-to-shoulder with such a diverse crowd and create such a tangible impact for our brothers and sisters around the world that we most likely will never meet.
From a civic perspective, we often reflect on our own civic community – serving our neighbors. Yet, with the invention of technology, our neighborhood has gotten a lot bigger and has turned into our “Global Neighborhood.” Upon knowing the needs that exist in our global neighborhood, it is our moral and civic obligation to support our neighbors in the challenges they face in pursuing a healthy life. I encourage the donors and volunteers we work with to actively participate in a local, national and global approach to ending hunger. It is imperative that we address all at the same time with equitable solutions.
Q: Kevin, Vote To End Hunger is a campaign that urges both voters and politicians to consider the voices of those who face food insecurity around the world. How does this resonate with your personal mission, and how does it resonate with Rise Against Hunger’s vision?
A: Our political structures must address the issue of hunger on a non-partisan, coordinated, global scale with robust sustainable solutions. We are mistaken if we think that food insecurity in a country like Burkina Faso or Nicaragua does not affect us here in the United States. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Hunger is not a production problem. It exists because we – the corporate WE controlling the political systems with the ability to address this major scourge taking place on our watch – allow it to exist. Now, I understand that I may be simplifying such a complex issue; however, any leader worth their salt will tell you that we will not achieve our goals without a plan. Vote to End Hunger challenges all elected leaders to create and share their plans with the public. It is then our role to vote for the best plan. We must advocate for the prioritization of that plan and stay focused on our vision: a world without hunger. At Rise Against Hunger, we truly believe that we will look back one day on history and teach our children and grandchildren about the hunger epidemic, a subject they will hopefully never personally know anything about.
Q: Kevin, you manage partnerships that represent millions of individuals rallying around a common cause. What is your message to individuals that want to personally champion our cause?
A: Your voice matters! Every movement starts with one voice and as that voice grows louder and louder, people begin to take notice. Just look at how far we’ve come! Pre-COVID-19, the percentage of our global population facing hunger was on the decline. But we have our work cut out for us. Recovering from this pandemic will be no easy task. It will take everyone and it will take our time, talents and resources. But if not now, when? And if not you, who?