While WorkplacePsychology.Net is about work, it’s also about understanding the struggles of people, many of whom happen to work. Imagine not having any food to eat or to feed your child. Tragically, in Fatuma’s case, both of her children died a day after arriving at Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. They had walked for 10 days from Somalia and had no food for 3 days.
Here in Texas, I’ll hear friends say “I’m starving.” But they’re really not. No, the starvation I’m referring to is not having any food at all that your body shuts down and you die. When the big aid agencies use the word “famine” to describe a situation, the situation is dire. The BBC says agencies only use “famine” when things reach level five on the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system. This means:
- at least 20% of the population has access to fewer than 2,100 kilocalories of food a day
- acute malnutrition in more than 30% of children
- two deaths per 10,000 people, or four child deaths per 10,000 children every day
Usually, a country’s government will declare a situation a famine. Unfortunately, in the Somalia, where there’s a lack of a central government, the United Nations had to step in to declare the famine. Of course, as the BBC article noted, to those people starving, it really doesn’t matter what the situation is called because they need immediate assistance.
This blog gets a lot of visitors. Many of those who visit come to read “People with a Situational Value System,” the most popular story on WorkplacePsychology.Net. It’s a story I wrote back in 2009 about people who mistreat those they view as inferior and it seems to have really resonated with many visitors to this blog. I think everyone can relate to being treated badly by somebody at some point in time.
But now, I want to ask you: What have you done to help others?
I know this is a bit out of the ordinary but I hope after reading this post you’ll understand why it’s important to me, and all of us, to help in whatever way we can. As you’re reading this blog post consider the following:
- You sit in a place with air conditioning (or heat)
- You have (or will have) three meals to eat (or even just one)
- You have cold, clean water to drink
- You have a car
- You have a computer, laptop, and/or cellphone
If any of the above applies to you (there are of course many more), then you are much more fortunate than the people suffering from the famine in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. If you plan on buying a cup of coffee (spending $3.50 to $4.00) tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, I want to challenge you to instead donate that money to help feed the children and starving families in Somalia.
My favorite charity is the World Food Programme (WFP). Part of the United Nations, it is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger. WFP has a social media initiative called WeFeedback. WeFeedback has a feedback calculator that lets you enter your favorite food item and estimate how much you normally pay for it. It then shows you how many children that amount of money can feed.
It’s really simple and yet such a powerful way to see how a little bit can go a long way to help. For example, I bought a cup of Caramel Frappucinno at Starbucks and paid $3.45. When I enter $3.45 into the calculator it tells me that $3.45 will feed 13 children.
For those of you wondering why I’m so passionate about issues related to poverty and hunger, last year (in April 2010), the month marking 30 years that my family and I have been in the U.S., I made a personal pledge to give back and share with others about the World Food Programme. It’s a reminder of how lucky I am, and to always give thanks and give back.
Now, if everything you have just read isn’t enough to motivate you, hopefully this will: Giving is good for you. Professor Lidewij Niezink in the Netherlands pointed me to an article called “5 Ways Giving Is Good for You” on the Greater Good Science Center (at U.C. Berkeley) website. There’s research showing that when you give, it doesn’t just help the receiver of that gift, it also helps improve your own health and happiness.
[Note: The sections below are taken directly from the Greater Good Science Center website]
1. Giving makes us feel happy.
In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”
2. Giving is good for our health.
In a 2003 study on elderly couples, Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t.
In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.
3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection.
Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.
4. Giving evokes gratitude.
Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.
5. Giving is contagious.
A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
Almost half of Somalia’s 3.7 million people are facing hunger, malnutrition and other related problems. Please join me in doing just a small part to help feed those who are starving. When I read about Fatuma’s situation, I cried. I have never had to walk to get food, let alone walk for 10 days in desert conditions; and I have never gone for 3 days without food. The closest was when I was 9 years old and my family and I escaped Vietnam on a boat. I remember we ran out of food but that was only for 1 day. We were lucky.
Click on the WeFeedback graphic above (or the link provided in this sentence) and see how the feedback calculator works and, even more importantly, how just a few dollars will help feed people who are truly starving.
Links to Famine in Somalia
- BBC News – Horn of Africa drought: Why is Somalia worst affected?
- BBC News – Q&A: East Africa hunger crisis
- BBC News – UN declares Somalia famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle
- BBC News – Who, what, why: What is a famine?
- New York Times – Food Crisis in Somalia Is a Famine, U.N. Says
- Washington Post – U.N.: Famine in Somalia is killing tens of thousands
- World Food Programme – Horn of Africa Crisis