Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You know Oxfam, you love Oxfam, now lead Oxfam in your hometown


Leadership opportunity:  Organize in your community to end global hunger – join the Oxfam Action Corps! 

Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization, invites you to play a leading role in the Oxfam Action Corps, an exciting grassroots effort to stand up to poverty, hunger, and injustice around the world – starting right in your community.  The Oxfam Action Corps is a group of trained grassroots advocates in fifteen US cities who organize with other local volunteers in support of our GROW campaign for policies that will save lives, defend the rights of women and farmers, and protect communities worldwide from rising food prices and climate change.  It includes a free national advocacy and leadership training for select participants. You will gain leadership skills, have fun, and change the world!

Sign-up by February 14 to apply for Oxfam’s free four-day leadership training in Washington D.C. April 5-8, 2014.  

"This is leadership in practice. You can't just read a book on leadership. You have to put it into practice." - Jill Mizell, Researcher, New York

“Oxfam Action Corps has given me a ton of confidence… Gaining knowledge and being able to speak to people about the issues.”  - Amy L., Business Operations Analyst, Des Moines

"This has become one of the best parts of my life… I can't express enough how satisfying it is to be organizing with people who are just as committed and dependable and passionate. It is so great to have the support from the Oxfam America staff, and I've been really impressed by their accessibility, competency and friendliness." – Isaac E., Educator, New York City

View and share the short video below, highlighting the great work done by the Action Corps.



Sign up at www.oxfamactioncorps.org by February 14

Our Voices Have Been Heard: Coca-Cola Agrees to Zero Tolerance Policy for Land Grabs


Here is a great post from the Action Corps in the San Francisco Bay area, highlighting our work and success with the campaign!

Original post can be found at: http://sfbay-oxfamactioncorps.blogspot.com/


Our Voices Have Been Heard: 

Coca-Cola Agrees to Zero Tolerance Policy for Land Grabs

 


Ladies and Gentlemen, our hard work is paying off! All of our hours spent volunteering, campaigning, speaking out, and signing petitions is showing fruition. Over 225,000 people called for action to prevent land grabs and Coca-Cola has heard us. The food and beverage giant Coca-Cola has agreed to respect and protect the land rights of indigenous communities from which it sources its sugar. Specifically, Coca-Cola has agreed to:

  1. A zero tolerance policy on land grabs
  2. A “know and show” policy relating to being held accountable and aware of land rights and conflicts within its supply chain
  3. To support responsible agriculture investment and to advocate for governments and others to tackle land grabbing;
Sugar production requires a vast amount of land and is currently at an all time high triggering land conflicts and abuse. Coca-Cola is the largest sugar producer in the world making this news all the more amazing. Coca-Cola is the first beverage and food company to take such a stand, but should not be the last. For more information on this breaking news visit politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org

Our mission and work does not end here. PepsiCo and Associated British Foods are some of the largest sugar producers in the world and as such we are urging them to follow in Coca-Cola’s footsteps and make a change in relation to the allowance of land grabs within their supply chains. In order to do this we need your help.
  

What Can You Do to Stop This?

Start by signing Oxfam's current petition to urge Pepsi-co and Associated British Foods to follow Coca-Cola’s example and hold themselves accountable for the land and human rights atrocities occurring in their supply chains. These huge companies have the market power to pressure their suppliers into committing to zero tolerance land grab policies and you have the power to pressure these food and beverage giants into stepping up and standing against land grabs. Make sure your voice is heard.

Then share the following messages:

Via Twitter

Tell @PepsiCo & #ABF to take action against land grabs! #BehindTheBrands

Via Facebook

Post the following message to PepsiCo's Facebook page

Stop land grabs! Tell PepsiCo and ABF—some of the biggest buyers of sugar in the world—to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs that force poor farmers and their families off their land. #BehindTheBrands!

Typhoon Haiyan: Relief and Rehabilitation


This week, we are sharing a post from Oxfam Action Corps NYC volunteer Nikko Viquiera. Read on for his personal take on the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan and the steps towards recovery.



When news of a super typhoon about to hit central Philippines started coming out last month, many Filipinos, including me, shrugged it off and went on with our regular schedule, knowing that country gets an average of 22 typhoons annually. A day after the typhoon came; news outlets reported less than a hundred dead people. People thought it could have been worse and were glad that it wasn’t as big of a tragedy as other major typhoons have been in the past.

Days later, nothing could have prepared us for the breadth and depth of the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan. To date, over 5,000 people and counting are dead and 10 million other Filipinos have been affected in one way or another.

As a former Program Officer for Jesuit Volunteers Philippines (JVP), I used to visit volunteers in Samar, one of the hardest hit regions by the typhoon. JVP sends volunteers to marginalized communities around the country to serve as educators, youth formators and community organizers. One such community is Lawaan in Eastern Samar. It was a small, quiet town by the sea, where many fish and farmed for a living. I would visit the parish school where volunteers where assigned as educators for high school students. The community would always be very welcoming, serving me the best food and accommodation they had to offer when they did not have much.

One afternoon, I remember some of the students in the Parish school invited me to ring the 6:00 pm bell. We climbed the bell tower beside the Church, just as the sun was beginning to set. As I rang the bells that echoed through the town, the sun began to set on the people going home after a day’s work, on the children playing in the streets and the coconut trees that stood as tall as the bell tower.

Today, most of the town has been destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. The once mighty coconut trees have fallen, along with many houses, the school and the church. A more recent picture shows that only the bell tower remains standing amidst a sea of debris and destruction.

And so it is for many other towns ravaged by the typhoon in Eastern Samar, Palawan and Cebu. Dead bodies are everywhere, waiting for surviving relatives to recognize and claim them. Just this week, 120 bodies were discovered under the San Juanico Bridge, the longest one in the country. Reports describe residents walking around aimlessly like zombies. They are dazed and confused, with no work to do and no house to go home to. As such, many have flown to cities such as Manila in search of jobs, anything to get away from the rubble of their previous lives, only to find themselves homeless and jobless in a city that can be as unkind and apathetic as a typhoon.

Yet in the darkness of the devastation shines the generosity of people. More developed countries such as the US, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom have pledged millions of dollars in relief. Relief agencies such as Oxfam, Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services were quick to respond and have been present in the region since Day 1.Oxfam Pilipinas, in particular, through the generous donations of people all over the world, has been working to provide clean water and sanitation to victims of the typhoon. Individuals and small groups have organized themselves and made efforts to raise funds for the victims of the typhoon. In Manila, people have offered to take turns feeding and keeping those, who left their homes in search of livelihood, stranded in the airports company.

But as news of the typhoon and its deadly effects begin to fade in the news, the more difficult task of rebuilding and rehabilitation is just starting. How does one rebuild thousands of houses, roads and structures from the ground up, all at the same time? How do we bring back livelihood to towns where even trees no longer stand? How do we begin to bring back hope to those who are still counting their dead and their losses? How do we begin anew?

A month has passed since the typhoon killed thousands of people and left survivors hungry, homeless and jobless. And yet many groups and individuals continue to work in the Haiyan areas, this time with a focus on rehabilitation. Oxfam, for example, has distributed rice seeds to rural areas to help farmers earn income again.

Many have pointed to the resilience of the Filipino people to withstand any tragedy as the main key to rehabilitation. But as Christmas nears, and the tenuous task of rehabilitation unfolds before us, we realize that resilience is not enough. We also need critical minds, calm spirits and skilled, tireless hands that move together like waves in strength and unison.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Intro to the incoming Oxfam Columbus Action Corps Co-Leaders

The national Oxfam Action Corps blog has made public short profiles of the new pairs of organizers for its 15 volunteer-run action corps across the country.

Without further delay, please take a peek at what Jeremy Ward and Lydia Bailey have to say about their backgrounds and interest in volunteering with the Columbus Action Corps.


Jeremy Ward has had the opportunity to call a few places his home. However, he has lived in Columbus for 9 years now. He studied at The Ohio State University for International Economics with a focus on agriculture. After learning of Oxfam’s work, Jeremy became interested in the organization which seemed to fit right along the lines of his. He looks forward to leading the Action Corps in Ohio and achieving Oxfam’s mission of righting the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice.

Lydia Bailey lives near Columbus and volunteers with the Ohio State University to protect water quality in the Great Lakes Watershed with the F.T. Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie. She is working with some friends on smaller projects to accomplish goals similar to those of Oxfam in both Bolivia and Peru with some particularly impoverished populations in the Andes Mountains. She is inspired by the goals Oxfam works to accomplish, and is certain that the Action Corps will make great progress this coming year.

The incoming leaders will attend training from April 13-16 in Washington, D.C. and assume responsibility for the Columbus Action Corps soon after their return.

Please join me in welcoming Jeremy and Lydia to the Oxfam community! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Expert's guide: How to properly taste chocolates

Temptation thy name is chocolate, at least for some of us with a nearly insatiable sweet tooth.

The urge to clumsily tear off the packaging of your favorite holiday treats and wolf them down  as quickly as you can is something difficult to overcome, but the complex and multi-dimensional flavors of chocolates might give you reason enough to try.

Nationally acclaimed chocolate expert Clay Gordon discussed the steps involved in a proper chocolate taste test during the Columbus Action Corps' "Sweet Justice: Choosing Chocolates" program on Thursday, March 21. During his lecture, Gordon explained the five steps involved in chocolate tasting.

They are as follows:

Get a whiff of cocoa goodness 
You may find:
A combination of subtle, strong or clear smells.
Chocolate combined with other smells, such as vanilla.
Differing levels of sweetness of chocolate smell.



A woman takes a small sample of chocolate, closes her eyes, focuses and inhales its scent.  No specific skill is needed to assess the aroma of chocolates, just focus.  Credit: www.sergetheconcierge.com.

Take a good look.
Dark chocolates are shinier than other types.
Surface of quality chocolates range from matte sheen to glossy.
Avoid chocolates with white powdery substance on the outside. It indicates improper storage and preparation.
Pinholes in chocolate means the air bubbles were not removed in process. No effect on taste.

A random photograph of chocolates that have a quality surface with no pinholes or other worrisome imperfections. Credit: www.943thepoint.com.

It is a snap

After smelling and seeing the chocolate, take it between your fingers and break it into pieces.
Dark chocolate should have a crisp snap.
Other chocolates have a brittle snap. This may an indication of age and/or improper storage. Negatively affects taste.

A bar of chocolates is broken into smaller pieces after being  smelled and examined. Credit: www.peepculture.com.
To chew or to melt
Breathe in smell of chocolate as you begin to eat it. 
Chew just 3 to 5 times, paying close attention to textures and try to label them. Smooth, waxy, dry, sandy, uneven sugar crystal sizes?
Do you like or dislike the textures?
After chewing the chocolate, press it against the roof of your mouth and let it melt.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply through your nose to try to recognize the smells of the chocolate.
Work from more general flavors to more specific.

Anonymous chocolate addict tries and succeeds to slow down and take small bites of the sweet to  truly taste it. Credit: www.123rf.com.

First Taste Zones
Initial taste: First flavor of chocolate in mouth: fruitiness, bitterness, intensity of chocolate flavor and sweetness.
Middle Taste: When chewing chocolate, you will detect flavors such as woody, earthy, tobacco, herbs, floral, etc.

Woman's facial expression changes as she takes bites of chocolate and slowly chews and  then lets the chocolate melt. Credit: www.flickr.com.

Aftertastes
Short aftertaste: A good chocolate will leave a “clean and clear” aftertaste on the tongue. Chocolates made with oils other than cocoa butter may leave a pasty feeling on the tongue.

Long aftertaste: (30 sec. after chocolate out of mouth) is how you measure quality chocolate. Should leave no off taste. Most people don’t slow down enough for this taste.

Girl smiles as the complex aftertastes of the chocolate settle on her tongue. Credit: www.fit.webmd.com.


NOTE: All tips and more chocolate tasting advice can be found in Clay Gordon's Book "Discover Chocolate: The Ultimate Guide to Buying, Tasting and Enjoying Fine Chocolate." You can also learn more about the different types of chocolates and how Gordon rates them by visiting his website, www.thechocolatelife.com, or by following him on Twitter at @DiscoverChoc.

Looking at all of Gordon's helpful and easy chocolate tasting tips, I hope that you are able to exercise a teeny bit of impulse control and try to slow down and savor the deep and earthy tastes of chocolates. Please remember, this advice holds true for other occasions--Christmas, Valentine's Day, rough Mondays and other  emergencies.

Now, go enjoy your chocolates!


  1. Jessica J. Burchard, Oxfam Columbus Action Corps Co-Leader 2012-2013






















    Food for thought on Easter from Oxfam's Behind the Brands

    Watching TV out of the corner of my eye today, I kept seeing commercials for Easter candies that will no doubt be consumed in gluttonous amounts Sunday by children worldwide.

    The adorable ads featured innocuous smiling children hunting for large plastic eggs filled to the brim with sweets. However, they neglected to mention all the time, money and  intensive labor associated with the global chocolate industry.


    The chocolate industry has an annual profit of $100 billion with three companies-- Mars, Mondelez International and Nestle-- buying nearly one-third of the world's supply. These companies are among the world's 10 largest food and beverage manufacturers, and Oxfam is encouraging them to improve their supply chain to eliminate discrimination against women cocoa farmers.

    Oxfam's newest initiative, Behind the Brands, Mars, Mondelez and Nestle and found that all fail to create fair workplaces for women cocoa farmers. Women who grow and harvest cocoa in countries like the Ivory Coast and Nigeria are paid $2 to $3 daily, while their male counterparts make an average of $7, according to the Oxfam March 2013 Fact Sheet, "Women and the Big Business of Cocoa."

    Exacerbating the pay problem is that  less than 5 percent of the profit from the sale of chocolates goes back to the farmer, the fact sheet states. Instead, the money is used for marketing, transportation, store fees and other expenses. Oxfam reports that the lack of financial return to the farmers means that many cocoa farmers suffer from hunger and malnutrition with 57 percent of  cocoa farming households in Ondo, Nigeria, surveyed  in 2007 lacked access  to adequate food.

    The 18-month long research project for Behind the Brands also found women are limited in their access to money from the crops they grow and face unjust obstacles in trying to secure ownership of their farmland. Men typically sell the crops to traders and keep the money, and they are more likely to have more economic opportunities because of their gender.

    Now, the information from Oxfam's extensive reporting should not prevent you from enjoying either giving or receiving a basket Sunday nearly overflowing with sweet chocolate goodness. Oxfam reports that 17 million pounds of chocolate will be sold for the holiday and simply asks you to take into consideration all the unseen labor that goes into making chocolates and sign its petition.

    As a way to festively join Oxfam's campaign with the upcoming holiday, I took props from the Columbus Action Corps' event on Thursday, March 21, "Sweet Justice: Choosing Chocolates," and added an Easter element. Please enjoy the following photos:

    Stuffed koala, Sidney, does a "Cadbury Bunny" audition. The fuzzy model poses with a small Easter basket filled with Cadbury  Creme Eggs, owned by Mondelez International (except in the U.S., where Hershey has the license), with the clear message "Tell Cadbury: Respect Women Cocoa Farmers." Credit: Jessica Burchard

    Stuffed koala, Sidney, keeps the bunny ears on while standing behind an Easter basket filled with  Dove dark chocolates, which is owned by Mars. The basket's message is "Tell Dove: Take a 'moment' to respect women cocoa farmers." Credit: Jessica Burchard.


    Stuffed koala, Sidney, sits pretty in the largest of the three Easter baskets, which contains brightly colored plastic eggs with samples of  Divine and Equal Exchange chocolates inside. The Equal Exchange boxes flank the basket and the Dove and Cadbury wrappers sit in front of it. The basket's message is "Be a good egg. Rethink the Easter basket." Credit: Jessica Burchard.


    Jessica J. Burchard, Oxfam Columbus Action Corps Co-Leader 2012-13.


    Saturday, March 23, 2013

    'Sweet Justice' was a sweet success




    After four months of planning, Oxfam’s Columbus Action Corps hosted “Sweet Justice: Choosing Chocolates” Thursday evening in the Larry D. Black Auditorium of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 96 S. Grant Ave.

    The cold early spring weather failed to deter the 30 guests, community partners and volunteers from attending the informative and interactive free program. The event drew a mixed group of audience was a combination of college students, academics, AmeriCorps members, United Nations Association board members and curious onlookers.

    Oxfam volunteers [left to right] Ritsu Kondu and Nancy Prindle  share new  Oxfam's new fact  sheet about "Women and the Big Business of Cocoa" with an attendee Thursday at "Sweet Justice: Choosing Chocolates." Credit: Jessica Burchard.


    “Sweet Justice” began with a brief presentation by Columbus Action Corps Co-Leader Jessica Burchard about Oxfam and its mission to right the wrongs of poverty and injustice globally as well as details about the organization’s newest worldwide initiative, Behind the Brands.

    The homepage of Oxfam's global initiative, Behind the Brands, that  launched on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The website  explains the Big 10 food companies Oxfam ranked and the criteria used as well as background on research and action you can take.

    Behind the Brands launched on Tuesday, Feb. 26 and focuses on encouraging the world’s 10 largest food and beverage companies to be more open and responsible about what happens in their supply chains. It rates the companies on seven environmental, human rights and transparency issues and cites ways the companies can do their part to fix the world’s broken food system by making their supply chains fairer for everyone.

    Three of the 10 companies—Mars, Mondelez International and Nestle—produce popular chocolates that are made from crops grown and harvested by small-scale cocoa farmers. Oxfam researchers traveled to several countries, including Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria to conduct interviews with farmers and found that women cocoa farmers were facing severe wage and land ownership discrimination. Oxfam chose to make this a priority with Behind the Brands and asks consumers to sign a petition urging the companies to “look, listen and act” to end discrimination against women cocoa farmers.

    “Sweet Justice” attendees showed their full support for the Behind the Brands petition with 24 people signing it. Guests also took a copy of the Behind the Brands Scorecard.

    The Behind the Brands Scorecard shows that out of a possible 70 points, the highest ranked company, Nestle,  earned only 54. Obviously, there's ample room for improvement for all Big 10 companies. 
    After the introduction of Oxfam and its program, Jen Miller, board president of Global Gallery, spoke about opportunities to purchase fair trade and ethically made items in Columbus. She encouraged the audience to see paying more for high quality chocolates like Divine as an investment in small businesses across the globe that treat their workers with respect.

    Jen Miller, board president of Global Gallery, discusses the importance of  fair trade and understanding where your cocoa products come from at Thursday evening's "Sweet Justice: Choosing Chocolates" program in the Larry D. Black Auditorium of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 96 S. Grant Ave. Credit: H. Louise Davis.

    The program’s second speaker was Adeline Lambert, cocoa researcher with the International Labor Relations Forum. She discussed the overall cocoa supply chain and the many inequities in it that prevent farmers from securing a fair price for their products. Some of the impediments are the lack of true representation of farmers’ interests on the committees that set the prices and the dearth of educational opportunities that enable farmers to understand math and cost analysis.

    Adeline Lambert, cocoa researcher with the International Labor Relations Forum,  joined "Sweet Justice" via Skype Thursday evening. She discussed the many inequities in the current cocoa supply chain.

    Lambert said that governments are supportive of cooperatives and other ways of working toward giving small-scale cocoa farmers more say in determining the sale price of their crops. She added that the large companies are slowly changing policy, but thousands of families struggle with paying to grow cocoa and sending their children to school.

    To move the program toward its interactive chocolate taste test conclusion, nationally acclaimed chocolate expert Clay Gordon  talked about the different types of chocolates—milk, dark, dark milk, different percentages of cocoa and various brands—and how to truly taste each. He advised that people make an effort to slow down and really examine the chocolate with all their senses—smell, sight, touch and taste as the confection melts in their mouths and they note all the layers of flavors.

    Clay Gordon, a nationally respected chocolate expert, often travels to Peru and other countries to see first-hand how cocoa is grown and harvested. He made his presentation during "Sweet Justice"  using Skype from his home in New York. 

    Gordon said there’s no shame in enjoying commercial chocolates like the ones produced by Mars, Mondelez and Nestle. He simply suggested people keep an open mind and build flavor memories of different types of chocolates. The process of tasting and evaluating chocolates requires nothing more than some patience, impulse control and a sense of humor, the author of “Discover Chocolate: The Ultimate Guide to Buying, Tasting and Enjoying Fine Chocolate.”

    An informal display of books about chocolate, including Clay Gordon's "Discover Chocolate" placed next to festive Easter baskets with messages encouraging Mars, Nestle and Mondelez to change their policies to be fairer to women cocoa farmers. Credit: Jessica Burchard. 

    For the “Sweet Justice” chocolate taste test, attendees sampled five types of chocolates: milk and dark chocolate Equal Exchange, dark Divine chocolate, Cadbury Crème Egg and dark Dove chocolate. They used Divine’s chocolate Tasting Notes that with boxes for impressions of aroma, appearance, snap, texture, melt, flavor and finish. 

    AmeriCorps members conduct an in-depth chocolate taste test and share findings among  one another  Thursday at  Oxfam's "Sweet Justice: Choosing Chocolates." Credit: Jessica Burchard.

    The panel of expert speakers and taste test combined to prove a powerful point about the way chocolate is produced and how we think about consuming it. As more information comes out about Behind the Brands, Oxfam will continue to have community events like “Sweet Justice: Choosing Chocolates” as a means of educating everyone about injustices within cocoa supply chain and making suggestions on what we can do as concerned consumers to improve lives for small-scale cocoa farmers.

    Jessica J. Burchard, Oxfam Columbus Action Corps Co-Leader 2012-13.