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HN 21 | Sending Rain to a World on Fire

WRITTEN BY ERYN AUSTIN BERGEN


In 2011, Syria burst into flames as a civil war ripped through the country tearing apart families, communities, and cities. The war has continued raging for the last six years with no end in sight. Over 220,000 people have been killed, most are civilian casualties—men, women, children—this war does not discriminate. More than 50 percent of the population has been internally displaced, with 4.8 million people fleeing as refugees. Two and a half million of those refugees are under the age of 18; this unbridled violence has put Syria’s children at extreme risk.

On July 9, 2011 the nation of South Sudan was formed in the hopes that a new political configuration could bring peace and stability to a people long plagued by persecution and insecurity. But just a short year and a half later, the South Sudanese’s fragile hopes crumbled as their leaders drew new battle lines, igniting yet another civil conflict that spread like wildfire across the region and sparked ethnically-motivated killings, torture, rape, and destruction. More than 200,000 civilians have sought refuge at U.N. peacekeeping bases inside the country, while a continuous stream of refugees floods into neighbouring countries—1.2 million and counting. 


In addition to, and often as a result of, human conflict, climate change is wreaking havoc on regions already at risk. Drought persists in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Uganda, and famine threatens to consume Nigeria, Yemen, and large regions of East Africa. 20 million people face starvation. Malnutrition and disease are legion.

The U.N. estimates over 60 million people are on the move right now—the greatest human migration since World War II and the largest humanitarian crisis in recorded history. 

The world is on fire.

Our generation has never seen human suffering on this scale before. Alone, it can feel totally futile to hurl our individual cups of water on this roaring wildfire. But together, we can be the rainstorm that quenches the flames; we can be the firebreak that says, “Thus far have you devoured, no further will you burn.”

Food for the Hungry was created as one man’s courageous cry in the night that poverty and hunger would not take one more life. Larry Ward founded FH as a crisis response agent to bring food and medical relief to the most desperate—the orphan, the starving, the destitute, the refugee. Through those faithful acts of humanitarian compassion, FH formed lasting relationships with communities struck down by poverty. Those relationships grew and blossomed into sustainable, development journeys that have moved hundreds of communities “from stuck to thriving.”

Seventeen years ago, FH seized upon a unique opportunity to align those communities’ medical needs with Canada’s nation-wide medical equipment upgrade. The FH International Medical Equipment Distribution (IMED) program was launched in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and subsequently received millions of dollars worth of “outdated” but functional medical equipment. 


Under the steady hand and daring leadership of Lindsay Brucks, together with a team of dedicated staff and hundreds of selfless volunteers, IMED refurbished, packed, and shipped equipment and supplies to communities in desperate need. Over the course of 17 years, IMED has shipped 344 containers of life-saving resources to thousands of communities at an estimated value of over 51 million dollars. IMED’s immeasurable global impact has rescued tens of thousands from suffering, and even death, improving the daily lives of mothers, fathers, children, and medical practitioners. 

Lindsay Brucks
In recent years, however, the stream of medical equipment flowing from Canadian hospitals has slowed significantly; shipping presents new challenges, and natural and man-made disasters are reshaping the immediate needs of those trapped in poverty. Lindsay explains, "The world is changing rapidly and even more in the last five years. We at FH need to align with the realities and change to serve the most vulnerable families in a way that maximizes our effectiveness, our resources, and in the process help more of those we are called to serve." 

As crisis after crisis burns out of control, the FH Global network is experiencing a renewal of its foundational calling. FH Canada President, Bernie Willock, explains, “In light of the unparalleled suffering we see today, we want to engage the world of relief with a mind toward long term development strategies.” Lindsay Brucks, with his years of experience and vast network of global contacts, is uniquely positioned to lead FH Canada’s response in a way that will strengthen, not compromise, their commitment to ending poverty.  

Lindsay has been charged with scaling down medical equipment distribution, wrapping up the Saskatoon warehouse, and spearheading FH Canada’s response to our world’s most burning needs. As the Canadian representative on FH Global’s Relief and Humanitarian Affairs (RHA) team, Lindsay will split his time between sourcing medicine, food, and equipment for FH communities as needed, and bringing his expertise to bear on FH’s response to crises like the East African famine and the growing refugee population in countries like Uganda and Iraq. Lindsay's approach to his new role is collaborative and focused, “We want to join forces and use our funding resources even better through global partnerships, increased mobility, and better efficiencies."

Matt Ellingson
Lindsay will work closely with Matt Ellingson, the new Director of Relief and Partnerships for FH Global’s RHA team. Matt has 20 years’ experience working on the front lines with major international aid organizations. Having served FH from 2005-2007 as Director of Relief, Matt is “humbled and grateful” to be back at the helm coordinating FH Global’s unique response at this critical moment in history. “When an opportunity arose for me to link my passions back with a group of people who I really love to be counted among I jumped at the chance.” 

When compared to industry giants like the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Food for the Hungry can seem like a small fish swimming in a very big ocean. According to Matt, however, the reality is quite different. In recent months, he has witnessed God granting FH a seat at the table of some of the most influential meetings to determine the direction of aid for millions of people, including the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, and the World Food Program Annual Partnership Consultation in Rome and Geneva.

As a leaner organization with minimal overhead, FH has the flexibility and agility to respond quickly and efficiently whenever disaster strikes. Unlike many large charities, FH can ensure that every dollar sacrificially donated by compassionate Canadians is stretched for maximum impact. 

To that end, Matt’s goal is to position the RHA team for immediate response, whether the crisis touches one of their development communities or not. The question for Matt is not, “Will FH respond?” but “How will FH respond?” With “boots on the ground”, shipments of emergency aid, or funds directed to partners active in the region. The RHA team will assess the situation, determine the appropriate action, and execute a rapid response strategy. 

Lindsay is quick to point out that many of FH’s current development work is a direct result of responding to urgent crises—the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, the 1976 Guatemala earthquake, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. As those communities stabilized, development programming was the natural next step resulting in resilient communities that are now better prepared to withstand the shocks of natural and human-provoked disasters.

Our world is on fire, and  according to the experts, development simply is not possible until the flames are brought under control. 

Lindsay reminds us, “Because of famine, disasters, and war, more and more refugees are roaming the earth who require the most basic of items such as food, shelter, and water.” As Food for the Hungry Canada celebrates 17 years of incredible impact through the unique work of IMED, they're shifting into alignment with the FH Global alliance. They look forward to contributing to the Relief and Humanitarian Assistance team with thought leadership, industry expertise, funding, and human resources. 

With hope and determination, FH Canada is preparing for a future of faithfully responding to the resounding echo of Larry Ward’s call to end poverty, injustice, and human suffering. 


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Food for the Hungry: HN 21 | Sending Rain to a World on Fire
HN 21 | Sending Rain to a World on Fire
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