When Jenn Loewen and Colleen Epp of Winnipeg first heard about the famine facing more than 20 million people around the world this past spring, they didn’t just want to make a donation.
They also wanted a way of drawing in their friends and family, encouraging them to also get involved in the fight against hunger.
“My experience is that people want to help, but they don’t know how. It can feel overwhelming and intimidating,” says Epp.
With that in mind, Loewen offered to match donations to the Foodgrains Bank toward the famine crisis from family and friends up to $1,000. Epp, along with her children, volunteered to bake a pie for anyone donating more than $100.
“Jenn and I had talked about doing something like this for a long time. It’s nice having a friend who wants to make the world a tiny bit better with you,” says Epp.
Loewen teaches English to newcomers in Winnipeg. Through her role, she engages with people who have experienced the very things people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria are facing right now.
“These people have names and faces for me,” she says, noting that she’s also worked abroad in Egypt, as a service worker with Foodgrains Bank member Mennonite Central Committee.
“It’s been on my heart to do something to help people needing food.”
Wanting to do something for people around the world experiencing hunger had also been on Epp’s heart for a while. She also wanted to get her children involved.
“I so want my kids to get it,” she says. “To know there is life beyond what we know about here in Canada.”
When the 1:1 government match was announced, “It felt like the right fit at the right time,” she says.
In total, Loewen and Epp raised $3,100, exceeding their goal of $3,000. For Epp and her kids, that means they made 11 pies, and a special order of chocolate chip cookies.
The pie flavours range from apple to chocolate, and Epp’s children Isaac, 14, Daniel, 10, and Grace,10, helped her make them.
A visit on pie-making day in July found the children cutting fresh apples for the first batch of pies.
“When people give to us, it feels nice to give them something back,” said Isaac.
“And it’s not nice to always receive and not give back,” added Daniel.
It can be difficult for kids to understand what people overseas often experience, said Epp, but having an initiative that brought friends and family together to support their efforts was a way to show her children how they can make a difference.
“It’s a good feeling [helping those who are hungry overseas],” says Grace.
“I’m grateful for the fact that I don’t need to worry about what I’m going to eat every day and night,” added Isaac. “We have so much stuff – why not spread it around a bit?”
The pies were a way to “sweeten the pot” and encourage those to support their efforts said Epp, but Isaac, Daniel and Grace have their own message:
“If you donated – thank you!”
–Shaylyn McMahon and Amanda Thorsteinsson