Ending global hunger can seem like a daunting task, but for Gary Weir it’s an essential one to tackle.
Weir is a member of St. George’s Anglican Church in Fitzroy, Ontario.
“It’s important for us to give back because we are a wealthy country,” says Weir. “We live in a global society, so we need to support other people as well.”
For that reason, in 2009, Weir and his brother Ron began sharing proceeds from their dairy farm to help people experiencing hunger overseas.
“It was my brother’s idea,” says Weir. “He thought it would be a good way to contribute back.”
Each year, they’d donate money to Canadian Foodgrains Bank, designating it to Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund’s (PWRDF) account for its work in reducing hunger worldwide.
A couple years later, the brothers decided they wanted to do more to support people overseas, and the West Carleton Growing Project was born.
The West Carleton Growing Project has been supporting PWRDF through the Foodgrains Bank since 2009. The project receives support from surrounding churches and companies. (Photo: Gary Weir)
They rented 25 acres of land and began planting, tending, and harvesting a crop. Once harvested, the growing project sells the crop and donates the proceeds to PWRDF’s account at the Foodgrains Bank.
Since Weir and his brother attend St. George’s Anglican Church in Fitzroy Harbour, he says it was natural for them to designate the money they raised to PWRDF’s account.
It was also natural for local Anglican churches to get involved.
The growing project receives support each year from the local Parish of Fitzroy Harbour and Christ Church Bells Corners. Through offerings and various events, the parishes raise funds to help cover costs of inputs like seeds, chemicals and fertilizers.
Weir says he’s grateful to partner with the churches in addressing world hunger.
“You have to start from somewhere,” says Weir. “So we’re starting from somewhere.”
Since 2009, the West Carleton Growing Project has raised over $60,000 for PWRDF’s account at the Foodgrains Bank.
It’s just one example of the ways Canadian Anglicans have been working together to end world hunger since PWRDF joined the Foodgrains Bank ten years ago. Not only have they been working together to end hunger, Anglicans have also been working alongside other Christian denominations for the past ten years.
“Joining the Foodgrains Bank has allowed for truly ecumenical work to respond to global hunger,” says Naba Gurung, PWRDF’s humanitarian response coordinator.
In 2006, when PWRDF was considering joining the Foodgrains Bank, Gurung was tasked with outlining the potential benefits of the partnership. For him, there were many.
Member agencies of the Foodgrains Bank respond to global hunger crises, but they also respond to other global issues like health care and education. Having access to the Foodgrains Bank’s knowledge and experience, which is focused on hunger, was a welcomed asset for PWRDF, says Gurung.
“One benefit was how the work of the Foodgrains Bank is focused on food aid, food security and nutrition,” says Gurung. “The Foodgrains Bank was able to provide that expertise, which is otherwise not available to many members individually.”
“Coming together allowed us to have more food-related work,” he says.
It was the combination of working together alongside other Christian denominations and of having expertise on food security that ultimately led PWRDF to join the Foodgrains Bank in 2007. Today, their commitment to the partnership remains strong.
“At the staff, board and supporter level there is a very good feeling that being part of the Foodgrains Bank adds so much value to the work of PWRDF,” says Gurung.
Appreciation for the partnership is also felt within the Anglican Church of Canada.
“For our church to be in a partnership with an organization that has so many connections in places where we want to have a direct affect – that’s so valuable,” says the Rt. Rev. Michael Oulton, Bishop for the Diocese of Ontario.
In July of last year, Oulton travelled to Kenya with the Foodgrains Bank and other Canadian church leaders to see first-hand the work being done to alleviate hunger, particularly with small-scale farmers.
Bishop Oulton with two Kenyan farmers during the Canadian Church Leaders tour in 2016. (Photo: Emily Cain)
Oulton remembers meeting a farmer named Jane Wanjiku who learned new ways of farming through an agriculture project funded by the Foodgrains Bank. At first, Jane’s neighbours teased her about adopting these new farming techniques because they were different than the traditional techniques common in her community. Despite this, Jane’s crops were successful.
“Her maize ended up being eight feet high and producing really well, and she had beans and squash as well,” recalls Oulton.
Although Jane’s success was inspiring to Oulton, it was what followed her success that confirmed his support of the Foodgrains Bank.
“Jane noticed that her neighbours were watching the techniques she was using, and that opened up the conversation for her to share her techniques with others,” he says.
Not only had Jane learned more efficient farming practices to better provide for her family, but she was sharing that knowledge with others in the community as well, giving them an opportunity to benefit from the Foodgrains Bank-funded project.
“That’s where the partnerships with local partners and members like PWRDF are so critically important because we can actually make a difference and inspire communities overseas to work together as well,” says Oulton.
Oulton, who grew up on a farm, says the strong support that Canadian farmers have for the Foodgrains Bank also resonates with him.
“It’s very much the way of life that I grew up with,” he says. “We all help one another, and it’s kind of in the DNA to be able to say, ‘Here’s something I can do from my corner that will affect someone around the globe.’”
“Not only with farmers who are setting aside some of their crop, but also people who are making donations – people who want to put their faith in action,” he continues.
From churches supporting growing projects to PWRDF working alongside other Christian denominations, the aspect of working together to end global hunger has remained at the forefront of PWRDF’s partnership with the Foodgrains Bank.
“Without the Foodgrains Bank, I think we’d get a lot less done,” says Will Postma, executive director of PWRDF.
For him, the Foodgrains Bank serves as a reminder of the positive impacts Canadian Christians can have when they work together.
From left to right: Conservation agriculture farmer John Mbithi, Will Postma, and Foodgrains Bank board member Steve McInnis visit a Foodgrains Bank project in Kenya. (Photo: Courtney Klassen)
“It’s a good testament to the broader community that collaboration pays off, and that resolve in our Christian faith is meaningful and purposeful,” says Postma. “It translates to good and better things for community members that we’re supporting.”
Over the past ten years, over $1 million has been donated to PWRDF’s account at the Foodgrains Bank.
Jim Cornelius, executive director of the Foodgrains Bank, is grateful for the partnership and for the impact PWRDF is having around the world.
“Without our members, there is no Foodgrains Bank,” says Cornelius. “We’re grateful to work alongside PWRDF toward a world without hunger, and we look forward to continuing our work together.”
Postma echoes this gratitude, reaffirming the significance of the partnership between PWRDF and the Foodgrains Bank.
“Together we are stronger. We can learn from each other, we will not duplicate, and we will play on each other’s strengths,” he says.
“Together, we’re more resolved to respond to hunger.”
–Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Assistant