The war in Syria may seem very far away to us. We can't hear the daily shelling of cities and towns. We can't see with our own eyes the terror a mother faces each day trying to find food for her children.
We know chemical weapons were used and killed over 1400 Syrians, including children. An agreement has been reached to remove and destroy the chemical weapons. However, Syrians are still dying from conventional weapons and from hunger and malnutrition. Hunger is the evil companion of war.
Most societies, even in a quiet year, face hardships when trying to feed their people. This year, Syria faces an even graver challenge since the war has destroyed crops, farmlands, and bakeries. In addition, transportation systems to convey food have been ruined.
While we take food for granted, people in Syria are starving. The lack of food is hardest on the small children. Without the right nutrition in the first 1000 days, children will suffer lasting physical and mental damage, or worse.
In 2000, the United Nations created eight global development goals that they hope to reach by 2015. Perhaps the most important goal that the UN has established is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. While reaching this goal may be difficult in Syria, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is trying their best to feed 4 million people this month.
While the WFP is trying to feed Syrians, its staff faces a dangerous and complex mission of providing life-saving food in the middle of a war zone. The WFP is also feeding millions of Syrian refugees who have fled to Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt. The WFP even provides food at schools inside the refugee camps to help children catch up on their education. Achieving universal primary education is another UN goal that Syrians are struggling with due to war.
Even though we live many miles away from Syria, there are still ways in which Mount students can help. Students can contribute simply by walking, running, or biking.
There is a free app called Charity Miles (www.charitymiles.org) that students can download onto their smartphone.
The app allows students to raise money for different charities including the World Food Programme. Simply select World Food Programme and click whether you want to run, walk or bike. Then click start and begin your workout. When done, click finish and you can post your results to Facebook or Twitter. Every mile means a donation of meals to WFP, paid for by a corporate sponsorship pool—it's free for the walker, runner or biker.
This UN food agency relies entirely on voluntary funding. Laure Chadraoui, a WFP rep working on Syrian relief, says "we need every penny indeed."
That is where you come in. The MSJ community could donate thousands of meals to WFP simply by using the Charity Miles app.
For impact, let's make the rest of October a month to support WFP and help feed Syria's war victims using Charity Miles. It's food for peace. To get involved, contact the Campus Activities Board.
Right now you have a whole generation of children growing up in the Middle East with little food, health care or education. The MSJ community, even though far away from this crisis, can make a difference.
William Lambers is an MSJ alum, author and journalist who partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme on the book Ending World Hunger. He is a Charity Miles All-Star. Samantha Buschle is a senior English major currently in a teaching practicum at the Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts. She is taking the UN Millennium Development Goals class which recently visited the General Assembly in New York.