MeiLan Wechsler understands more than most how anyone – or rather, everyone – can make a difference when it comes to ending global hunger.
For the past two years, MeiLan has been raising money for hunger relief by selling hundreds of handmade bookmarks, origami star boxes and leaf-rubbed placemats in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. For each sale, the young artist donates 100% of the proceeds to WFP-USA. She's raised more than US$1,500.
She's also only 9 years old. The 4th grader decided to start fundraising for hunger relief after seeing a news story in 2011 about a widespread drought in the Horn of Africa. The drought—the region’s worst in nearly 60 years—affected more than 2.6 million people in Somalia alone, a country already plagued by ongoing civil conflict. MeiLan was shocked to see images of Somali children her age who didn’t have enough food to eat. What was life like for them, she wondered. More importantly, how could she help?
After deciding to sell homemade artwork to raise money, MeiLan had some help of her own. Her teachers and classmates at Hayhurst Elementary School purchased her creations, as did her friends and family at the Hillsdale Community Church. The church's pastor even agreed to match the first $100 MeiLan raised. By engaging her community and spreading awareness about what is often called "the world's greatest solvable problem," MeiLan multiplied her impact in the fight against world hunger, which kills more people each year than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined.
Thanks to supporters like her, hungry people in greatest need all over the world are receiving emergency relief, including areas in the Philippines recently devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as well as drought-stricken villages in the Sahel region of central Africa.
But WFP's work extends beyond emergency food assistance. With 13,500 employees in 80 countries, WFP is on the ground every day helping communities build resilience against future food insecurity through programs like School Meals, which encourages families to keep their children, especially girls, in the classroom by providing daily lunches and take-home rations. By investing in children's education, WFP’s School Meals Program helps lift entire communities—and future generations—out of poverty.
“Before, if a family had three daughters, perhaps only one would be sent to school. Now they send all their daughters to school," a girl named Sarah Ismail told WFP spokesperson Laila Ali in October. “WFP meals help me to focus when I am in the classroom. It also makes life easier for my parents, knowing that I get two meals at school." This year, WFP provided meals to nearly 106,000 children in 473 primary schools in Somalia, where nearly six out of 10 children do not go to school–one of the worst enrollment rates in the world.
It costs just 25 cents to give a child like Ismali a school meal, which means that MeiLan’s US$1,500 contribution alone could be used to provide 6,000 school meals. MeiLan is giving people all over the planet, including young girls like her, the opportunity at a brighter future. To learn more about how you can help, visit http://wfpusa.org/ways-to-give.
This story was originally written and posted by WFP-USA.