EDMONTON — Distressing news stories abound about the drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa. More than 12 million people are impacted by malnutrition, starvation and severe cases of water-borne and infectious diseases.
Rather than feeling overwhelmed that he could not solve the problems half a world away, Father Roger Keeler from St. Michael-Resurrection Parish decided to do something.
After reading an editorial by Bernadette Gasslein for Celebrate! magazine, Keeler determined to raise $10 million for famine relief before Sept. 16.
His initial steps involved contacting humanitarian organizations such as Caritas and the World Food Program to determine what some of the challenges were.
A representative from the World Food Program told him that to put a ton of rice on the ground in Africa would cost about $500. The rice would feed 1,800 people for a day.
Keeler was directed to a website called We Feed Back (wefeedback.org). The site asks users to enter a food item and its cost, and then calculates how many hungry children could be fed with that same amount of money.
He shared the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people, as outlined in all four Gospels. The story correlates to what Keeler is hoping to achieve in helping the starving people of Somalia.
“I told my parishioners the story about the multiplication of loaves and fishes. It’s a daunting story. What Jesus does is give thanks for a small gift, and it enables the grace of God to multiply it,” said Keeler.
Keeler decided to tie in his fundraising campaign with the important Muslim feast day, Ramadan. Parishioners agreed to join with their Muslim friends in fasting for 12 hours.
“When we fast, that’s when we will feel it the most, and we will pray. We will pray for the starving and pray for the wisdom to respond, and we pray for the generosity of the world community,” said Keeler.
Whatever his fasting parishioners would have typically spent on foodstuff, groceries, snacks and gourmet coffees, he suggested they donate to feeding the hungry instead.
The parish has an estimated 800 families. Keeler calculated that if 250 of those families donate $10 a week for four weeks, the parish would raise $10,000. The federal government is matching all donations.
As of Sept. 13, the parish had raised about $40,000 in donations and money was still coming in.
If 20 per cent of the Roman Catholics in Canada donated $10 per week, more than $200 million would be raised for famine relief.
“That’s when somebody coined the phrase, ‘Take the $10-million challenge.’ The challenge only takes 250,000 people,” said Keeler.
Other parishes across Canada heard about this challenge, and decided to take part.
Christ the King Parish in Sudbury, Ont. was over $12,000 in the second week, and St. Pius X Parish in Saint John, N.B., was around $10,000.
To learn more about the $10-million challenge, contact St. Michael Resurrection Parish at 780-468-4071 or visit the parish website at www.stmichaelresurrectionparish.ca.