Our Annual Report, covering our activities from October 2019 to the present, is now available by clicking here or on the image. It summarises the projects we were involved in before COVID-19, the emergency food aid we supported during the first wave of the pandemic and news of our current plans until the end of this difficult year. As you will see, our main activities have involved a school feeding programme in Ethiopia, organising events for refugees and the homeless in the UK and supporting emergency COVID-19 food relief for people in Nepal,Uganda,Nigeria, UK and Ethiopia; and providing funds to feed street dogs in Nepal. We're also looking forward to completing a wildlife education booklet for UK schools in early 2012.
In an ideal world, we would choose to concentrate largely on projects that bring long-term educational benefits, particularly to young people, but with so many humans and other animals suffering acutely during the pandemic, we feel that emergency food relief cannot be ignored.
We hope you enjoy reading the report. Please do pass on details to anybody - vegan or otherwise - who you think might be interested. Thank you!
We now have information on the first ten recipients of emergency food parcels (beans, maize flour, salt, oil and vegetable soap) purchased from our donation to help Ugandan households suffering extreme hardship due to COVID-19 restrictions and crop failures (see earlier post for details). Food was purchased and distributed by Devon Development Education's on-the ground worker Godfrey Kisakye, to households recommended by Katoma Primary School in Uganda's Mubende District.
We have today sent funds for similar plant-based provisions early in November.
The photo shows nine of the first ten recipients with their food parcels.
With extreme hardship in poorer countries exacerbated by COVID-19, we have sent funds to provide food parcels for struggling families in Uganda. Each parcel contains:
Our initial contribution will feed 10 families of five for at least 14 days, probably more.
With so many people in so many different countries needing emergency help, we have chosen this particular project because it is a small-scale initiative where we have personal contact with the co-ordinators in the UK (Devon Development Education (DDE) - also responsible for Fairtrade Devon), who in turn know and employ the distributors in Uganda. It's a low budget, maximum efficient, minimum expense programme.
Lockdown in Uganda has kept deaths from COVID-19 extremely low, but it has left day labourers and market traders (amongst many others) without work or money. In addition, the first season's harvest has been poor, creating food scarcities.
Teachers and staff from the schools that DDE works with in more normal times choose the families who benefit. Typically - as in the photo - they are headed by elderly widows who are caring for many orphaned grandchildren.
The scheme began in August and, - according to DDE - 'there is no doubt that the food is helping people in real need and even saving lives'.
We have just received our Annual Report from The International Fund for Africa (IFA) in Ethiopia, monitoring the results of our funding of daily school meals (breakfast and lunch) at Hana Primary School in Addis Ababa and explaining some of the other important work undertaken as part of the organisation's school feeding programme.
The report states that 'every day, millions of children in Ethiopia go to school hungry' and explains the positive impact of the innovative vegan school meal initiative in helping the poorest children. In turn, this improves academic achievement and ultimately, life opportunities for those who benefit from the scheme.
In addition to the direct benefit to children, IFA has now completed work on a mushroom farm that will generate income towards the long-term aim of self-sufficiency for the school meal programme. Other positives include the creation of work opportunities for parents as cooks and for local food producers.
The latest report shows that IFA has received national recognition for its work in Addis Ababa, receiving an award from the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia at a nationally televised ceremony. It's quite an achievement for a relatively small organisation pursuing what some may still consider a radical vegan agenda. Generously, the organisation pays tribute to sponsors like ourselves for their support.
Since the school was shut down as part of COVID-19 restriction measures, the families of children who would normally receive meals have been given regular food parcels to take home and to stave off the worst impact of lockdown. However, IFA is hopeful that school may resume soon.
We will be continuing our funding for the next academic year.
We have sent additional funds to cover the cost of feeding approximately 20 children with vegan food for the next month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The fund will help with a scheme being operated by our inspirational partners, International Fund for Africa (IFA).
In normal times, our partnership with IFA involves us sponsoring breakfast and lunch throughout the school year for roughly 100 of the poorest children at Hana Primary School.
It is our biggest commitment. But with schools closing before the end of term as part of Ethiopia's national lockdown, IFA set up an emergency operation to help the most vulnerable with take home rations. (Some of our donation for last year's school meals was unused and has already been diverted into the take home food scheme).
Although Ethiopia, like many Sub-Saharan African countries, has done well in keeping COVID-19 infection numbers and deaths relatively low so far, the virus is spreading and the economic consequences have been dire. Lockdown has left many without any income, as there is no benefit system. UNICEF has estimated that malnutrition rates may rise by up to 24%.
Additionally, there has been a plague of locusts in the country and, alas, the eruption of violent ethnic conflict in some areas.
It is hoped that the schools will be able to return next month and we will be able to resume our usual sponsorship for 2020/21. If not, we will be investigating the best ways we can help IFA to provide vital vegan food aid for the poorest.
Our latest small donation during the COVID-19 pandemic has been to support The Akshaya Patra Foundation's (TAPF) Nourish and Flourish campaign to provide thousands of healthy meals to low-income families in the UK, particularly in Greater London.
In the UK more than three million children are at risk of going hungry during school holidays. Despite the government's welcome U-turn that provides 1.3 million of those children with free school meal vouchers over this summer, there are, alas, still a lot of hungry youngsters out there, even in a comparatively rich country like our own.
Organised largely in conjunction with local council's Children in Holiday clubs, TAPF provides a healthy and nutritious hot meal to the children of low-income children who do not qualify under the government scheme. While some of the dishes are lacto-vegetarian, our donation will pay for 240 vegan meals. Plant-based recipes include Thai Curry and Rice, Egg free Noodles with veggies and tofu (see photo), Jacket Potato, bakes veggies and beans and Chickpea veggie pilav with salad. Fruit is added to every meal.
Many of those who run holiday clubs have testified to the positive impact of The Akshaya Patra Foundation's scheme in alleviating malnutrition and improving behaviour and concentration levels.
When kids come here from home, they have either not eaten or eaten much. They get here and get these hot meals from TAPF. The nutrition is massive rather than food from stores. They are doing a good job now... You see trends, the way children react ... and come back asking for more food. -- Thomas Scanell, Simply Kids, Croydon
When kids come here from home, they have either not eaten or eaten much. They get here and get these hot meals from TAPF. The nutrition is massive rather than food from stores. They are doing a good job now... You see trends, the way children react ... and come back asking for more food.
Following on from our second donation to help feed hungry people in Nepal (see post below), we have now sent a second contribution to help feed the starving street dogs in Kathmandu. Although lockdown has now ended - meaning that some of the animals do have some human sources of food available again - most of the stray dog population hang out around the city's restaurants, campus and gym, all of which are still shut down.
Sharing a meal
Project Humane Nepal tells us that they cannot abruptly stop providing the life-saving food they have been distributing throughout the COVID-19 crisis. A vegan meal (cooked rice, dal, pumpkin, soy chunks, thin arrowroot biscuits) is still being prepared and distributed to 90+ dogs daily. All the purchased and prepared food is vegan, though any dog food that supporters donate is also used.
Our second donation will cover the cost of approximately 500 meals.
Our latest round of donations to help with emergency virus projects has begun with a donation to feed another 16 families of four for ten days in Nepal. This makes a total of 30 Nepali families we have fed for a 10-day period.
Our new support will go to help Nepali workers returning home from India, forced to undertake long and sometimes fatal journeys after India's shutdown in April left them without income and food. Those who managed to make it back to West Nepal have found themselves a part of a humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Nepal's fragile economy during the COVID-19 crisis. See for example: The ticking time bomb of Nepal's returning migrant workers
Workers and their families face quarantine when they reach their home country and some have no source of food without food parcels from Grassroots Movement in Nepal. All the food is vegan.
Our previous donation went to help with providing meals during lockdown in the Kathmandu area. With no benefit system and no wages, there was a major crisis at the time. Fortunately, there are fewer cases of COVID-19 now and the city is partially opening up.
The photos show some of the brave volunteers providing food parcels for those in need.
Our latest small contribution towards helping the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic has been to provide the funds to feed 30 children for one week at a children's village (orphanage) in Nigeria. The meals are based upon a high-protein, 100% plant-based meat substitute called VegChunks - a locally produced, protein rich meat substitute. The protein content of one pack also covers for an average of half of a child's requirement per week. Grains and vegetables are added to produce a balanced meal.
Since SOS Children's Village - where we have sponsored the food - does not allow photos of the children, the photo shows some of the team who deliver the food. Inside the orphanage, between 3-6 children live with a foster mother as families.
We have sent now sent funds to provide more than 300 meals for street dogs in Nepal.
When we sponsored efforts to feed vulnerable human families in Nepal last week (see post below), we also learnt about the sad fate of non-human street animals in the country during lockdown. While nobody would describe their routine life as easy, it is apparently part of the culture that they live amongst the public and are fed by restaurants, shops, tourists and passers by. With people leaving towns to return to villages and no tourists, food sources have disappeared and the animals are faced with starvation.
Although we were inspired by the brave work of rescue groups, as a vegan organisation our constitution would exclude a donation from the charity if the food purchased contained animal products. So we were delighted to receive this message from the Project Humane Nepal: 'the meals provided to the street dogs are vegan. The recipe includes cooked rice, lentils/dal, vegetables (pumpkin or carrots), and thin arrowroot biscuits. Some times a few friends/family donate dog food and eggs, and we accept those. We do not directly purchase any animal products. I am a vegan myself, and I do not want to contribute towards animal suffering'.
As well as the dogs, the groups are feeding street cows, temple monkeys, cats, goats and other animals.
There are several groups in India & other Global South countries (and many other parts of the world) that have made special provision to feed hungry street animals during the COVID-19. Our thanks to all of them.
As part of our contribution towards supporting vegan food aid during the COVID-19 crisis, we have sponsored food for 14 families of four for a ten-day period to help a wonderful effort to provide vital supplies for the needy in Nepal. The country has been in lockdown for more than one month and with no benefit system available, day workers and beggars suddenly lost any means of income and food. Our friends at Grassroots Movement in Nepal (whose school feeding programme we have supported before) are preparing a meal of rice, lentils and veg daily for all those who don't have access to kitchens, as well as providing raw materials for those who do.
Queing for meals
All the food is purchased locally, thereby providing valuable income to local farmers.
We hope to be able to provide support for another valuable project in Nepal in the coming weeks.
The photos show one of the improvised food kitchens in action.
With our own regular projects still inoperative due to COVID-19, we have made a second small donation to Ashkaya Patra's major operation to feed the homeless and other vulnerable people in London. While some of the organisation's feeding programmes include dairy, the meals we haver sponsored are all vegan. Last month, we paid for in excess of 300 meals and this month we have managed to increase our support. In a letter of thanks to us, a representative from Ashkaya Patra has written that our donation will 'serve about 400-420 meals depending on the ingredients being used on the day, per availability. These meals as mentioned before are a one pot dish - a mixture of lentils, vegetables, rice or millets. This dish is vegan. We also tag a fruit as and when possible/available'.
We continue to look for suitable emergency efforts we can support during the COVID-19 crisis - always encompassing our vegan ethic, of course.
We today donated funds to pay for 300 vegan meals, all to be provided and distributed amongst the homeless and vulnerable in London. It is a tiny contribution to a massive effort by the Akshaya Patra Foundation UK (TAPF) to keep thousands of those suffering hardship from hunger during the COVID-19 crisis.
Although TAPF is a lacto-vegetarian rather than vegan organisation, much of the food it is providing during the pandemic is dairy-free and we have received assurances that the dish we have funded will be a hot wholesome vegan porridge of rice, lentils and seasonal vegetables, known as Khichdi.
The Akshaya Patrara Foundation follows the ancient Hindu tradition of Ayurvedic nutrition that allows consumption of dairy and honey. While it is disappointing from our vegan perspective that it sees the need to add dairy protein to at least some of the millions of school meals it usually provides for children in poverty - mostly in India but also in the UK - there can be no disputing the dynamism of the organisation. It has perfected a system to mass feed those in need with nutritious food at a very low cost per unit. And we also salute the bravery of its staff and volunteers in providing much-needed meals in the current climate.
With our regular projects currently unable to operate, we are looking to sponsor more vegan meals (we hope an increased number) in early May.
Unfortunately all of our projects have been hit by the Covid-19 lockdown. Obviously, social meals with refugees are impossible. We fought hard to find some way of continuing with meals for the homeless in Exeter, but this has also proved impossible. Fortunately, the excellent Exeter Food Project has done a fantastic job of keeping the vulnerable fed, with significant contributions from food donated by restaurants that could no longer use it. Our food did not prove necessary!
We have also received news that our school feeding project in Ethiopia is currently inoperative because of school closures. Our partners, International Fund for Africa, recently sent us this news:
Ethiopia, like many other African countries is following the advice of WHO - the distancing and hygiene, etc.
So far schools are closed and those who can work from home are working from home to reduce the load on public transport and have less people in offices- so we are not on strict lockdown.
As you can imagine we have a very poor health system so all efforts are geared towards prevention.
Due to distancing we we have not provided meals but we are concerned and waiting for guidance from the government on how we can serve the vulnerable.
Until there is complete shutdown , while maintaining distance we are making face masks because there is a huge shortage.
The testing capacity is low, so the official figure of the infected is just 43 ; we had two deaths yesterday from COVID 19.
It is hoped that IFA will be able to find a way of feeding the children again soon.
The plight of poorer countries with less developed health systems is an enormous worry.
We have been looking into the possibility of diverting some funds into helping emergency COVID-19 measures and hope to be able to announce something very soon.
A new venture for us began at the end of February providing lunch for the homeless at Exeter’s day centre, St Petrock's. The wonderful Fairfoods cooked up a vegan treat mac’n cheeze with coleslaw and salad followed by fruit crumble cake and ice cream for 33 guests on a wet and windy day. At least three of the homeless people we met were veggies and particularly pleased to see us!
We’re looking forward to returning to St Petrock’s towards the end of the month.
It was sobering to meet some of those far less fortunate than ourselves, and it felt good to be able to help just a little bit. Also, it was great to get to talk to the caring staff at St Petrock’s.
No pictures of people, of course, but here are a couple of our volunteer team in serving action!
Footnote If you live in the South West and haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying the Fairfoods menu, you can catch them at Exeter Vegan Market Saturday 14 March, where they will be the main caterers.
We have now received a New Year 2020 update report from the International Fund for Africa, the inspiring organisation that administers the school feeding programme in Ethiopia.
‘Each year’, we are told, ‘school meal menus are redesigned by taking into consideration nutritional value, cost effectiveness, availability of local ingredients and local preferences, customs and taste. School meals for 2019/2020 were revised and on average each school child now receives around 900 kilocalories from the meals served at school’.
Here is the current lunch menu:
The project continues to provide work for local food producers, cooks and support staff, as well as achieving its primary purposes of hunger alleviation, health benefits and improved academic performance for the children.