JUSTeach Newsletter

May 2004

social justice education

"Children Should be Heard ... on Social Justice Concerns"

  We chose to focus this month on what young people can do on behalf of social justice issues -- since May is when most of Bread for the World's Offering of Letters campaigns against hunger and related issues are held.  The BFW workshop sponsored by the Diocese in March noted the value of involving youth in the Offering of Letters and other advocacy efforts.  BFW leaders, legislators and teachers agree that letters and other social justice actions from students are often more effective than those from adults. 

    In fact, the children’s advocacy organization Kids Can Make a Difference believes “young people have two distinct advantages over adults when it comes to [trying to influence] legislative bodies --- they stand out in the usual crowd of adults, and [legislators] know that children have no vested interest in getting a particular law passed other than their own passionate belief that the law will protect people or their natural surroundings. Helping shape legislation this way is an extremely empowering and exciting experience for young people.” 

    Some creative ideas from Bread for the World, Catholic Relief Services and others for helping children and teens advocate for people in need are offered below.  As Catholics called to live the Gospel message in response to the human rights concerns of our day, let's not hesitate to involve our young people in doing the same! 

   Blessings to all for a restful and fruitful summer from the Peace and Justice Office! 

Bread for the World is a nationwide citizens’ movement seeking justice for the world’s hungry people by lobbying our nation’s decision makers.  The focus of its 2004 Offering of Letters is “Keep the Promise on Hunger and Health,”and will remind our president, Congress and our nation of our promises to some of the poorest people in developing countries.  This campaign will focus on winning major increases in funding proposed by President Bush for the Millennium Challenge Account and Global AIDS initiative.  The 2004 Offering is explained at www.bread.org/issues/offering.html, and a sample letter to Congress is found at www.bread.org/issues/keep_the_promise/sample_letter.htm.  For younger students, a letter to Congress might be a drawing about hunger, with a simple sentence asking their legislators to do all they can to help hungry people better their lives.

Hunger No More is a cooperative project of Bread for the World and more than 20 Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Jewish organizations which develops educational materials about hunger and poverty for their congregations.  A children’s sample letter to members of Congress about hunger-related legislation can be found on their website at:  www.hungernomore.org/childrens_activities/2002%20education/activity_10.pdf 

Further suggestions and resources as to what “kids can do” about hunger are also found at their website:  www.hungernomore.org/childrens_activities/2002%20education/intro.pdf and www.hungernomore.org/2003%20edition/activity%202.pdf.  For those without Internet access, materials may be ordered by calling 1-800-82BREAD. 

Catholic Relief Services regularly updates legislative information in the “Grassroots Action Center” section of its website:  www.catholicrelief.org/get_involved/advocacy/grass_roots/take_action.cfm.  Older students and adults may also be interested in the various “e-cards” calling for action on hunger/poverty which can be sent from the site:  www.catholicrelief.org/postcards. 

Other recommended websites with action suggestions and educational materials for young people on hunger include:  1) Global Gang, the kids’ site of Christian Aid (the relief agency of British/Irish churches), www.globalgang.org.uk/hotnews/actnow/index.htm; and 2) www.knowhunger.org, site for kNOw Hunger, a hunger-based curriculum from the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, geared toward high school youth (Units 5 and 6 include suggested