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8 creative ways you made a difference this year

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One of my favorite things about working at Oxfam is you. That’s right—you, the person reading this blog. Whether you donate, take action online, volunteer, raise money, follow us on social media, or any combination of the above, it’s people like you who make all of our efforts possible.

While every action matters, I especially love hearing stories about those who found creative, innovative ways to make a difference in the fight against poverty and hunger. As 2013 comes to a close, I thought I’d share a few of this year’s most creative endeavors, along with some inspiring words from these Oxfam supporters about why they went the extra mile.

Becoming the Van Squigglebottoms

Washington, DC-based couple Jeff and Jessica drew nationwide media attention this summer with a bold promise: if they could raise $1 million for Oxfam America in 2013, they would legally change their last name to Van Squigglebottoms.

“Van Squigglebottoms is an absurd last name. But what’s more absurd is that the world produces enough food for every man, woman, and child…and yet 1 in 8 people go to bed hungry each night,” wrote Jeff and Jessica in a message to Oxfam supporters. There are still a few days left to help them reach their goal; you can donate to their fundraising page here.

Talking back to big food companies

Andrea Vocos, a volunteer for the Oxfam Action Corps in New York City, at a screening of the film Land Rush. Photo: Nikko Viquiera
Andrea Vocos, a volunteer for the Oxfam Action Corps in New York City, at a screening of the film Land Rush. Photo: Nikko Viquiera

In November, consumers like you scored a major victory in the fight for farmers’ land rights when thousands of your messages, tweets, Facebook photos, homemade signs, and more helped convince Coca-Cola, the world’s largest purchaser of sugar, to commit to a “zero tolerance” policy on land grabs. “I support this campaign because it’s wrong to make people leave their homes and destroy their livelihoods just so that someone somewhere can make a buck,” said Oxfam volunteer Andrea Vocos, pictured above. “People deserve to live with dignity, whether you’re a CEO or a peasant farmer.”

Social media actions in particular played a huge role: During the campaign peak in October, for example, 51 percent of tweets mentioning @CocaColaCo came from Oxfam and its supporters. “The public response to the campaign has been tremendous,” said Oxfam’s Judy Beals. “This commitment [by Coca-Cola] is further evidence that no company is too big to listen to its customers.”

Cooking locally and globally

Alejandra Schrader, center, with Peruvian organic farmers from a cooperative supported by Oxfam. Photo courtesy Alejandra Schrader
Alejandra Schrader, center, with Peruvian organic farmers from a cooperative supported by Oxfam. Photo courtesy Alejandra Schrader

When Alejandra Schrader traveled to Lima, Peru, in September, the former Master Chef contestant and Oxfam Sisters on the Planet Ambassador did more than just sample local cuisine. Schrader volunteered with Oxfam at the Mistura Food Festival, where she and others convinced thousands of influential foodies—including Peruvian President Ollanta Humala—to sign a pledge of support for the country’s rural small-scale farmers.

“I feel very fortunate to be in a position to help close the gap between small producers and consumers,” said Schrader, who also blogged about her experience and cooked unique dishes using local ingredients, like Peruvian kañihuaco crepes with organic apple and pear compote.

Harnessing the power of art

“I believe art is one of the most powerful tools we have to make changes within our society,” said artist Diana Gilon, who earlier this year led a crowdsourced project to paint an Oxfam-inspired mural on the campus of the University of California in Santa Cruz.

Also using her artistic vision for a good cause was designer and printer Heather Moulder of the iconic American poster shop Hatch Show Print, who recently created a custom poster to support Oxfam America’s typhoon relief and rebuilding efforts in the Philippines.

Spinning for good

Ty Reeves at his Oxfam-themed spinning class.
Ty Reeves at his Oxfam-themed spinning class.

Lots of Oxfam supporters choose to run races–even marathons–as a way to raise funds and awareness. But Ty Reeves, an Oxfam CHANGE Leader at the University of South Carolina, Lancaster, took fitness to a whole new level with a spinning class called “Justice is Schwinning” (named for the Schwinn bikes used in the class). “Basically, every time we turned up the resistance on the bike I would give an example [of] injustice,” said Reeves. “Every time we released resistance I talked about how Oxfam plans to help.” Reeves used the event to recruit new members to the Oxfam community on campus.

Wearing the message

Photo: Bob Ferguson/Oxfam America
Photo: Bob Ferguson/Oxfam America

I love seeing photos of the bizarre outfits (or lack thereof) worn by attendees of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. But if some festival-goers seemed especially well-dressed this year, we can thank Oxfam’s volunteers, who found a creative way to get the word out by inviting music fans to stencil Oxfam logos and messages on 100 recycled t-shirts. This was Oxfam’s sixth year with a presence at the festival, where more than 3,500 people signed up to help right the wrongs of poverty and hunger.

Giving better

Amy Curkendall's hand-illustrated ornaments for Oxfam Gifts of a sheep, a pair of chickens, and a goat, all available at OxfamGifts.com. Photo: Amy Curkendall, amycurkendall.com
Amy Curkendall’s hand-illustrated ornaments for Oxfam Gifts of a goat, a pair of chickens, and a sheep. Photo: Amy Curkendall, amycurkendall.com

When Amy Curkendall, a San Francisco illustrator, saw an ad on a bus for our symbolic giving program, Oxfam Unwrapped, she felt inspired to give Oxfam Gifts this holiday season. “I’ve often considered giving charitable gifts for Christmas, but I was particularly drawn to the option to give something very tangible and useful,” she said. “And you can personalize it–for the animal lover, they can give a sheep, while the nature lover can give a whole grove of trees.” Curkendall was so inspired that she put her talents as a crafter and artist to use: In addition to the informational cards that accompany each Oxfam Unwrapped gift, she created her own hand-illustrated ornaments, above, to give to family members.

Changing the way people think about hunger

Amaya Amigo, pictured, organized a Hunger Banquet at the University of Idaho on November 18. "It was an incredible evening and we reached out to so many people," said Amigo. Photo: Oxfam Club at the University of Idaho
Amaya Amigo, pictured, organized a Hunger Banquet at the University of Idaho on November 18. “It was an incredible evening and we reached out to so many people,” said Amigo. Photo: Oxfam Club at the University of Idaho

If you’ve ever attended an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, you probably still remember what it felt like to eat a humble meal sitting on the floor—or to be one of the lucky few with a seat at the table. This fall, volunteers organized 403 interactive Oxfam America Hunger Banquets on campuses and in communities nationwide.

Many added their own creative touches, as at one Hunger Banquet in Iowa, where participants bargained for extra food with a high school student playing the role of “middleman.” “War is not always about weapons, and hunger is not always about food—but if we can prevent both by better allocating our resources, perhaps we can right the wrong after all,” she wrote of her experience.

Want to join the effort in 2014? Find out how to volunteer with Oxfam in your community or on your campus. Or donate now to support our life-changing programs to help people fight poverty, hunger, and injustice.

 

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