Day 4 Perspective

Hunger is an insidious disease inflicting humanity. It’s no better or worse, be it in Caledon East or Port-au-Prince

May 10, 2012 | | Blogs | Community | Hunger Awareness Week

Last night Brandy and I stretched the food bank diet envelope a bit. We had a guest for supper.

Not just any guest either. Sharon Gaskell is the founder and unpaid, hands-on director of the non-profit Starthrower Foundation. She’s also one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever known.

Starthrower sponsors and assists teens and young adults to get an education in some of the poorest corners of Haiti. Sharon spends most of the year there, coming home to Orangeville for only a few weeks each spring and fall.

Our dinner wasn’t fancy: $1.90 worth of chicken pieces, a can of mushroom soup for sauce, some brown rice and a can of peas. Total cost for three meals: less than four dollars. By Sharon’s standards, though, it was a minor feast. She describes her Haitian diet like this: “Will dinner tonight be rice and beans, or beans and rice?”

Even at that, at least Sharon isn’t worried about where her next meal is coming from, unlike those around her. Starthrower operates a food distribution program for its students, doling out enough rice and beans for an individual for two days. Frequently, that small portion gets taken home and shared with the family. “Sometimes, up to ten or fifteen people eat from that,” she says. “In Canada we think it’s awful if someone only eats once or twice a day. In Haiti it’s common for people to only be eating once or twice a week.”

The starkness of that reality sinks even deeper when she adds “People in Canada don’t understand the difference between relative poverty and absolute poverty. In Haiti there are no food banks. There is no safety net.”

The thing that stays with me is, it’s not a competition. Hunger is an insidious disease inflicting humanity. It’s no better or worse, be it in Caledon East or Port-au-Prince. The difference is, in Canada we have the means and the ability to do something about it. We need only ask: do we have the will?

Sharon’s operation in Haiti offers another lesson. Quite literally come hell or high water, every morning her kids get up, dust themselves off and go to school. Despite the crushing circumstances, they do that because it provides the most important thing of all: hope. If only I could donate that in a can, banked and ready when one of my neighbours needs it.

There are the fortunate, the less fortunate and the least fortunate. Today, I’ve never been more aware of which category I’m in.

This comic depiction of Starthrower’s purpose in Haiti holds a powerful message for us here at home too.


The Food Box Challenge is all about raising awareness. Caledon Community Services has set a target of 5,000 visits to the daily blog all participants are posting on the CCS Food Box Challenge website. Please take a moment and give it a look.

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.

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