KindWorks, based in Potomac, is resurrecting the “Silent Guest” program from 1947 to help the hungry in war-ravaged South Sudan.
Photo courtesy of Karen Simon
“As a nation, it is important that we join together to help the rest of the world.” — Karen Simon
“I was so moved when I looked in the people’s eyes, I knew I had to do something,” said Potomac’s Karen Simon. After watching a gut-wrenching March episode of “60 Minutes” showing famine, poverty and malnourished children in war-ravaged South Sudan, Simon decided it was time to act. She and her colleagues from KindWorks resurrected the “Silent Guest” program — a 70-year-old American tradition which is perfect for Thanksgiving.
There’s always room for one more at our Thanksgiving tables , so set a place for a “silent guest” at the Thanksgiving table and donate the money it would cost for that meal to the World Food Program/Silent Guest program. “It’s broadening our sense of community beyond our immediate neighbors,” said Simon.
The “Silent Guest” program was created by Iris Gabriel in 1947 two years after WWII ended and before the Marshall Plan was instituted. The people of Europe had lived through the havoc of war and experienced a devastating drought, leading to life-threatening food shortages. Governors of all states embraced the “Silent Guest” program where all families would set aside a place at their holiday meals. Because of each family’s small donations, the program of CARE packages was initiated to feed the hungry in Europe. Gabriel had said, “The silent guest meals will be spiritual bread, as well as physical bread, for discouraged, hungry people.”
Simon and her fellow board members at KindWorks also launched a program to raise funds to buy more meals for starving children and adults in South Sudan.
“I knew as one person I could not make an impact — but I also realized that I couldn’t let this go on in my world and not take part,” said Simon. “We determined that if we each gave $10 — and then shared the need with 10 more people — together, we can bring about change. It only takes 50 cents to buy a meal so $10 buys 20 meals.” Thus far, they have raised $15,000 towards their goal of $50,000. Up until Friday, Nov. 17, anonymous donors matched the donated funds.
The World Food Programme assists 80 million people in about 80 countries, working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. They are the leading humanitarian organization fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Their work extends from Afghanistan to Yemen, from Haiti to South Sudan. They particularly focus on nutrition — and the necessity for children to consume wholesome meals in order to grow into healthy adults. Because of the multitude of strife in the world, famine is one of the most prevalent problems, particularly for the refugee population. As they escape from their countries, people are subsisting on very little, other than plants and tainted water.
Simon said, “As a nation, it is important that we join together to help the rest of the world.”
Join the table – and set a place for a “silent guest.” Make a vow to save lives by donating to the World Food Program at wfpusa.org/silentguest. After donating, spread the word to friends and family and look at the website to learn more about the situation in South Sudan.