Oklahomans were transported to one of the most impoverished areas of East Africa on Thursday, through an imaginative interactive experience created by an Oklahoma City-based humanitarian relief agency.
The international nonprofit Feed The Children launched its new Story of Hope exhibit during a celebratory event that included remarks by the organization’s president and chief executive officer Kevin Hagan, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Lisa Boevers with the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
“This exhibit not only gives you glimpses of where we are today but where we’re headed tomorrow,” Hagan told the group of Feed The Children staff, donors, community leaders and others gathered Thursday at the organization’s offices, 4529 Enterprise Place.
Lamb said the exhibit brought home the plight of the impoverished being offered sustenance and hope by the city-based relief organization.
“It struck me how alive and how real it grabs you,” he said.
The interactive experience immersed visitors into the lives of several people living in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya, by reproducing their meager dwelling places and the extremely poor conditions in which they live. Guests walked near a market area, saw threadbare garments hanging on rope, trash-strewn walkways and the mix of assorted containers used to hold inadequate amounts of food and water. Vivid pictures and heartbreaking videos also were featured along the way, plus interactive kiosks showcasing an assortment of information about the targeted countries.
A glimpse into lives
Through the exhibit, visitors saw and heard the stories of:
-year-old boy with AIDS and tuberculosis waiting all day alone in a dark, filthy shanty for his father to find work to feed both of them.
•A 48-year-old HIV-positive woman living in a tiny structure with nine of her children and grandchildren after her husband died of AIDS.
•A 3-year-old girl living in a perpetual state of hunger and exhaustion who sleeps on the trash-filled sidewalks of the slum at night, worrying that she will eventually lose her mother.
Erin Engelke, vice president of marketing and communications for World Neighbors, a Feed The Children subsidiary, said the Story of Hope offers a way for people to see the need that Feed The Children staff and volunteers encounter every day as part of the agency’s global mission efforts.
“Because we cannot take all of you to where we are working around the world, we’re bringing the world to Oklahoma,” Engelke said.
A glimmer of hope
After showcasing the plight of Kibera slums, the exhibit offered a ray of hope.
For example, visitors learned that the father of the toddler battling AIDS and tuberculosis was taken to the organization’s Abandoned Babies Center outside Nairobi when he could no longer care for him. The child was reunited with some family members after he had been given much-needed medical care and proper nutrition at the center.
Also, Feed The Children staff members who served as guides talked about the educational and work opportunities the agency provides around the globe, along with food for hungry families. One area of the exhibit featured the organization’s various “livelihood projects,” where the indigent are taught to become self-sufficient by using looms or harvesting honey, or through some other project. Hagan said the organization conducts these projects and programs in addition to providing a hot meal each weekday to 350,000 children around the globe. A gift shop at the end of the exhibit allows visitors to purchase items created in the targeted countries, with proceeds to go toward Feed The Children programs.
Hagan said the organization, with its global missions outreach, is a good fit for the state.
“Oklahoma’s spirit of community, of brotherly love, are important values,” Hagan said.
“This city means a lot to us,” Hagan said.
Lamb thanked the organization on behalf of Gov. Mary Fallin and the state. He said it was important to note that the nonprofit’s mission of hope has a Christian premise.
“One of the first things Christ did during his Earthly ministry was to meet a physical need,” Lamb said.
Stephanie Condeluci, Feed The Children regional manager, said youth groups, church groups, businesses and other organizations will be able to tour the Story of Hope by appointment.
“Once you take the tour, then you get the whole gamut of what we do,” she said.