The lives of Eric and Irene Russell, from Warrington U.K., changed when they stumbled upon a Rise Against Hunger meal packaging event in São Paulo, Brazil, while attending the Rotary International Convention and celebrating their 30th anniversary. The couple was drawn to the excitement of hundreds of volunteers engaged in packaging meals that they just couldn’t resist joining.
The couple thought they would stay for a few minutes, but they ended up staying for a full two-hour shift and came back again…and again. After helping to package 100,000 meals at the Rotary Convention, they reached out to Chris Jones, Director of Global Organizations with Rise Against Hunger, about raising funds and to organize the first ever Rotary meal packaging event in the U.K.
Through the power of persuasion and passion, Eric and Irene were able to convince not only the Warrington Rotary Club to sponsor the event, but persuade 28 other Rotary clubs to get involved by donating their time, talent and resources.
“When I met Eric and Irene for the first time, I felt something very special about them,” said Jones. “Their passion towards hunger is amazing, and they have taken Rise Against Hunger’s meal packaging program across the United Kingdom, presenting to any and all Rotary clubs that will listen. And the Rotary clubs are listening.”
Eric and Irene made phone calls and sent emails to local newspapers and radio stations and posted on social media. The story spread enough that it was picked up by BBC to be broadcast as the lead story on the evening news, and was even covered by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland magazine. And then they were invited to present their story to all attendees at the Rotary International British Isles Convention held in April in Manchester, U.K.
During the two-day event in Warrington, over 500 volunteers of all ages showed up to package meals. In the end, the Warrington community was able to package 102,128 meals, which were shipped to Kenya. But Eric and Irene’s journey didn’t end there.
Five months later, Eric and Irene traveled 6,805 miles to Kibera, Kenya, to visit three schools: Soweto Academy Junior School, Soweto Academy Primary School and NDOGO Primary School, which received Rise Against Hunger meals packaged by the Rotary volunteers. Eric and Irene wanted the chance to see the impact firsthand and hear stories of the children receiving the meals. “For some children, it was the only time to get a meal,” said Eric Russell.
It was an emotional experience as the couple watched an entire school line up for lunch with their plastic bowls. Eric and Irene knew stories of the children and the conditions of the area would continue to inspire and motivate communities back in the U.K. to get involved.
Eric and Irene continue to make a difference by presenting their story to other communities in their country. They hope to bring meal packaging events across all of the U.K.
“Doing an international project, you never think you can get it abroad, but you can make a difference,” said Irene.
Eric and Irene have shown how easy it is to bring Rise Against Hunger meal packaging events to your own community. These events are a great opportunity a way to come together with friends and family and impact the lives of people in need around the world.
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