About Me

Oxfam Action Corps NYC is a group of dedicated volunteers supporting Oxfam America and working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and social injustice.

People’s Climate March: Oxfam Ready for Action, in New York 2014, Paris 2015, and Beyond



 

By: Jennifer Viechweg-Horsford


In the words of Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, “The world needs a strong civil society now more than ever."

On September 21st, hundreds of Oxfam supporters heeded this call and responded, from all over the world. They came from varying walks of life but shared one common purpose: to tackle climate change.

The Oxfam contingent in the People’s Climate March included staff, interns, volunteers, CHANGE program leaders and alumni, college students, allied groups, activists, donors’ relatives, friends, and children. The group represented Oxfam well.

Evidence of support came in all forms, as long-time Oxfam America Action Corps volunteer Fatima Sambo-Schoenfelder captured in photographs.

Supporters publicly pledged their commitment to tackle climate change and its impact on hunger. Supporters gathered at 10:30AM at the line-up on Central Park West at East 72nd Street. Soon the group grew exponentially as we became crammed in our block, not able to move. Somewhat hungry, and a bit fatigued, our participants had journeyed from states such as Oklahoma, Boston, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and from other countries across the ocean. Nonetheless we stood relentlessly and steadfast from 10:30AM to 12:30PM, chanting messages like: “Climate change: Right the wrong! Right it now!" and "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Climate change has go to go!"

Supporters received messages from Tim Gore, senior climate change policy advisor for Oxfam International, and from Isaac Evans-Frantz and myself, both Oxfam America Action Corps volunteers.

Our message was that extreme weather continues to cost lives, ruining crops and leaving millions more people at risk of hunger. Supporters were cognizant that world leaders alone have not done enough to protect our communities and our children’s future, but that if leaders left New York with the voices of the hundreds of thousands New York with the voices of the hundreds of thousands who marched there will be heard.

Supporters were asked to participate in the #FoodFight: What food would you miss most? Corn? Wheat? Peas? Fish? In the end, we shouted we would miss them all.

As we walked through the crowd to monitor our supporters, we heard screaming. It was former Vice President Al Gore. The crowd started chanting, “Thank you, Al,” in honor of his work on climate change.

After waiting for two hours, supporters raised their signs, ready to march for climate justice. At 12:58PM, everyone held the hands of the people beside them, above their heads, in recognition of those who are already feeling the burden of climate change around the world.

This was followed by loudness--an alarm to the dangers of climate change.

I was proud of the diversity in age of participants – people in their 70s walking to the end, and my son, Nicholas Horsford, age 12, who showed up at 8:30AM and held his sign until the end of the march at 4 p.m.

Even with the strongest supporters, there were challenges. Some left early because of overcrowding, others faced different challenges. However, as we continued to reach out to our marchers, the consensus was clear: Oxfam supporters are anxious to tackle climate change. Climate change is about people, and yes, it will affect us all. And it is hurting people living in poverty first and worst. Here in New York we have first-hand experience of the effects of climate change. Everyday we wake up to the lasting effects of Hurricane Sandy, one of many in a series of increasing climate disasters.

That’s why Oxfam supporters are staying strong working together to right the wrong. The People’s Climate March is on record as the biggest climate march in history, but for Oxfam, we have on record 500 people who put their name on our petition at the march, pledging to raise their voices to stop climate change from making people hungry.

Where do we go from here? Check out a round-up of policy developments and Oxfam statements from the march and related UN summit at this blog post. Keep a strong eye on the events leading up to the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change 2015 (COP21) in Paris.






Volunteer Concert Report: DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at Irving Plaza


Last weekend, the Oxfam Action Corps had a wonderful opportunity to volunteer two nights in a row at Irving Plaza as DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist spun tracks exclusively from Afrika Bambaataa's famed 42,000 piece record collection.  The show was a true treat, throwing it back to old school hip-hop complete with turntables and vinyl scratches. 

Our volunteers were ecstatic to talk to so many interested fans about Oxfam and it's current campaigns around food and climate issues.  At the end of the two nights, we collected over 160 signatures urging major corporations to do their part to stop climate change and help women farmers effected by it.  We also recruited new volunteers and spread the word about the People's Climate March, the world's largest climate change march taking place in NYC on Sept 21st.  Sign up to march with Oxfam here. And if that wasn't enough, our volunteers even got to meet or shake hands with the performers!  Check out a photo of our volunteer Zoe with Cut Chemist below!

Thank you to everyone to stopped by the table, signed up and listened to our message.  Thank you to Irving Plaza for your amazing hospitality. And a big thank you to DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist for having us at your shows!

Oxfam volunteer Zoe with Cut Chemist at a show in NYC.


Check out a video of DJ Shadow's trip to Kenya with Oxfam below:

 

Oxfam Action Corps says: "Time for bold action: March with Oxfam Sunday, September 21st!"

Click here to walk with Oxfam in the People's Climate March.
By Isaac Evans-Frantz

I recently read some advice: Make a to-do list every day with 1 big task, 3 medium tasks and 5 little tasks. My 1 big task on Labor Day was to support Jennifer Viechweg-Horsford, Oxfam Action Corps NYC organizer. She had invited me to walk in the Caribbean Carnival Labor Day Parade in Brooklyn to promote the 9/21/14 People's Climate March in Manhattan. It was a day of progress and a day to remember!

We walked with elected officials, representatives from Avaaz, the Brooklyn Food Coalition, Sierra Club, and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality. We held a banner Jennifer helped make that says "PROTECT OUR ISLANDS." As we marched, I realized something I have in common with people in the Caribbean: We all live on islands. We chanted, "The planet, united, will never be defeated," and "March with us, September 21st!"

Our contingency passed out 4,000 postcards, about the People's Climate March, that said:

"We have the right to remain. Water shutoffs. Disasters. Land Grabs. People of color in the US have experienced these injustices for generations, and there is no relief in sight. Extreme weather. Heat. Hurricanes. Floods. Our families in the global south have been the victims of these and can only anticipate more environmental injustice of disastrous proportions. We have a right to clean air and water, to walk the streets without fear and to lead full lives! Join us on September 21 to raise your voice: We have the right to remain!"

Most of the young people I spoke with along the parade route had heard of climate change in school, but many of the adults had not. The adults were aware, however, of increasing floods and hurricanes, and the impact on people of color. Several of the people I spoke with said they planned on coming to the march.

After the parade we stopped to refuel. We had some finger-licking spicy West Indian cuisine and lots of water. Then we set out on another mission. It was time to mobilize potential supporters to march with Oxfam. To our surprise one of the first groups of people we approached said that they were Oxfam supporters. We were excited they were excited, and felt motivated to keep talking with people. We were so happy we forgot that we were tired and that our feet were sore. It was Oxfam outreach all the way.

I invite you to join me, Oxfam supporters, and thousands from around the country, to march in the People's Climate March on September 21st. It will be the worl'd largest climate march ever, happening at the same time as the UN Climate Summit. It is a chance to tell the world's leaders we want action on climate change now. RSVP and details: Oxfam at the People's Climate March - Click the "Register" Button to Join!
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Oxfam at the People's Climate March - Click the "Registe...
In September, heads of state are coming to the UN in New York City for a historic summit on climate change. On the Sunday beforehand, Oxfam will be joining with o...
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Oxfam Action Corps: Oxfam Action Corps NYC Summer Retreat

Oxfam Action Corps: Oxfam Action Corps NYC Summer Retreat: Nestled in a cozy studio room at the Producers’ Club in Hell’s Kitchen, co-organizers Liz Tillman and Jennifer Viechweg-Horsford educate...

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Annual Retreat


Oxfam Action Corps held their annual retreat and training sessions this weekend in NYC.  Set in a creative environment, The Producer's Club, the laid back environment facilitated easy exchange of information and ideas between volunteers new and old.

Most important was learning about the Behind the Brands campaign, which holds the top 10 major corporations accountable for resources in their supply change and their effects.  Which also raised questions about other brands - "What about Starbucks, and Chipotle?"  Volunteers got to use the acting studio to it's full advantage, acting out real life tabling scenarios of on the the ground outreach work.  Overall fun was had by all while working to right the wrongs for a great cause.

Missed the retreat? Take Action NOW! Oxfam Action Corps NYC is currently targeting General Mills and Kellogg's regarding climate change policy.  Take action by signing our petition here.  Come join us and be part of the biggest Climate Change March in history!  The People's Climate March in NYC Sept. 21st!  Stay tuned for more information from Oxfam NYC.

See you in September!

Oxfam Action Corps Launches Oxfam Jam 2014


In February, Oxfam Action Corps NYC hosted the first ever Oxfam Jam Concert Series in NYC.  This two night event, combined local musician and artists to raise money for Oxfam’s great work. Oxfam Jam was started as a response the successful Oxjam festivals that started in the UK 6 years ago to raise money for Oxfam’s work.  During those 6 years, Oxjam has produced over 4000 shows, essentially making it the largest festival in the UK…a pretty big deal for a place that’s home to Glastonbury!


Night 1 at Spikehill brought a nearly sold out house, with over 100 people in the crowd and two special live art performances.  The night started off with Casey Dinkin’s soulful and sweet sound.  Next up was a fun rock number from Colorform, complete with their 6th band member, Sarah Valleri working the colors in front on the Oxfam banner.  Squeeze Rock got the crowd dancing with upbeat accordion rap/rock, and the crowd favorite being a cover of “Sorry Miss Jackson.”  Ellis Ashbrook close the night by giving the crowd a good old fashioned psychedelic rock set rock to keep the party going, completely with local artist Anthony Cerretani creating equally psychedelic at in the corner.


Night 2 at The Knitting Factory brought and equally as large crowd out for a good old fashioned rock n roll show.  The night start out with an energetic performance from Brooklyn’s own nerd-rock themed band Chamber Band, who sang songs about dragons and hunger games – fitting Oxfam topics.  Next was up was indie-rock band Field Mouse, true Oxfam veterans since their lead singer Rachel has pitched in and volunteered at local Oxfam concerts and events.  The Attic Ends closed the night with a huge on stage performance and atmospheric rock sound. 


Thank you to everyone who was a part of this night.  We can wait to do it again next year.  See you all in February 2015 and look for Oxfam Jams popping up in a city near you! In the meantime, look for the Oxfam table at shows in the city throughout the summer and sign our most recent petition!

Photos below.  Click on the names to check out the artists here:
Musicians:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Live Artists:
 
 

 
 

You know Oxfam, you love Oxfam, now lead Oxfam in your hometown

Leadership opportunity:  Organize in your community to end global hunger – join the Oxfam Action Corps! 

Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization, invites you to play a leading role in the Oxfam Action Corps, an exciting grassroots effort to stand up to poverty, hunger, and injustice around the world – starting right in your community.  The Oxfam Action Corps is a group of trained grassroots advocates in fifteen US cities who organize with other local volunteers in support of our GROW campaign for policies that will save lives, defend the rights of women and farmers, and protect communities worldwide from rising food prices and climate change.  It includes a free national advocacy and leadership training for select participants. You will gain leadership skills, have fun, and change the world!

Sign-up by February 14 to apply for Oxfam’s free four-day leadership training in Washington D.C. April 5-8, 2014.  

"This is leadership in practice. You can't just read a book on leadership. You have to put it into practice." - Jill Mizell, Researcher, New York

“Oxfam Action Corps has given me a ton of confidence… Gaining knowledge and being able to speak to people about the issues.”  - Amy L., Business Operations Analyst, Des Moines

"This has become one of the best parts of my life… I can't express enough how satisfying it is to be organizing with people who are just as committed and dependable and passionate. It is so great to have the support from the Oxfam America staff, and I've been really impressed by their accessibility, competency and friendliness." – Isaac E., Educator, New York City

View and share the short video below, highlighting the great work done by the Action Corps.



Sign up at www.oxfamactioncorps.org by February 14

Our Voices Have Been Heard: Coca-Cola Agrees to Zero Tolerance Policy for Land Grabs

Here is a great post from our Action Corps in the San Francisco Bay area, highlighting their work and success with the campaign!

Original post can be found at: http://sfbay-oxfamactioncorps.blogspot.com/

Our Voices Have Been Heard: 

Coca-Cola Agrees to Zero Tolerance Policy for Land Grabs

 


Ladies and Gentlemen, our hard work is paying off! All of our hours spent volunteering, campaigning, speaking out, and signing petitions is showing fruition. Over 225,000 people called for action to prevent land grabs and Coca-Cola has heard us. The food and beverage giant Coca-Cola has agreed to respect and protect the land rights of indigenous communities from which it sources its sugar. Specifically, Coca-Cola has agreed to:
  1. A zero tolerance policy on land grabs
  2. A “know and show” policy relating to being held accountable and aware of land rights and conflicts within its supply chain
  3. To support responsible agriculture investment and to advocate for governments and others to tackle land grabbing;
Sugar production requires a vast amount of land and is currently at an all time high triggering land conflicts and abuse. Coca-Cola is the largest sugar producer in the world making this news all the more amazing. Coca-Cola is the first beverage and food company to take such a stand, but should not be the last. For more information on this breaking news visit politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org

Our mission and work does not end here. PepsiCo and Associated British Foods are some of the largest sugar producers in the world and as such we are urging them to follow in Coca-Cola’s footsteps and make a change in relation to the allowance of land grabs within their supply chains. In order to do this we need your help.
  

What Can You Do to Stop This?

Start by signing Oxfam's current petition to urge Pepsi-co and Associated British Foods to follow Coca-Cola’s example and hold themselves accountable for the land and human rights atrocities occurring in their supply chains. These huge companies have the market power to pressure their suppliers into committing to zero tolerance land grab policies and you have the power to pressure these food and beverage giants into stepping up and standing against land grabs. Make sure your voice is heard.

Then share the following messages:

Via Twitter

Tell @PepsiCo & #ABF to take action against land grabs! #BehindTheBrands

Via Facebook

Post the following message to PepsiCo's Facebook page

Stop land grabs! Tell PepsiCo and ABF—some of the biggest buyers of sugar in the world—to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs that force poor farmers and their families off their land. #BehindTheBrands!

Typhoon Haiyan: Relief and Rehabilitation

by Nikko Viquiera

When news of a super typhoon about to hit central Philippines started coming out last month, many Filipinos, including me, shrugged it off and went on with our regular schedule, knowing that country gets an average of 22 typhoons annually. A day after the typhoon came; news outlets reported less than a hundred dead people. People thought it could have been worse and were glad that it wasn’t as big of a tragedy as other major typhoons have been in the past.

Days later, nothing could have prepared us for the breadth and depth of the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan. To date, over 5,000 people and counting are dead and 10 million other Filipinos have been affected in one way or another.

As a former Program Officer for Jesuit Volunteers Philippines (JVP), I used to visit volunteers in Samar, one of the hardest hit regions by the typhoon. JVP sends volunteers to marginalized communities around the country to serve as educators, youth formators and community organizers. One such community is Lawaan in Eastern Samar. It was a small, quiet town by the sea, where many fish and farmed for a living. I would visit the parish school where volunteers where assigned as educators for high school students. The community would always be very welcoming, serving me the best food and accommodation they had to offer when they did not have much.

One afternoon, I remember some of the students in the Parish school invited me to ring the 6:00 pm bell. We climbed the bell tower beside the Church, just as the sun was beginning to set. As I rang the bells that echoed through the town, the sun began to set on the people going home after a day’s work, on the children playing in the streets and the coconut trees that stood as tall as the bell tower.

Today, most of the town has been destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. The once mighty coconut trees have fallen, along with many houses, the school and the church. A more recent picture shows that only the bell tower remains standing amidst a sea of debris and destruction.

And so it is for many other towns ravaged by the typhoon in Eastern Samar, Palawan and Cebu. Dead bodies are everywhere, waiting for surviving relatives to recognize and claim them. Just this week, 120 bodies were discovered under the San Juanico Bridge, the longest one in the country. Reports describe residents walking around aimlessly like zombies. They are dazed and confused, with no work to do and no house to go home to. As such, many have flown to cities such as Manila in search of jobs, anything to get away from the rubble of their previous lives, only to find themselves homeless and jobless in a city that can be as unkind and apathetic as a typhoon.

Yet in the darkness of the devastation shines the generosity of people. More developed countries such as the US, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom have pledged millions of dollars in relief. Relief agencies such as Oxfam, Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services were quick to respond and have been present in the region since Day 1.Oxfam Pilipinas, in particular, through the generous donations of people all over the world, has been working to provide clean water and sanitation to victims of the typhoon. Individuals and small groups have organized themselves and made efforts to raise funds for the victims of the typhoon. In Manila, people have offered to take turns feeding and keeping those, who left their homes in search of livelihood, stranded in the airports company.

But as news of the typhoon and its deadly effects begin to fade in the news, the more difficult task of rebuilding and rehabilitation is just starting. How does one rebuild thousands of houses, roads and structures from the ground up, all at the same time? How do we bring back livelihood to towns where even trees no longer stand? How do we begin to bring back hope to those who are still counting their dead and their losses? How do we begin anew?

A month has passed since the typhoon killed thousands of people and left survivors hungry, homeless and jobless. And yet many groups and individuals continue to work in the Haiyan areas, this time with a focus on rehabilitation. Oxfam, for example, has distributed rice seeds to rural areas to help farmers earn income again.

Many have pointed to the resilience of the Filipino people to withstand any tragedy as the main key to rehabilitation. But as Christmas nears, and the tenuous task of rehabilitation unfolds before us, we realize that resilience is not enough. We also need critical minds, calm spirits and skilled, tireless hands that move together like waves in strength and unison.

Reflections on the Marathon: Together we can go far


I had a great time cheering for runners from the Oxfam team at the NYC Marathon. This was Oxfam’s first year participating as a charity team. (They were supposed to have a team in 2012, but the marathon was canceled after Hurricane Sandy.) For me, anyone who undertakes a marathon must be a hopeful person who believes that hard work and struggle will pay off in the long run despite difficulties along the way. That is a great metaphor for those of us working for social change, and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence and then watching the evidence change” (Jim Wallis).
If you follow the activities of the Oxfam Action Corps NYC, you will know that we have had quite a busy summer and fall.  We weren’t sure whether we would be able to set up a cheering station at the marathon or not. But given that the New York City Marathon is like a fun, citywide block party, often with a social purpose (several people running for charities and others with messages such as “Boston Strong”) and that a handful of Oxfam staff members and supporters were part of the Oxfam team (including Clara Herrero, an Oxfam America staff member from Boston who provides incredible support to the Oxfam Action Corps program; Leah Sedler, a former Action Corps co-leader from Minnesota; Louis Belanger, an Oxfam International press staff member based in New York) who collectively raised almost $40K for Oxfam, how could we let them run by without a great New York City and Oxfam Action Corps NYC welcome and cheer?

Our cheering station was very spirited. We were joined by Oxfam staff members Jessica Glidden and Zoya Craig. Jessica coordinated the Oxfam Marathon team, and brought materials to use to cheer with. She also brought sport gels to pass out to the runners. Zoya had very funny signs, including one that said “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.” Several runners stopped to take photos with her signs.

Cheering was also a great reminder of how important it is for us to support, care for, and be gentle with each other as we work for social change. Running a marathon, like working for social change, is hard work and requires endurance. I completed a walking marathon (yes, 26.2 miles) in London, and a walk around the perimeter of Manhattan (32 miles), and for me, the last few miles were always the hardest. Cheering at mile 22, we saw quite a few runners and walkers who seemed a bit injured and maybe not sure if they would make it for the last 4 miles. Those were the people we cheered for the hardest. A touching moment in the marathon for me was when one of the runners, Clara Herrero, from the Oxfam team was not feeling well on arriving at mile 22, and one of our Action Corps members, Isaac Evans-Frantz, decided to run along and support her through mile 23. It was a beautiful metaphor for me of how much it can mean to support each other along the way. Those of us working for social change can get discouraged, and it is important to look out for each other, cheer, and run alongside someone when they need it. Isaac is the Action Corps’ Alliances Coordinator, and he is also very supportive of our allies. Watching people support each other in the marathon reminds me of the proverb “Alone we can go fast, but together we can go far.”
Finally, the marathon is a good reminder that we need to celebrate our victories along the way. It is important to celebrate when you cross a finish line. We want to celebrate runners’ successes, such as completing the marathon. As organizers and advocates, we need to take time to celebrate victories with lobby visits and campaigns such as "Behind the Brands." Speaking of marathons and celebrations, while we continue to campaign for Pepsi and Associated British Foods to do their part to stop land grabs from happening when they purchase sugar, we have a major victory to celebrate that Coca-Cola has declared zero tolerance for land grabs in their supply chain! Whether your glass has water, cola, or champagne, we can all raise a glass to that news.

by Elizabeth Norman