The Foundation for Change: Honoring Fathers and Parents Everywhere
This Father’s Day, we pay tribute to fathers around the world fighting to protect their children from hunger and give them lives full of promise. Andrea Tamburini, CEO of Action Against Hunger, reflects on the importance of investing in fathers, mothers, and communities to achieve a world free from hunger.
I was a humanitarian worker in places like Kosovo, Gaza, and Darfur, Sudan before I became CEO of Action Against Hunger. What I witnessed in these places still inspires me every day—and haunts me. I consider it my duty—as CEO, and as a father—to never forget that this work is about parents who, through no fault of their own, struggle to feed their children and keep them safe.
Before I was a father myself, no matter where I was, I always noticed the sense of pride fathers show in their children: the way they smile when their kids are running around, or being silly, as if to say, "Oh yes, that one is mine." That pride a father shows with just a simple gesture, a hand on their child's head, or a wink.
Now that I am a father of two, especially in recent times, watching the news, I am often struck with a very physical sense of connection to the fathers Action Against Hunger serves. The photographs of fathers crossing oceans as refugees, holding their children tight in the midst of terrible danger. Fathers in war zones, running, with their children in their arms. That instinct to protect your children physically—to pick them up and hold them tight—bridges distance instantly. Every parent recognizes that feeling. It connects us across great divides of all kinds.
In January 2012, I traveled to northern Kenya, which was badly affected by a major food crisis. I had just become a father, and my son was seven months old. When you are an aid worker, you develop a “professional lens”–like doctors do—to cope with the suffering that you witness. We have a job to do: we have to put our feelings aside and focus on delivering what is needed to save people’s lives. But in Kenya, when we got to one of Action Against Hunger’s emergency nutrition centers, I literally found it hard to go through the front door.
Inside, I saw a young mother seeking urgent care for her severely malnourished child. She did not know if he would survive. When I looked at her face, I saw my wife, Lesley. When I looked at her child, I saw my seven-month-old son, Matteo.
I could see how afraid she was, but still also so full of courage. I remember thinking, “I will never be as strong as you are. You are a hero.” My professional lens was broken. Action Against Hunger’s program was the only thing that stood between this mother and catastrophe—losing her child. As a father, I felt her pain. But I also learned from her. The people we serve have given me a deeper sense of duty. To do everything in my power to prevent children from ever experiencing extreme hunger in the first place.
The strength, determination, and compassion among families, neighbors, and complete strangers is the foundation of the global movement to end hunger that Action Against Hunger is leading. No single organization can achieve such a revolution alone. In many of the places we work, we are building on, and investing in, the local potential and systems that already exist. We aim to strengthen local capacity to prevent and eliminate hunger. That is the source of lasting change. Our “Porridge Moms” program in northeast Nigeria is just one promising example. In fact, research shows that for every dollar invested in nutrition, there is a $16 return on investment.
And we don’t just focus on mothers—we are also working to educate and encourage fathers to take a more active role in their children’s nutrition and health. In Kenya and elsewhere, we organize father-to-father support groups, teaching them about healthy feeding and care practices to improve their children’s nutrition, mobilizing them to support the health of mothers, and helping them rethink traditional gender roles that perpetuate the idea that parenting is “women’s work.”
We all want our kids to thrive, and we will do whatever we can to help them achieve their dreams. That is what I am thinking about this Father’s Day. Those dreams begin with the fundamentals: safety, enough nutritious food, clean water, and good health. And that is what Action Against Hunger is working to deliver every day, in 50 countries. We are committed to leaving no father, mother, or child behind.
On behalf of the parents and communities we are honored to partner with around the world, thank you for being part of our mission. Working together, we won’t give up. Until the world is free from hunger. For everyone. For good.
Happy Father’s Day.