In India’s strict social hierarchy, the Davits are “the untouchables,” those long-suffering victims of discrimination. In 2005, Scarlett Johansson joined the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief’s family. The confederation of 13 like-minded orgs work together to solve poverty and injustice.
Johansson’s first visit for Oxfam: a school in the Dali community.
“The Davits are looked down upon and not schooled,” the actress says. Donations to Oxfam can provide buckets of clean water or textbooks. Johansson decided to fund the local school for three years. Students range from kindergarten to ninth grade.
“The money supports the school completely,” she explains. “It buys materials. It pays teachers. It buys uniforms.”
When Katrina hit New Orleans, Johansson signed up for USA Harvest. The org’s motto: “It’s All About the Food!”
“They provide food for missions and shelters in any kind of emergency situation,” Johansson says. “When people’s homes have been washed away, they still have their kids to feed.”
Johansson’s fund-raising efforts have filled the org’s larder with more than 1.5 million pounds of food. “When you have the spotlight on you, it’s nice to be able to shine that spotlight on a cause that you believe in,” she says.
After passing the fifth grade, Gudiya, a 13-year-old girl from New Delhi, found that she couldn’t read and write the Hindi alphabet properly. Fortunately, a neighbor told Gudiya about the high quality of education at the nearby Purvanchal Dalit Balika School, which is supported by Oxfam.
Gudiya soon enrolled there. “The most important thing that I got from the school was a good education,” she says. “After studying for just one year in the school, I started to dream of how successful I can be in life, which now seems like something I can achieve.”
As the exec director of Wayside Christian Mission, a homeless shelter in Louisville, Tim Moseley knows how hard it is to feed people who need food. He also knows how much tougher it would be to feed those people without the help of USA Harvest.
“We partnered up with them back in 1987, when it was just called Kentucky Harvest,” Moseley recalls. “For a while, we had just been able to give out soup and sandwiches. That was until Stan Curtis came in.”
Curtis is the man who proposed the idea of rescuing food that was being thrown away all over town and distributing it to the poor. Since then, USA Harvest has helped give a wide variety of food to numerous shelters across the country.
“USA Harvest has expanded all over the country, but we are still getting a tremendous amount of food each week,” Moseley says. “Harvest has become a kind of staple for us.”
— Justin Kroll