Christy Porter – “Mother Teresa of the Coachella Valley”

Christy PorterChristy Porter has given literally millions of pounds of fresh, local produce to the some of the neediest citizens in the Golden State. A former photojournalist and daughter of a Kentucky coal miner, Christy founded Hidden Harvest in 2001 with very limited resources. This unique program employs the working poor  (at above prevailing farm wage) to glean or “rescue” the produce left in farmers’ fields after their harvesting is complete. Christy and Hidden Harvest also “rescue” hundreds of tons of produce each year from area packing houses.  Christy’s hidden harvest is the nearly 30% of field crops that go unpicked due to fluctuating market price or cosmetic imperfections.

To date (June 2010), Hidden Harvest has donated free of charge, including refrigerated delivery, over 8 million pounds of fresh local produce and now serves over 44,000 low income people each month via their 60+ client agencies that serve the poor and hungry. Additionally, more than $40,000 in wages each year goes back into the pockets of the working poor for their harvest labor. Hidden Harvest also operates twelve “Senior Mini Markets” each month within low income senior housing complexes. These farmer’s market style produce displays allow poor and fixed income seniors to “shop” for free for some of the freshest vegetables and fruits in the Coachella Valley. In 2011, Hidden Harvest will celebrate their tenth anniversary and will have “rescued” over ten million pounds of produce that would otherwise have gone to waste and given it a second life on the plates of the hungry in eastern Riverside County and beyond.

Honored with Outstanding Executive Director for San Bernardino and Riverside Counties in 2007, the same year she received the prestigious Minerva Award from California first lady Maria Shriver. In winning ht eminerva Award, Christy Porter joins the ranks of Dr. Jane Goodall, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Pelosi, Sandra Day O’Connor and many other remarkable and heroic women.  In March, 2010 Christy received the Executive Director of the Year award (along with a $25,000 cash stipend for Hidden Harvest) from The Desert Community Foundation.
Christy was recently profiled in People Magazine in the “Heroes Among Us” section.

Visit to leaarn more about Christy Porter and the Minerva Award and to read the letter from former president Jimmy Carter commending her work.

Visit to learn more about the organization, their programs, and how you can help.

Hidden Harvest – Helping Farmworkers and the Hungry

Hidden Harvest truck and carrots Hidden Harvest’s mission is to glean or “rescue” produce from Coachella Valley fields and packing houses. The Coachella Valley is one of the largest a­gricultural regions in the nation. Yet few people realize that millions of pounds of nutritious, locally-grown produce are left behind in packing houses and in the fields after the harvest is complete.

Nationally the USDA estimates between 25% – 30% of all food crops are left in the fields after harvest.

Sometimes the produce is left behind because it has grown too large for its packaging or market fluctuations make it unprofitable for the farmer to harvest. Until Hidden Harvest came along in 2001, tons of healthy food was simply plowed under. In addition, Hidden Harvest retrieves hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh produce left unsold in packing houses.

Despite the appearance of abundance and wealth in the Coachella Valley, poverty is widespread. More than 80% of the valley’s children live in homes at or below the federal poverty line. The valley also is home to a large population of low-income and fixed income senior citizens. These are among the populations Hidden Harvest serves.

Here are some of the other things they do:

Hidden Harvest is the only organization in the country that pays low-income, experienced farmworkers to glean fields to feed the poor.

They give away rescued produce to more than 60 agencies that serve the poor. The produce they distribute helps in the fight against America’s greatest health care problems — diabetes and childhood obesity. They deliver free in a refrigerated truck, or agencies can pick up the produce themselves at their Coachella facility.

They make a concerted effort to hire female crews when possible and provide a childcare stipend.

Hidden Harvest is the leading resource in the Coachella Valley educating the media and the public about hunger and nutrition issues. Have a question about hunger? Ask Hidden Harvest. They are experienced in community gardening and federal food programs such as:

  • National School Breakfast Program
  • Summer Food Service Program
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Childern (WIC)
  • Federal Food Stamp Program
  • ­The Farm Bill

Hidden Harvest provides nutrition and cooking classes, on the theory that it’s not enough to give away produce—clients need to know how it helps them and how to use it. To that end, they offer a “Healthy Me” nutrition curriculum for children preschool through kindergarten age, in addition to other educational programs.

Hidden Harvest runs a non-perishable food bank at our warehouse in Coachella, serving an average 1,200 families a month. They supplement their food boxes with fresh produce. In an unconventional approach, they also deliver food boxes to the neediest residents of rural and remote areas.

To find out more about the wonderful work and programs of Hidden Harvest, including how you can donate extra citrus from your decorative trees visit their website at
Also read our Hero of the Week post about founder and director Christy Porter

Turkey’s first lady promotes disabled children’s rights

08 October 2010, FridayTurkey's 1st lady

Hayrünnisa Gül addressed a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on Thursday, promoting the rights of children with disabilities, becoming the first Turkish first lady to address such a session.

The first lady began her speech by saying that there is still a lot that needs to be done for children in the world in terms of human rights. “Those with disabilities do not live in isolation as if on far off islands in the ocean anymore, but we all know that they are still confined to the four walls of their homes in some countries, which is why we are sometimes not even aware of them,” she noted. We must remember that children are not disabled by choice, she continued, and added, “However, they have to live with their disability.”

Mrs. Gül is well known for advocacy of children’s rights, especially concerning children with disabilities. Last year, she launched a nationwide campaign aiming to empower the disabled through education.

The title of the campaign was “Education Enables.” “A better society can be achieved by protecting children with disabilities, [and] not leaving their parents to cope with them alone. We must provide them with opportunities for education when they are young, thus, allowing them to be active individuals in society,” she stated at the PACE session.

The first lady continued her speech by providing the audience with information about “Education Enables.” She said the campaign aims to raise public awareness about the fact that children with disabilities can receive education with others in the same environment and in the same schools. “In this way, our children will learn to accept each other as they are; they will learn about tolerance and how to live together despite their differences,” Mrs. Gül noted.

During the session she was accompanied by Lokman Ayva, a member of PACE and a lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Ayva is visually impaired. Mrs. Gül praised Ayva for his efforts towards expanding the rights of people with disabilities.

“People may be born with a disability or become disabled later in life. However, this is not a hindrance to success. The best example of this is deputy Lokman Ayva. His efforts towards extending the rights of people with disabilities deserve the highest praise and appreciation. I would like to, on behalf of all our citizens with disabilities, offer my thanks to him once again,” she said.

The first lady concluded her speech calling on everyone to fulfill their responsibilities in fighting discrimination, including discrimination against people with disabilities. “Only in this way can we ensure that the fundamental values of human rights, democracy and the principle of the rule of law prevail throughout the world,” she added.

To read more please visit

The Lubanga Trial-Accused of conscripting, recruiting, and using child soldiers


Name: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo
Nationality: Democratic Republic of Congo
Arrested: March 2005
Handed over to the International Criminal Court: March 2006
Charged with: War crimes of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Current Status: Standing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Trial Start Date: January 26, 2008.

The trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo at the International Criminal Court (ICC) began January 26, 2008. He stands accused of war crimes; specifically, he is accused of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in the conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Despite intense interest in the ICC’s first-ever trial, many people are confused about the case. Questions range from why it has taken so long for the trial to start to whether Lubanga should have been set free.

The following overview looks at key events in Lubanga’s case to date, and why it has taken so long for his trial to start.

The International Criminal Court Investigation and Lubanga’s Arrest
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo started his investigation into crimes in the DRC in June 2004. He issued a warrant for Lubanga’s arrest in January 2006 in connection with Lubanga’s alleged responsibility for the war crime of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers under the age of 15 to further the war in the DRC’s Ituri district during 2002 and 2003.

Lubanga was arrested in March 2005 and transferred from the DRC to the ICC a year later, in March 2006. In January 2007, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed the charges against him, deciding enough evidence existed to justify a trial. Delays plagued the start of the trial, but it was eventually scheduled to begin on June 23, 2008. 

Ten days before the trial was supposed to start, the ICC’s Trial Chamber halted Lubanga’s trial because they were concerned his trial would not be fair. A fair trial requires that any person accused of a crime have access to “exculpatory information,” or information that might help prove his innocence. The prosecutor is required to disclose any exculpatory information he has collected, so that the accused person can properly prepare his defense.

In Lubanga’s case, the prosecutor had not disclosed all the exculpatory information. He had kept to himself more than 200 documents—some of which contained potentially exculpatory evidence—which had been collected with the help of other organizations, including the United Nations and nongovernment organizations. He had not shared these documents because he had entered into confidentiality agreements with these organizations under a special provision in the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute (Article 54(3)(e)). This provision is intended to facilitate the prosecutor’s investigation by encouraging third parties to provide information for the purpose of generating new evidence—evidence that may not be disclosed absent the third party’s consent. This need for confidentiality was in part due to security concerns of these organizations, which feared for the safety of people who had given the information if their identities were revealed in documents handed to Lubanga’s defense lawyers.

To Read more and to keep updated on how the trial is proceeding visit:

Young activist helps promote environmental sustainability in Brazil’s Amazon region

Brazil- RosicleiaNEW YORK, USA, 4 October 2010 – Millennium Development Goal 7 calls for ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015. Among the young people working towards this goal is Rosicléia da Silva, 15, from the Amazon region of Brazil. She spoke with UNICEF Radio recently.

Rosicléia lives with her parents and two older sisters in the village of Palmares, located within the city of Tailândia. She has been an environmental activist in her community since she was barely a teenager, and is now a major local advocate for replanting trees in an area hit hard by deforestation.

She believes that every day, people in her community can help act to preserve the environment around them.

“It’s very simple, just with basic things like waste sorting and using less water,” said Rosicléia. “Just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean that you cannot preserve the environment.”

Plagued by deforestation

For years, Tailândia and other parts of the Amazon region have been plagued by illegal logging and rampant deforestation. For Rosicléia, violence and social ills in the region are intertwined with her environmental concerns.

“The biggest handicap is people themselves,” she said, reflecting on the obstacles to environmental change in her community. “Because many people come only to work and don’t actually live here, they think they don’t belong to this place. And so they don’t preserve it.”

Rosicléia said her community has problems with garbage disposal, as well as a lack of health facilities and a weak educational system. “The economic problems can be summarized like this: There are many things that other cities have that we don’t,” she added.

International attention

To help address these issues, Rosicléia began her activism in the public grade school she attended. There, she coordinated the implementation of Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of environmental action to be taken at the global, national and local levels.

Since then, Rosicléia’s work has resulted in international attention. She has participated in many conferences, including the 2009 Junior 8 Summit in Rome. As a representative of Brazil, she was among 56 teenagers from 14 countries who were selected to attend the summit, which has been conducted regularly by UNICEF since 2005 to add a youth perspective to the annual ‘G8’ meetings of world leaders.

In spite of efforts by activists like Rosicléia, however, Brazil remains one of the world’s largest polluters. And unlike the situation in most countries, where the burning of fossil fuels is the primary culprit, deforestation and other land-use activities are responsible for 75 per cent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

To read more please visit