Friday, March 23, 2012


In honor of the opening day of the HUNGER GAMES movie, I am re-posting a piece I wrote last year after reading the book:

A year or so ago, moms of the homeschool board that I frequent started posting about a new book they were reading, HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. I checked it out from the library but it was due back before I got to it and so back it went. Time went by and my oldest daugther Anna decided to read it. She checked it out and was quickly hooked. Loving it, she was frantic to read the sequels and have me, her dad, and her two oldest siblings read it so she'd have someone to discuss it with.

Her dad and brother both tore through it and her sister Betsie and I are reading it as quickly as we can, not wanting to take too long to see how the main character, Katniss, fares in the Hunger Games. In this post-apocalyptic world, a nation has emerged with a minority that rules and has plenty of food, medical care, expensive clothing, modern technology, time for entertainment, and iron-clad security. But the majority live in outlying areas where they labor long, rarely have enough to eat, live a style that is much more primitive, have very limited educational and vocational choices, and die all too easily. In these oppressed districts, people often go to extreme and dangerous ends to gain food illegally. Katniss is one of these people. After her father dies, she is forced to become a provider and hunt for her family. She daily faces death by going into forbidden areas to gather wild, edible plants; berries; and roots; as well as hunt animals for precious and rare meat that can be traded and sold in the black market of their society.

One way that the ruling minority keeps the districts under their control and at the same time provides "reality tv" entertainment is through the Hunger Games. Two representatives, always between the ages of 12 and 19, from each district are picked to fight in a prolonged fight to the death. Names are randomly selected on a "Reaping Day" and those eligible adolescents who are particularly hungry and desperate, can have their names entered extra times in the drawing in return for more food rations for their famiies. After a period of training and preparation, the contestants are placed in a expansive area for the actual competition. In the spacious arena that can include bodies of water, deserts, forests, rocks, hills, and meadows, the 24 participants must use both their survival skills and their fighting skills to stay alive. If they are the one, remaining competitor at the end of the challenge, their district and their family will be rewarded, in part, by receiving even more food as well as other perks.

There is a real life nation that sadly parallels this fictitious one in a few ways: Swaziland.

Swaziland does not have a Hunger Games competition nor does it have outlying districts that are oppressed by a central capital. But like the country in HUNGER GAMES, there is a minority of people who are financially secure and a majority of people who are struggling, sometimes simply to survive. Drive through the streets of the two main cities or some of the smaller towns and you will see signs of prosperity...beautiful homes, hair salons, fitness gyms, fashion boutiques, and plenty of food visible in the grocery store windows. But look around and you'll also see signs of extreme poverty. You'll see the squatter's village and homesteads comprised of battered huts and shacks, the children wearing raggedy clothes, and the stray dogs that are skin stretched over bones.

And spend time there talking to people and hear the stories.

Stories of...

...adolescent and elementary aged girls selling their bodies for enough food for one meal.

...old women who have survived off of water and wild greens for two or three weeks.

...children as young as 2 and 3 years old walking 45 minutes to an hour just to get their one meal of the day at a carepoint.

...fathers and mothers who leave their children alone day after day and night after night, sometimes for weeks at a time, so they can work at the only job they can find in a city hours away from home.

...scores of children standing on street corners, by bus stops, and near shop doors begging for a few coins.

...entire neighborhoods dependent on what they can dig out of the city dump's trash heaps to eat, and what they can't eat, to sell for money to buy more food.

...gangs of youth raised without a father and desperate for food and money who have resorted to robbery.

...elderly, arthritic grandmothers hoeing up the dry, rocky soil for hours on end in an attempt to grow a few ears of corn in a land hammered by drought.

...parents having to chose between feeding their children or seeking medical care for their children because unemployment rates are skyrocketing and there just isn't enough money to cover both the needs.

Too many people, including way too many children, are in desperate situations. Like the contestants in HUNGER GAMES, some will die of malnutrition and starvation before they will resort to acts that go against their principles. Others will resort to doing whatever it takes to get food, even if it means participating in dishonesty, theft, prostitution, and even murder.

In HUNGER GAMES, the competitors can gain sponsors to provide assistance for them during their competition. A particularly popular contestant might have water or medicine delivered to them at especially crucial times. These interventions by the sponsors make all the difference for the contestants. Sometimes, these interventions mean life, at least for a while, triumphs over death.

In Swaziland, there are thousands of children who can gain sponsors to provide for them during this desperate trial. This is no fictitious game. This is harsh reality. We can't close the book and it quits existing. Whether we want to think about it or not, thousands and thousands and thousands of children will not have enough food to eat today. They and their care providers will be faced with difficult decisions as they struggle to just live.

We have decisions to make, too. Are we going to step in and make sure that they have the food, water, and medical care needed at this especially crucial time? The intervention of organizations such as CHILDREN'S HOPECHEST and ADVENTURES IN MISSIONS make all the difference for the children they minister to. Sometimes, these interventions mean life, at least for a while, triumphs over death.

I realize that I am one person and can't feed every child in the world. I can't pay for every child to be educated or receive the medical care they need. But I can sponsor one or two. I can make a difference for them. And if others sponsor one or two or three, before we know it, a generation of children can be saved in Swaziland. A generation of children can grow up having to make the only kind of choices that children should have to make.

This isn't a game. It isn't a fictitious story. This is reality. Now let's write the ending together.

For more information on sponsoring a child, like 7 year old Simpiwe who lives with 7 siblings, visit Danielle Brower's website at:

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