5 minutes with a Hunger Project supporter and investor – Chrissy Merton
Chrissy Merton is a long-time volunteer, supporter, investor and former staff member of The Hunger Project. She is currently organising a piano concert in May, in support of our work ending hunger, “Music from the Heart”. Her husband, Nicholas, is the pianist. We talked with Chrissy about her journey with The Hunger Project and her commitment to the end of hunger by 2030.
“I commit myself to making the end of hunger and starvation an idea whose time has come”. These were the words on the card I signed when I first enrolled in The Hunger Project in January 1983. “41,000 people die every day and they don’t need to. You make the difference”. Such powerful and open-ended words inspired me to enrol and take action, and become part of the community working to end chronic, persistent hunger by, at that time, the year 2000.
I became a volunteer for The Hunger Project and then a staff member in the UK. For two years I was enrolling others in The Hunger Project, out with clipboards in Leicester Square until midnight, and at lots of events, always carrying a painter’s table (!) to set up. We had thousands of conversations and enrolled thousands of people. The energy was amazing, the sense of community was buzzing. We were standing for something, not against something. We were standing for transformation, changing mindsets and for actions that could change society and the world and end hunger for good.
During one two-month campaign in 1985 we enrolled 70,000 people to become part of the community to end hunger, and 7,000 on one day alone. I even met my husband during one of the enrolment campaigns. He was also a volunteer and a participant in the end of hunger. In fact we were out on the streets enrolling people in the campaign the night we went out for our first date! Later, in 1986, I managed the global Financial Family Campaign.
At that time there was some confusion about the difference between hunger and starvation. The majority of people live in chronic hunger not starvation. The Hunger Project produced a video that was watched around the world by hundreds of millions of people. The message of The Hunger Project is that what people in chronic hunger need is opportunity. Hungry people themselves are our partners. They are not beneficiaries, no, they are ending hunger! This was a huge shift at the time. After this two year campaign the first World Summit for Children was held, in which the Millenium Development Goals were created. The Hunger Project was vocal in making sure that women, and the empowerment of women, was high on the agenda.
In 1997, I was the Invitation Manager for The Hunger Project’s 20th anniversary celebration, where 250 people came to a dinner and watched a video of all The Hunger Project had achieved. We raised £100,000. What I love about The Hunger Project is that it works from a synergy of various approaches: empowering women, working with local government, a focus on ending child marriage, or access to literacy, and so much more. I saw how important access to literacy was in India, where I worked for a time on a project for women in 1984. There were women who needed to receive a specific certificate, one that was actually free to get but because they couldn’t read or write they were vulnerable and were charged 4 Rupees for it. Access to literacy could change their lives. In Bangladesh, The Hunger Project’s Vision Commitment and Action workshops empowered people to shift their mindset and take leadership in ending hunger for good in their communities, and move away from a dependency on aid.
The Hunger Project is about changing mindsets. Transformation is seeing something so differently that you take a different action. At The Hunger Project we were talking about hunger and poverty, and the solution to hunger and poverty, in a different way: empowering hungry people to end hunger for themselves. It’s the same when it comes to giving. The Hunger Project doesn’t talk about giving. We talk about investment. As an investor, and I am one myself, you look at the appropriate amount you can invest in the end of hunger.
I also loved the sense of community within The Hunger Project. I love community, and community really works. In communities where mindsets are being transformed, women are becoming key change agents and they come together to influence and support each other to become who they really want to be: leaders in their communities, ending child marriage in their villages, accessing education for themselves and their children. It has been amazing knowing that work that I have been a part of is making a difference and impacting the world.
I’m currently working on a piano concert to raise funds for The Hunger Project. I created and organised lots of concerts in the past as part of Music for Ending Hunger. At this event, “Music from the Heart”, I want to bring people together, and bring back together people from The Hunger Project’s past, grow that sense of community, and have people participating in the end of hunger. There will be piano music by Beethoven, Schumann, Granados, Ravel, Debussy and Chopin, introduced and played by my husband, Nicholas Merton MA ATCL, as well as the opportunity to share the message of The Hunger Project and participate in the end of hunger.
Through my participation in The Hunger Project I feel like I have made a difference, and that I will continue to make a difference.
The Hunger Project thanks Chrissy and Nicholas for their support and commitment to the end of hunger.
Their next classical music concert “Music to End Hunger” will take place on 28th March 2020 in London. For all information and to buy tickets, click here
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