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Picture: 123RF/GAJUS
Picture: 123RF/GAJUS

Imagine a world without serious hunger. This isn’t a fairy-tale – believe it or not, there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. And yet, every day, people go hungry.

Through his involvement with Rise Against Hunger (RAH), chartered accountant Sean Beautement is on a mission to make the United Nations’ second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2) – that of zero hunger – a global reality by 2030.

There’s no denying that, when successfully met, SDG 2 will be a world-changer. The aim of this SDG is to end hunger while achieving food security, improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture. This is crucial, as ongoing conflict, drought and climate-change-linked disasters mean the proportion of the undernourished is unfortunately once again on the rise.

In fact, at this moment globally, one in nine people is undernourished – or 815m across the world, with almost 4m African children alone facing food insecurity. Add that to the stunted brain capacity resulting from malnutrition in the early foundation years and it’s clear why we can’t afford to turn a blind eye.

That’s where RAH comes in. Started in the US in 1998, the international organisation coordinates the distribution of balanced, nutritious meals and other life-saving aid around the world. But RAH cannot end world hunger by itself, so it collaborates with other entities, to achieve more together.

As there’s also only so much that donors can give, RAH focuses not only on food packing but also on creating sustainable ways to complement the meals provided, bringing together corporates, government, NGOs and individual donors and volunteers, with the combined mission to end hunger in the next 11 years.

RAH is active in India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Italy. The Africa chapter celebrates a decade this year across its branches in Gauteng, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Rise Against Hunger volunteers packing food parcels. Picture: SUPPLIED/RISE AGAINST HUNGER
Rise Against Hunger volunteers packing food parcels. Picture: SUPPLIED/RISE AGAINST HUNGER

Time for a change: from corporate craziness to a life of giving back

Beautement says some of RAH’s work involves “giving the fish”, while some of it is “teaching people to fish”. But the initial food-packing aspect is how he first got a taste for the fulfilment of this type of social entrepreneurship.

While still employed in the corporate world, Beautement took part in a Mandela Day function with RAH and occasionally attended its "second Saturday" warehouse food-packing events. The effort the volunteers made on the day always struck him when driving home – creating meals to feed 20,000 children and having fun while doing so.

Despite having had an extensive career across numerous sectors internationally, Beautement then decided to leave the prescriptive corporate realm completely in 2014 and focus solely on entrepreneurship and giving back. 

Beautement attributes much of his own career success to the people who took the time to help him prosper amid the corporate craziness. He needed a change of scenery but also a desire to develop others, and so committed around 25 percent of his time to giving back.

Even though he’s a non-executive director at RAH, mainly tasked with providing the organisation’s strategic oversight, his background in chartered accounting means Beautement often provides extra capacity supporting the financial executive, through his auditing and general business acumen skills.

While this creates a better level of trust for RAH’s donors and they achieve maximum impact for their beneficiaries, his first passion remains facilitating and participating in RAH’s meal-packaging events.

It’s easy to give money and assets but much more difficult to give time, which is why he says: “While an hour spent giving back is an hour not billed, but I believe that doing good is good for business and feel a moral obligation to do so. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner, as I was too busy building my career.”

The sweet smell of success, so far

Through the work of its small permanent team, as well as the donors and volunteers who also give their time, RAH achieved the following for the year ending February 2019:

  • packed more than 5m meals;
  • made an impact on the lives of more than 70,000 beneficiaries;
  • supported more than 7,000 university students via campus food banks;
  • engaged with nearly 31,000 volunteers;
  • increased awareness of SA’s hunger and malnutrition crisis; and
  • supported more than 30 crèches through its early-childhood development programme.

These results prove Beautement is not the only one to have been bitten by the give-back bug. The organisation has attracted the likes of high-profile volunteers Matt Preston of MasterChef Australia fame and music group Mi Casa’s J’Something, who “felt the contagion of the RAH movement”.

If you’re just as hungry to help, you can – in fact, you should. Beautement says: “In general, the CA profession has a responsibility to act in the public interest, but how do you quantify this? When you have a clearly quantifiable goal – in this case, the SDG – it’s much easier for us to know whether we are achieving our responsibility or not.”

How you can help: Rise Against Hunger’s goals for 2019

That’s the crux of the benefit – you can clearly see the results. Fittingly, RAH’s plans include more transparent delivery to beneficiaries, so donors see the value they create while creating easy and fun opportunities for volunteers, evolving out of pure meal-packing events. RAH aims to balance this with an aggressive drive into sustainable community food development initiatives.

RAH’s main goal for 2019 is to partner with as many other entities as possible to deliver more meals to more beneficiaries in more locations throughout SA. Collaboration opportunities include providing food itself; education, farming and skills development; and making a greater impact in nutrition and education by developing community-based skills for ongoing food production.

It’s also a case of raising awareness and interest in the fact that world hunger can be defeated by working together. Beautement says: “Reflect on what you have in your life, realise that others need help, then make a commitment to make a difference. You’ll be surprised at the amount of receiving is involved in giving – but however you choose to help, do something now.

“I wonder how much money is spent in this country where the impact is not clear, maybe not even quantified, or doesn’t get used for the intended purpose – we simply have to do better and make these finite resources truly deliver impact for the public,” he says.

In working towards meeting the SDG goals, Beautement is living proof of the positive social contribution of charted accountants are making to the nation by measurably do their bit to make the world a better place.

For more about Rise Against Hunger and how to get involved, visit www.rahafrica.org and look out for details of RAH’s upcoming meal-packing event at SAICA.

 

This article was paid for the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.