For their retirement, Floyd and Kathy Hammer built their farmhouse in rural Iowa so they can wake up each morning overlooking a lovely pond nestled in the valley between verdant pastures and deep oak woods. Cattle graze contentedly as ducks and geese flutter to land in the breeze as the Hammers set on their deck with morning’s first brew.
However, they are seldom there; they are traveling the world fighting hunger. They are so good at it, they recently were given the 5000th Points of Light Award by President Obama and former President Bush. Outreach Founders Awarded 5000th Points of Light Award
Floyd was a successful businessman in a variety of endeavors from farming to construction to plastics recycling. Their dream was to retire, buy a sailboat, and travel around the world.
They never bought the boat. Furthermore, they haven’t spent one day on a sailboat since. They’re usually in Africa.
Ten years ago, when they were ready to retire, a friend invited them to Tanzania, Africa. A new hospital was being constructed in the remote village of Nkungi and they needed Floyd’s expertise. The village was started as leper colony to keep lepers segregated from the rest of society. However, it continued to grow because the families of the lepers had to move near in order to feed them.
The new hospital was for AIDs patients, but Floyd and Kathy became aware of greater need- starving children. Scores of children in the village, as well as their parents, were severely malnourished and starving.
Floyd and Kathy made arrangements for large quantities of grain to be shipped in on a truck. They asked the villagers to trade them anything of value for the grain.
When Floyd and Kathy opened the door the next morning, women and children were lined up as far as you could see. The mamas all had beautiful, hand-woven baskets to trade!
Kathy asked them women what they could do to further assist and the women responded with four requests: food, water, medicine, and education. So the Hammers have spent the last ten years of their retirement fulfilling that request.
The founding and vision of Outreach
They soon started their own non-profit in the states called, Outreach, which started with four major areas of focus: food, water, medicine, and education. Floyd and Kathy are founding leaders in the volunteer empowered meal packaging movement.
Food – I first met Floyd after Dr. Ray Buchanan of Stop Hunger Now gave me his contact information as the go-to guy to buy all the equipment and supplies I need to start a meal-packaging program myself. I drove up to Union, Iowa, a little town of 300 people north of Des Moines. Floyd carved Outreach out uniquely as a supplier of ingredients and equipment for meal packaging. In the first six months of 2010, Outreach provided me all the commodities and equipment to package 20 million meals for Haiti relief. I could never have done it without Floyd and Kathy. They also package meals under the Outreach brand as well. To date, Outreach has facilitated the packaging of over 232 million meals!
Water – In many African areas, there is often plenty of water but the water is filled with all sorts of creepy crawly creatures that do bad things to a person’s insides. Therefore, purification is a major need so they have designed large purification systems that render the water 99.9% pure.
Medicine – My trip to Tanzania with Outreach was on their Medical Team with doctors and medical professionals from all over the United States. In the last ten years, they’ve had over 800 medical professionals and support staffs visit Tanzania.
Education- When the mamas asked Kathy for a secondary school, she sold the baskets back in the States and used the proceeds to build the school. The village already had a primary school, but for the children to go on to secondary school, they have to travel far distances. Inspired by the village leader- Zephaniah Gunda- Outreach built the Gunda Secondary School. On my recent trip, over 700 students populated the Secondary School with a teacher/student ratio of one teacher per 77 students.
They’ve also built one Children’s Center in Singida and are building another two hours away in Manyoni. President Kitweke’s wife visited the Children Center and requested twelve more. Outreach feed street children at these centers, but in order for them to get fed, they have to go to school first. In order to go to school, they have to have school uniforms that cost one month’s wages ($40 US Dollars) per child.
Most recent development: Shalom Farm – As if they didn’t have anything else to do, they just bought an 8,000 acre ranch and farm with an eye on the future as a training facility for livestock and grain production. They are making a presentation about it at the upcoming World Food Prize.
All of these things they have started in their “retirement.” I’m twenty years younger than Floyd and, after spending nearly three weeks with him in Africa, I feel like a little kid running ten steps trying to keep up for each step he takes.
What would you do if you could live life over again?
A study done in a nursing home asked, “If you had life to live over again, what would you do differently?” Three basic answers were given:
- People would have risked more- they regretted not taking bigger risks
- People would have reflected more- they would have stopped more frequently to smell the roses
- To have invested themselves in something that would live on after they were gone
They believe so much in the mission of Universities Fighting World Hunger they helped sponsor the UFWH 2013 Summit in Kansas.
Read Floyd’s recent Huffington Post article, Attacking the Hunger Epidemic and Winning
They have built a legacy that will live on long after they are gone and they trust that college students will carry their torch. Floyd and Kathy didn’t retire: they repurposed.
By Rick McNary
Writer’s Note: I have the privilege of working for Floyd and Kathy and, as each day passes, I grow more in admiration to their unique approach to fighting world hunger.
Part of this blog came from my book: Hunger Bites: Bite Size Stories of Inspiration