Approaching Zion: Solving the Problem of Malnutrition

“There is probably no more fundamental way to eliminate poverty than to raise the development potential of children.  Nutrition is one of the keys to their proper physical and cognitive development.

Tadeo Chino and Namanga Ngongi, Foreword to What Works? A review of the Efficacy and Effectiveness of Nutrition Interventions (Manila, Philippines: Asian Development Bank, 2001), page iii

Brad Walker is a public health physician in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is also a cofounder of the Liahona Children’s Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to solve the problem of malnutrition and illiteracy in the LDS community in parts of Ecuador and Guatemala.  I spoke with him recently about the problem of nutrition, about the foundation, and about how fifty dollars a year can feed a child.

 What is the Liahona Children’s Foundation, and how did it get started?  

The Liahona Children’s Foundation was formed to help malnourished kids using food supplements, particularly LDS kids in Ecuador and Guatemala. The program was started in 2008. We called up eight stake presidents and invited them to participate in the program. They all accepted.  A group of BYU and UVU students went down in 2008/2009 under the direction of the founders, a group of about seven of us, to assess the height and weight of kids. If they were malnourished, they were invited to participate in a nutrition program, receiving nutritional supplements for free.

What was the process of screening the kids?

The stake presidents arranged for parents to bring their children to stake centers if they wanted to participate. Families were also told they could invite a non-LDS family to come and be part of the program. More kids than we expected showed up. We screened around four-thousand kids in a couple of weeks.

Are parents concerned their children are malnourished?

Yes. You can see parents are worried their kids are malnourished, some living on about fifty cents a day. For some of the kids having meat is a pretty rare thing, and some of the kids will never see meat. The parents know their kids’ diet isn’t what they want it to be. There’s a lot of marketing in these countries for nutritional supplements for kids, and the kids have the types of health issues you find in malnourished children. So the parents know when their kids aren’t doing well. Usually there were a few hundred kids lined up and waiting at the stake centers when the students arrived to assess them. In the worst case, there were 700-800 kids waiting to have their height and weight checked.

Out of the assessed children, how many were found to be malnourished and qualified for the Liahona Children’s Foundation program?

More than we planned on. About 25% of the 4000 kids 4000 or so children screened were chronically malnourished (>95% LDS). Worldwide, there are 50 million death annually, and 5 million (10%) of those death are due to childhood malnutrition. And while only 10% of malnourished child die; the remaining 90% suffer lifelong cognitive and physical defects that significantly and severely reduce their earning potential as adults, leading to a cycle in which their reduced future earnings lead to their own children being malnourished as well. We estimate 80,000 active LDS children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and about 900 die from malnutrition every year. A similar number of active LDS children are unable to attend elementary school secondary to lack of funding.

After children are invited into the program, what supplements are they given and for how long?

In each of the stakes we’ve hired a coordinator for eighty dollars a month to weigh and measure the children every six months, obtain supplements from local suppliers, and deliver the food supplements to the children. In Guatemala the children are given Incaparina, produced by and purchased from the government. In Ecuador it’s been more difficult to obtain the government-manufactured nutritional supplement and they eat either a soybean-based formulated cookie once a day or drink a beverage.   

Note: Brad and I were both emotional at this point. We discussed the reality that someone has to decide who gets the supplements and who doesn’t.  When a child is doing better, the supplements will be stopped, at least temporarily, to give another child a chance. Studies from around the globe show that when families are struggling, food and other resources are withheld from girls. Therefore girls and women are most likely to be malnourished, which effects generations because if affects reproduction and prenatal development.  Sara Walker, a graduate student at George Washington University in Public Health and a volunteer for Liahona Children’s Foundation, is currently analyzing data sent back from stakes in Guatemala and Ecuador to see how gender disparities in feeding practices in the Mormon population compare with other populations.

Right now we have around 1,000 children in the program. Our local workers have to decide who starves and who receives help. Sometimes a child will be on the program for six months, and then get kicked off and another child added. It’s kind of a rotating system. The local bishop’s warehouses do something similar, but on a faster rotation. They may have a family receiving help with meat, milk, beans and oil for three months, and then kick them off and add another family, although they’re helping only a very small percentage of those affected at any given time, given their funding limitations.

We have groups of students out of the universities that would like to go down and screen more stakes. The problem is we don’t have the money to support the stakes after they are screened. We don’t want to go down and weigh and measure the children and then say, “You’re malnourished. Oh well.”  

You’ve tried several different ways of advertising, but have not been as successful as you had hoped in fundraising. What is your hope for the program?

I would like to see stakes in the United States team-up with stakes Guatemala and Ecuador to feed more kids. There are hundreds of stakes that need help. We can only help seven. In the last year we’ve had a few stake presidents that want to get on the program, but we just don’t have any more cash. We aren’t even in the worst areas of these countries. Out further in the most indigenous areas in Guatemala there are near famine conditions.

The first year we raised about $13,000 outside of our own board members. Last year it was down some because of the economic downturn. Stakes in Guatemala and Ecuador do some fundraising locally, and do ok at it. But we really need to be more successful in fundraising if we would like to expand.

How much would it cost for a stake in the United States to cover a stake Central America?

About $6000 a year; this is equivalent to 10 individuals in a US stake donating $50/month to feed 100 or so malnourished children in a stake in Guatemala. In some stakes it’s a bit less, in some stakes more. It depends on the needs of the stakes. It costs about $50 a year to provide a child with supplements. For $150 we can feed them and send them to school. That’s another problem we want to work on, sending the kids to school.

Is there any overhead? Where does the money go?

We don’t have any overhead. We have about ten volunteers. It takes about two-hundred dollars to wire the money to bank in Guatemala or Ecuador every year, and we pay a local stake coordinator. They enjoy the work and spend the time to do the job. That money also covers a Christmas party for the children, and we regularly treat them for intestinal worms.  And it’s not necessary to use our foundation; any existing foundation could sponsor their own stakes using their own foundation with a little technical assistance to get started.

Besides setting aside $50 a year, what can people do to help?

Right now we have a couple meetings a year, one in Utah and one in Southern California. People are always welcome to come and participate. We also need help with our website. We need help with social media and social networking. We always need donations. Right now we have about $36,000 a year raised by a few donors here, the stakes there, and donated by the volunteers. We would like $50000 or more. It would be nice if stakes got involved, or people did it for the long term; if they could just see they were feeding kids, and wanted to keep feeding kids. At our most recent board meeting, we discussed that while we had succeeded in creating awareness of the problem of childhood malnutrition and illiteracy in the LDS population, we had not succeeded in fundraising like we’d thought possible, and aren’t sure what else could be done to spark interest in the issue.  We’ve presented at multiple symposium/Church-related gatherings, contacted lists of former missionaries off websites, advertised in newspapers, and even tried to do ward presentations, all without significant success.  We don’t want to “give up”, but on the other hand aren’t sure that it’s possible to really get large numbers of people involved in assisting the malnourished and/or illiterate LDS child.  Still, even a small group of Church members could experience the joy of meeting, screening, and taking on the malnourished/illiterate LDS kids in an LDS stake at a very reasonable monthly cost to them, even if the much larger problem in around 500 or so stakes remained unresolved.

People want to know why the Church doesn’t do this, why aren’t tithing and fast offerings taking care of it. The Church can’t take care of everything. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “At this very hour on this very day, some members even in our Church are praying for the miracle that would allow them to surmount the suffering that surrounds them. If, while we have the means to do so, we do not have compassion for them and spring to their aid, we are in danger of being among those the prophet Moroni spoke of when he said, ‘Behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel…more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.”* And President Hinckley has said, “I think there is a tendency among us to say, ‘Oh, the Church will take care of that. I pay my fast offering.  Let the Church take care of that.’   We need as individuals…to reach down and extend a helping hand without notice…to give of that which the Lord has so generously blessed us.” **

*The Law of the Fast. Ensign (May 2001):74. **BYU Universe May 2006

For more information, you can contact Dr. Brad Walker via email or call him at 702-437-8861 or donate via the foundation’s  website.


  1. Brad,

    This is the Lords work you are doing here. I can barely read your entire post due to flashbacks of hungry kids on my mission in Africa. I remember with great fondness feeding hundreds of kids daily as part of a NGO feeding program on my mission in Africa. I am sure you can relate to a hungry child’s eyes lighting up with joy when he or she sees a slice of thick bread smeared with peanut butter and jelly.

  2. Thank you, mmiles, for doing the interview here. And thank you, Brad, for the inspiring work you’re doing. I have some questions, but I need to spend more time digesting what I’m reading (and teaching a class) before I pose them.

  3. Thank you for this post. To say it is thought-provoking and inspiring would be a tremendous under-statement.

  4. It is so heartbreaking to think of those children. Thank you for the work that you are doing.

  5. Brad’s two-part Dialogue article on this topic is the most wrenching thing I’ve ever read in Dialogue, but it should be required reading.

    Part I
    Part II

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Brad, I wonder whether you happen to know my cousin’s husband, Dwayne Matheson, about whom I blogged here:

    He goes to Guatemala regularly to do service (largely child care facilities). You two should compare notes; you may be able to help each other.

  7. Strong work, mmiles & Brad.

  8. Wow.

  9. StillConfused says:

    Where do the food supplements come from? Are they specific for that locale?

  10. #9: see in the post where he answers the question, “After children are invited into the program, what supplements are they given and for how long?”

  11. Awesome, thanks.

  12. Mark Brown says:

    My God. 900 LDS children starve to death every year. Shame on us.

  13. Mark, Indeed. It made me weep. I get choked up every time I think about it. And I don’t cry easily.

  14. I’ve been thinking about this since I read it earlier today and am trying to figure out how I can share this with my stake. What method can I use? I feel sure we could get my stake to support something like this, especially if it was a goal of getting 20 families to give $25 a month or something. Should I talk to my friends first? My bishop? The Stake President? Can I use the text of this post?

  15. Conifer,
    Better, Brad Walker will email you the power point. Send him an email. You can also use this post.

  16. What wonderful work you are doing and thank you for reaching out to these children.
    Are there any plans to explore more permanent solutions such as food production/education for the families of these children?

  17. E
    Education is one focus of the program. However given the lack of funds, they can only focus on keeping the children alive right now.

  18. 12: I just can’t get by the dichotomy of 900 LDS kids lost for the want of one meal, with the Church’s push for it’s members to have a year supply of meals under their beds.

  19. Thank you for sharing this and for the work you’re doing.

  20. Bob, there is plenty for both.

  21. #20: Tell that to the 900 kids.

  22. Sigh.

  23. Aaron Brown says:

    Amazing, important work. I can’t decide if it shocks me or not that you’ve had such trouble fundraising among other Mormons. What a shame.

  24. We don’t want to “give up”, but on the other hand aren’t sure that it’s possible to really get large numbers of people involved in assisting the malnourished and/or illiterate LDS child.

    I just tried to donate, but the Paypal link did not work.

    I can’t decide if it shocks me or not that you’ve had such trouble fundraising among other Mormons. What a shame.

    I think most of us could probably do a more than we are doing, but I think we need to be careful about going in this direction of condeming fellow church members because they can’t always support every good cause that crosses their paths. There’s a sort of fragmentation that comes with lots of anxiously-engaged people doing lots of good things, and sometimes, like those giving out vitamins, we have to make hard choices about how, when, and where, and to whom to give our time, talents, and other resources.

  25. Michelle,
    The link and the Paypal button work just fine for me. Please try again.

  26. Worked this time. Not sure what was up. Thanks. I donated under the hope that ‘every little bit helps.’

    Thanks for what you are doing.

  27. Go ahead, sell your computer and donate today.


  28. Aaron Brown says:


    I agree with you, and I probably came off too harshly. But I’ve had several LDS non-profit folks over the years tell me how stingy LDS churchmembers are, relative to the groups of non-churchmembers they solicit. Yes, I realize that, all other things being equal, it’s harder for those who already donate 10% of their income to their church to dig even deeper and give more, relative to folks who don’t. But I’ve also had one too many conversations with LDS folks who either (a) think that the fact that they pay tithing fulfills their “charity quota” in the eyes of God, hardship issues aside; or (b) refuse to look beyond the LDS Church’s programs to even consider supporting other organizations that do good and meaningful work. It’s just one of many examples of our tendencies toward insularity, and it grates.

    Not that I have any actual data to support my hunches and anecdotes, my mind you …


  29. Aaron Brown says:

    … and not that I actually practice what I preach, either.


  30. Brad Walker says:

    Thanks to everyone for the comments/e-mails and donations via PayPal today. For those interested if you e-mail I’ll provide a full set of info. Kevin, could you forward yours and Dwayne’s e-mails? Other items:

    (1) Food supplements are manufactured by the governments/PAHO (and extensively tested prior to use) and are available for purchase in the countries. Their advantage is that they cost far less than food staples like meat/milk as thus are more affordable for the families, but still not affordable enough for the most poor. One can simply buy them at the local grocery store. Current Incaparina cost is around 7 cents per child per day; it probably costs as much to get the supplement to the kid as it does to buy it. Supplements are usually available country-wide but vary from country to country. If anyone wants to research food supplements I’d recommend the WHO Food and Nutrition Bullentin, where the coverage is so exhaustive your eyes will glaze over pretty quickly. There’s entire university departments devoted to the development of nutritional supplements. Peanut-butter based products are superior to what we’re using but too costly, unfortunately, although they’re widely used in Africa for frank acute starvation recovery programs. Peanut-butter is also not a “local” product in the areas we’re working.

    (2) We’ve wanted to help the malnourished kids until age 8 ends, but as funding hasn’t been there in some cases the coordinadoras have the green light to switch the program between different kids depending on how the family/kids are doing; initiation into program is at weaning or age 6 months.

    (3) I can’t claim any expertise on how to best arrange for an adopt-a-stake, as no one has yet, other than those on the board currently (really just two people). We’ve discussed this issue at length and had decided that if we could get a group of members to go and meet the kids and stake leadership and see the chapels and actually take the kids heights and weights, they’d “stick-with-it” for the long term and take ownership of the kids after seeing them. But we haven’t made it to that point, although we’ve only been trying for a couple of years.

    (4) Health/nutrition education is part of the program currently. For a long-term solution, the best goal would be to allow the kids to get an education so they aren’t stuck in rural-subsistence farming as adults, which is probably one of the world’s least economically-productive activities. More short-term microcredit is a possibility (teaming with Enterprise Mentors), although microcredit programs do not eliminate the need for direct nutritional and elementary education programs in the large majority of children.

    (5) I certainly agree with Michelle that no one should over-extend themselves and individual prioritization is important; also, the Foundation is not criticizing the Church but attempting to work to help the LDS poor and their friends. We know that most Church members are not going to get involved in projects for malnourished children but do/did feel there is a significant group of Church members who would be interested in participating if we could figure out how to better reach them/get them involved. Experience to this point suggests that optimism may not be justified, but we’ll keep plugging along and hope that’s wrong. And I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails today from experienced marketing folks hoping to help out; thanks Marintha for your work in this posting and to all those responding and donating.

    (6) The global abandonment of billions of children to malnutrition and illiteracy for the prior 7 decades remains a blot on the world’s wealthy and perhaps the single-most important and sad issue as it relates to modern Christianity (along with such issues as the tremendous waste on armaments). Why, in an era when for 1% of wealthy-country GDP malnutrition and illiteracy could have been systematically eliminated for billions of people, has such not been accomplished? To view it as an LDS issue is far to narrow–at least we have the belief/goal that we’re going to create a Zion Society and eliminate illiteracy and malnutrition, and multiple Church presidents have asked us to do such. Yes, we’ve done it imperfectly to this point and have left plenty of starving and illiterate kids in our wards and stakes, but rather than criticizing the Church leadership, it seems better to take the initiative (as happened with Perpetual Education Fund) and show what could be done and then allow it to be adopted by the Church at a future date. And if anyone e-mails I can provide plenty of reference books written by Catholic/Evangelical/”Main-line” Christian authors criticizing their own religious movements for exactly the same things we’re discussing here, often in far starker terms. Is anyone really suprised that as a Church we’re imperfect but with great intentions and have things we need to improve on? But I think that’s the main concept–we as the members are the Church, and if we’re going to improve things, we have to do it, not hope the “Church” does it for us; thus President Hinkley’s quotation in the article (or Elder Christofferson’s recent General Conference Talk Statements related to Zion which I could e-mail per request).

  31. I stumbled on this talk tonite and thought it was relevant.


    My friend is working on raising 40K for an (amazing!) non-profit (started by another good friend of mine). She has been writing press releases like crazy and has taken a really creative approach to the fundraising. Mormon Times/DesNews picked up the story. I’d also recommend, if you haven’t already, connecting with Mormon Life and LDS Living and Meridian Magazine and other online aggregators and resources that have a large readership. Call KSL or whatever your local station is. Pound the pavement through every medium possible in the places where there are a lot of Church members. I also just had the idea to look to connecting somehow with past missionaries in the areas where you are working — maybe online RM-gathering and -networking sites? What about former mission presidents and their contacts?

    I still think part of the challenge is that there are so many good causes that sometimes people just burn out. I have a personal habit of posting a charity once a month to my FB account, and I’ll happily share yours in that way, but I really am not sure anyone ever responds because so many of these things are out there and I think there is a point of saturation where people zone out.

    So what can you do to set yourself apart? I’m a brainstormer, and so I’m going to share some thoughts here, fwiw.

    I’d offer some thought questions first, including how to raise interest and money without a) using guilt tactics (which I think too many LDS- and service-focused organizations do — sorry, mmiles, but even your title to me played into that “if you are truly a Zion-like person, you will donate,” and I think it can be a turnoff to some; give information without putting religious pressure is my recommendation) and b) being creative so that it doesn’t sound like yet another mailer that people throw away because every time they donate to something, 10 more orgs start asking for money.

    One selling point in my opinion is simply the fact that all proceeds go directly to help (that to me is a big dividing line for me — if one org will use 100% and another only 85%, I’m going to choose the one that makes the best use of my money.

    There are always students at BYU interested in international experiences. Have you tried working through channels there to get volunteers and raise awareness? Students may not be able to do a lot of money, but they could be a great pool for actual volunteers and for marketing efforts esp with social media. This can also give them valuable real-life experience for their résumés. If you email me at the email listed with my comment, I might have a couple of other ideas and contacts in that realm.

    One last thought is that if your strategy is to hook up with stakes, my experience is that you are almost always signing up for a longer response time unless you happen to connect with a leader who catches the bug and pushes the notion through in his stake. I think if you aren’t going to be an official Church org, that trying to use official channels as part of your strategy may be part of what is making this hard. The model is a great one in the ideal, but the truth is that your model, imo, won’t really work as it could without that official stamp. That is no reason to quit, but I would consider tweaking your approach to a modular approach that points you toward the ideal without expecting it all right now…considering a different model to work with that seeks to find people – individuals – who are passionate, and letting them creatively contact others and get them fired up. I think it’s easier to do that than to try to find that perfect combination of the right contacts who have the passion AND the current Church position AND the right timing in their local unit’s relief efforts. Things in the Church usually take time and require a lot of line upon line work to get to end results. Consider removing some of the variables that your current model demands.

    Just a few thoughts based on my experience, both as someone earnestly trying to use resources to do good, and who has been on the other end of trying to get people (and Church leaders) excited about worthwhile and important *unofficial* Church-mission-related ideas.

    Of course, all of this comes without any real knowledge of what you are doing except what was shared here, so, of course, take it all for what it’s worth.

    I wish you the best. And as I said, I’ll include you on my FB feed.

  32. I’ve been Askimetted. Help? [comment has been released]

  33. I wonder how far $20 million would go for this and other related projects?

    Anyone want to place a few calls to stake presidents in California?

  34. Aaron Brown–your a and b hit it exactly, and I would say more b than a. Very very very many LDS people are simply not interested in donating to non-LDS charities. While LDS charities are great, their reach is limited.

    Still, I think this sort or project would have more appeal than, say, the Habitat for Humanity project our stake worked on last year. While we actually raised more money for that than we needed or had anticipated, I have a feeling that the donations came from a rather small percentage of the stake. I suppose this kind of a quasi-LDS initiative would appeal to more people.

  35. Peter LLC,

  36. The money the Church spends today on Martin’s Cove rescue reinactments could be better spent in Guatemala on a real rescue of it’s children.

  37. This makes me weep and gnash my teeth and pull out my hair. It seems incredible to me, seriously incredible, that we LDS are not even feeding our own children to the extent that they can survive and grow up without serious brain damage or other health complications. I could pay for a number of these kids to eat for what my Diet Coke habit costs me. If I give up that plus ice cream, I’d be healthier too. Sign me up.

  38. Tatiana, I’m sorry I was not clear before. Donations to can be made via the foundation website.

  39. By the way, have you looked at the Partners In Health model? They’ve been tackling poverty, malnutrition, public health, and other such issues since the early 80s, and have gained a lot of useful knowledge of how to do so cheaply and effectively, from their experiences. Here’s the site describing the model.

    They’ve done a tremendous job of bootstrapping communities upward into food security and good health in resource poor settings in nine or so countries around the world. I’d like to see an LDS-sponsored PIH style clinic open in each of these desperately poor rural areas you describe. It seems the whole package of free primary health care plus food security plus clean water plus decent housing so people aren’t sleeping in mud works really well all together. I appreciate that you guys are doing your best just to focus on food and education for children alone, and may not feel able to take on the whole PIH model, but I link you to it for what it’s worth. Funding is another issue.

    Suggestion: why not add Relief Society presidents in the US to your list of contacts to hit up for fundraising? After all, taking care of LDS kids is directly in our charter. Even though the RS doesn’t have our own independent funding, still we have that soft power I’ve heard so much about to nag Bishops and Stake Presidents to do something, right? Let’s test it out.

  40. Brad Walker says:

    $20 million would systematically eliminate all malnutrition and illiteracy in LDS kids, plus 100,000 or so non-LDS kids. That’s around 4% of current fast-offering donations so it’s certainly not an unrealistic amount to think about.

  41. mmiles, I added the link to my list so I can give each month from now on. I’m also thinking of ways to organize regular funding from other sources. I think the Bloggernacle should undertake to fund one stake. I’m sure we can come up with enough regular subscribers between us to handle that.

  42. “why not add Relief Society presidents in the US to your list of contacts to hit up for fundraising? After all, taking care of LDS kids is directly in our charter. Even though the RS doesn’t have our own independent funding, still we have that soft power I’ve heard so much about to nag Bishops and Stake Presidents to do something,”

    As Mormons, we can act without the Church (which does a fair amount in the area).

    The NGO/Non-profit model works (though with limits) because the groups can focus on specific problems and they can use unique approaches. As a result they tend to be limited in scope. There are many LDS-oriented groups that I know of.

  43. There seem to be some good ideas under “food and nutrition” and “procurement” at the link I gave. I’m sure you may already be familiar with this information, but I link you just in case it’s new to you.

  44. I understand that we don’t have to go through official church channels. I was thinking just as you have contacted Stake Presidents for the purpose of signing up stakes, you might hit up RS presidents as well. All those sisters will feel, I expect, a responsibility for the hungry kids and will make something happen, one way or another.

  45. Brad Walker says:

    The integrated model of food, basic healthcare (including vaccines), and elementary education has been around for a few decades now and is widely implemented by the governments themselves. Mexico and Brazil where the LDS population is the largest have largely conquered illiteracy and malnutrition in just recent decades with these types of programs (originally Progresa in Mexico, now Oportunidades). But the Andean region of South America, the Philippines, and Central America/Haiti simply haven’t gotten there yet; they don’t have the budget, explaining why we have some many children in our stakes in these areas that are illiterate and malnourished. As far as adding primary health care to our package, there’s really no areas of Latin America and/or the Philippines where those services are not available at government clinics. Africa is a different story but there’s few LDS stakes there at the present.

    And for fundraising, we’re happy to have anyone try anything that’s not unethical or counterproductive. We’re aware that using ward e-mail lists or sources that list bishops/RS presidents or primary presidents phone numbers is out-of-bounds; imagine what it would be like to be the bishop and be hounded by phone calls from all sorts of marketers, most of who would have nothing to do with humanitarian work, even when they represent themselves as such. Hopefully those interested will utilize their own social and Church networks and consider arranging a group to sponsor a stake in addition to donating generously and participating in board/foundation activities. I invited people in my own ward to attend a meeting about the foundation and a few came, as did our CEO in her ward/stake in Utah via a Eagle Project; it wasn’t controversial because they all knew me/her, but if I were to start spamming people or doing random phone calls I have a feeling that would end up being counter-productive.

    Just since this posting we have a volunteer marketing professional in Provo who has decided to help with marketing there but certainly could use similar contacts and people in other geographic areas who have a passion for helping LDS kids avoid malnutrition and illiteracy in our stakes.

  46. There’s also a group called Global Health Delivery online, which I’m following. Their first priority is health care, and then poverty, malnutrition, education, clean water, and housing get tackled along the way as limiting factors in maintaining healthy communities, but they’re working on lots of good ideas for handling all of the above. Just another suggestion for a resource for brainstorming strategies.

  47. Sounds like Brad has his strategic vision down.

  48. Brad Walker says:

    I’m headed off to work but will look at the website recommended by Tatiana thanks to all for your interest in the kids

  49. Chris H. I’m just throwing out ideas. You’re right, they’ve probably considered all these strategies already and selected their areas of focus, but I’m tossing these things that I happen to know about out there just in case there’s something helpful to be found.

  50. Sounds good.

  51. Brad, I sent the link to this post to my Stake Presidency and asked if this is something they might consider. That’s a first step only, but I’ll be doing what I can.

    I also will talk with the Director of Student Life at the college where I work, share this link with them and the link Tatiana provided and see if the non-Greek students on campus would like to do something similar with a similar organization – since the Greek houses all have charitable causes already for which they fundraise.

  52. Awesome Ray (51). I did the same–through our ward humanitarian specialist, who said she’d take it up with the stake folks. I hope it gains some traction.

  53. Dr. Walker, I’m really glad there are people out there who actually act on their nobler feelings. God bless you.

    I think one big deterrent to getting members to donate is that they may figure that if the church isn’t acting, there might be a reason why it might not be good to do so. This is certainly the case in local settings when a bishop chooses not to use fast offerings in a given situation — giving money to the person involved could actually work against what the bishop was trying to accomplish. I suspect some members at least may think the same thing might be happening on a larger scale.

    I think the biggest shot to fundraising you could get is, if not the endorsement, at least the quotable approval of a GA. If the presiding bishop or area authority came out and said “I am grateful for the efforts of private-initiative relief groups such as The Liahona Project in relieving the suffering of our brothers and sisters in impoverished circumstances”, I think your funding troubles would be over. And I don’t mean he’d have to say it in General Conference. Just being able to quote him on your web page might be enough.

    Unfortunately, I think GA’s have to be very careful what they endorse, so that might be difficult to obtain. I think it would be worth a shot, however. Catch the next GA on his trip back from Guatemala.

  54. Dr. Walker, how are the coordinators you hire supervised? Is the supervision local (eg., the stake pres), or do they report directly to you? What provisions are in place to make sure their coordination is efficient? How do you protect your coordinators from temptation and false accusations of infidelity?

  55. My other comment is still in moderation, but maybe that is deliberate?

    I had an idea today about maybe contacting student leaders at BYU, BYU-I and other LDS-based schools and trying to get students involved in this. I was thinking something like a “fast from fast food” contest where maybe schools compete or colleges within schools compete — encouraging students to forgo a fast food meal during a specific week and donate that money to the cause.

    That kind of thing could be fun in a community as well. I think the more creative you can get with this, the better.

    I’m seriously maxed out or I’d do more myself to head something like this up, but maybe one of your people could find some student champions to do something?

    Also, I hope you got my email about possibly listing (and maybe representing) your organization in an internship fair we are having shortly — What I was thinking was that business students could be targeted to help with marketing, perhaps.

  56. And if you want to send me something (Marintha talked about a presentation you could send?), I could try to see if someone bites in student life. I’m happy to make some calls to put out feelers.

  57. michelle,
    There was only one comment from you in the spambox, and I already released it some time ago.

  58. BYU-Idaho strictly forbids students from doing any fundraising, or perception of fundraising, for any organization other than the school itself (or to support the clubs). My seminar on global justice was regularly thwarted in these type of pursuits. That said, including students is a great idea. My father-in-law administers similar projects. He finds that BYU students are great, but the University itself is very difficult.

  59. Scott B…thanks.

    Chris H. — good to know.

    I think this is the challenge — it’s hard to work w/in structured organizations to do this fundraising. That’s what I’m racking my brain trying to think about — how to get large groups of people motivated w/o relying on Church structure to do it.

  60. I have a testimony of BCC power.

  61. My sisters live in poorer Provo wards and have decided to do presentations in RS classes to have a goal for each ward to raise $50 a year. That’s not much. But sometimes I think wards and stakes feel overwhelmed by bigger numbers. It’s hard to say no when it’s only $50 bucks per ward.

    Brad can email you the PPT if you contact him.

  62. I think every Wardhouse should have a collection box mounted in it that is only for the needs of the LDS kids in Guatemala. This is true grassroot and has worked in other churches for hundreds of years.

  63. Bob,

    But why should this organization get support in that way when there are hundreds of others that could be doing an equal amount of good to help children or do any number of amazing things to help God’s children?

    It’s got to be a local decision how to rally resources to do good. Part of the challenge is there really is a lot of need already existing in our own communities. We’ve been encouraged to reach out in our communities. How to rally limited resources and for what is hard stuff.

  64. Mark Brown says:

    Back when the monthly amount required to keep a missionary in the field was $400/month a young man in our ward turned 19. The bishop consulted with the family and determined that the family was only realistically able to come up with $150/month. He then privately asked couples in the ward if they could contribute $50/month for the next two years to that elder X could serve and so his family wouldn’t be put under undue hardship. The ward family responded like champs, as LD Saints often do, and after 18 months the bishop told everybody they could stop contributing because there was already enough cash in the missionary fund to pay the remaining 6 months.

    Here’s the irony. Elder X served in Guatemala. Perhaps he spent time converting some of those people who children are literally starving to death. In just 18 months our lower-middle class ward raised $6,000 to keep him on a mission, and people felt blessed for the opportunity to help.

    I feel confident that this Liahona project will succeed. People, we can totally do this.

  65. #63: Michelle, IMO, the Mormon Church has a unique relationship with it’s members in Guatemala. We brought the Church and hope in mass to them. Many now consider them the people of the BoM.
    I hope someone’s plan works. As a child in the 50s, I remember the Primary’s March of Dines collection box we marched a round singing:
    “Come on boys and girls, come join the parade __give up those dines and nickles__give up those popsicles__join the parade”.

  66. Here’s an idea — if everyone connects with the BYU Management Society in their area (you don’t have to be a BYU alum to do it), you can quickly tap into a network of professionals, many of whom will be LDS, and you’d imagine, many of whom have money and also a vested interest in service. Chapters often have regular meetings and some do service projects. Imagine if at the next luncheon or whatever, people each are asked to contribute to a charity like this.

  67. And another idea is a friendly competition between blogs in the ‘nacle. ;)

  68. #66: Michelle,
    The target for me is the one dollar from the pocket to the collection box every Sunday or so. That’s millions quick and clear dollars and it’s the little guy helping the little guy.

  69. The Church leadership could do more. The perception remains widespread among the Church membership that the best use of donations above tithing and fast offerings is to just give more money to the Church and Church managed programs. Certainly fundraising by the Church universities plays into this perception. The Church leaderhip could (1) inform the Church membership of the plight of Church members in less developed countries and (2) indicate that donating to charities that are not managed by the Church but which address these issues is good and worthy, without endorsing any particular charities by name.

  70. #69 – “Commanded in all things” comes to mind.

  71. The target for me is the one dollar from the pocket to the collection box every Sunday or so. That’s millions quick and clear dollars and it’s the little guy helping the little guy.

    At some point, in my mind it’s a waste of time to complain or philosophize about what doesn’t work or isn’t being done or ‘should’ be done instead of just finding things to do now.

  72. Brad Walker says:

    These blogs are interesting. For someone older like me who’s never even been on Facebook or used a blog until yesterday, I’ve discovered that the group is able to get to the fundamental questions we’ve faced and our facing pretty quickly. We’ve had more interest/donations in the last 2 days in the project than we’ve managed to scare up in the last 2 years, so I’m thinking that social media is the best way (but not only way) to market the foundation and the issue of illiteracy and childhood malnutrition in the LDS population. I’m going to send all who have donated or e-mailed a list of documents and the power-point presentation as so many people have requested it. And thanks so much to everyone for their interest/comments/donations.

    The issue was raised as to whether the LDS population will donate to projects outside of official Church channels without direct or pseudo Church approval. Experience has shown that they will if the idea is presented to them using quotes from Church leaders that support that concept; besides the original to quotes at the end of the interview I’ve attached a quote here from Elder Christofferson. Of course it’d be great to have a General Authority endorse the idea of Church members alleviating malnutrition/illiteracy in LDS kids via private foundations; such a quote would likely lead to the enough funding quite quickly to systematically eliminate both issues globally. Getting such a endorsement is difficult but not impossible; both Enterprise Mentors and the precursor to the Perpetual Education Fund (which was done privately for a full decade prior to being adopted by the Church) received such an informal endorsement. But it’s not something that anyone can “force”; it has to come about spontaneously. Listing a quote from the Blog: The Church leadership could (1) inform the Church membership of the plight of Church members in less developed countries and (2) indicate that donating to charities that are not managed by the Church but which address these issues is good and worthy, without endorsing any particular charities by name. This really has already been done via the attached quotes, although perhaps not as directly as one would like.

    The biggest problem in donations is establishing a connection between the donors and recipient children, in order to have donations continue over a longer period of time. When we initially went to Guatemala we’d planned to take individual pictures of each child and post them on the internet with a bio of each child. We’d figured this would rapidly lead to the adoption/sponsorship of each and every child and create a link that would be permanent. However, when the BYU/UVU kids went and met with Area President Elder Clark in Guatemala City, it was felt this would be inappropriate; the foundation was fine to have names/pictures/bios of the kids for those donating but could not simply post them for anyone to see on-line. So we’re left hoping to get individuals/groups to go to Guatemala and meet the kids/stake leadership and hope they’ll feel an ownership in caring for the kids.

    The question of graft/fraud was raised. The current structure of the program makes that difficult; the stake leadership is watching the coordinadoras, and the membership expects the services after having been screened at the chapel. The involvement of multiple people is probably the best fraud prevention program. We’d also hoped to have the coordinadoras monitor stakes/recipients randomly selected annually; that hasn’t happened yet.

    The question of multiple commitments/projects was raised and how difficult it is to get one’s project heard amid the clamor. We’ve discovered that the LDS population really wants to eliminate malnutrition and illiteracy in LDS children and that that project will quickly move to the head of the list ahead of humanitarian projects directed towards the non-LDS population. This is to be expected; after all, we were/are the missionaries that converted folks in these countries and feel a special obligation towards them. Again, the bigger problem is creating an environment in which donors have a stake/ownership in sponsoring or adopting specific children that they feel a connection with.

    In addition to the concept that all the donated money is being spent in direct services within the country itself (which I agree has been important to potential donors), another concept has found good reception in the few presentations I’ve done utilizing it is the concept of $$(Cost)/DALY, a measure of impact. Money spent in poor countries can go up to 10,000 times as far (accomplish 10,000 times as much) as money spent in wealthy countries on commonly-promoted causes.

    We have had people attend BYU forums/meetings on a regular basis for a couple of years now. And fundraising at BYU itself is not allowed as per attached comments. It is possible to get a portion of the ward or stake’s humanitarian budget directed towards malnourished LDS kids if one is in a position to effect such within a Stake; Bob Rees, Foundation VP, has had success with that in the past.

    Multiple people have asked about current foundation needs. In order of importance:

    (1) A video production documenting the need and foundation’s activities and introducing donors to the coordinadoras/stakes members and leaders (a picture is worth a 1000 words).

    (2) Adopt-a Stake groups—I really hope the Marintha Miles will be able to organize a group from By Common Consent to adopt a new stake this Spring or summer

    (3) Social media networking

    (4) Other marketing

    (4) On-the-ground help with operations management of the project in multiple areas, including program manual development, interviews and coordination of the project in different areas, information management, development of health and nutrition educational materials for families, to list only a few.

    (5) Spanish-speaking individuals interested in managing stakes

    The Lord called his people Zion, because…there were no poor among them.” If we would establish Zion…we must rise to this standard. It will become necessary…to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen.

    ~Oct 2008 General Conference Talk Elder Christofferson

  73. Dr. Walker,

    I set up a Facebook event invitation for the month of February piggybacking off one of the ideas I presented before. The idea is to invite people one time during the month to forgo eating their favorite treat or meal and donate at least a portion of what they have spent to your foundation (or to their favorites).

    If anyone would like to help spread this invitation, see the event page at

  74. I think it would be great if the Church were more involved in projects like this, as I agree that taking care of the poor among us is one of the most Christlike things we could do. Unfortunately, many members give to the Church as their “donation” and feel like they have done their part (and given the current economic climate, it is quite a sacrifice).

    What would be really nice is if the Church “tithed” itself for humanitarian needs. If the Church spent only 10% of the estimated $4 billion it took in each year, that would be $400 million annually. From the Church’s own website, this would be more than the actual cash outlays they have spent on humanitarian issues over the past 27 years COMBINED.

    This is a great idea to take personal initiative when the institution may not. One possible idea: The Church has very specifically never defined tithing on gross or net. Some people pay on gross, others on net, yet both can be considered full-tithe payers and temple worthy.

    If someone was paying on gross and decided to fund humanitarian things like this more directly, they could potentially pay that much less in tithing. They would likely still be paying FAR more than net and would still be considered a full tithe payer. They would also still be donating at least 10% of their money to great causes.

    Just a thought.

  75. Andrew Hamilton says:

    There is a great related talk in mp3 on the Sunstone website that discusses the reluctance of Latter-day Saints to get involved with charitable causes. The title is “Our Hands are Clean, Our Hearts are Pure: Are We Too Anal-Retentive to Care for the Poor” It can be downloaded for free from It is worth listening to.

  76. As for myself, I plan to contribute to Liahona, just as I contribute fast offering. Its the least I can do.

  77. Ron Madson says:

    Thank you Brad for what you have done and are doing. Some of us are looking for humanitarian organizations that have a very high percentage of what is donated going to actual, direct relief. This one that meets that criteria. My obsessing about my personal righteousness by not drinking coffee, attending meetings, reading scriptures and church magazines and seeing only 1% of what I and the rest of us give in tithes go to humanitarian relief each year (#74 Mike S is correct) really has little or not impact in succoring the least (most of what we do in our faith just makes me/us feel better about ourselves). What you and many other such organizations are doing in fact changes the world. Appreciate Common Consent giving voice to what you are doing so that others can pitch in.

  78. Brad, I have been deeply touched by the work you have been doing. I find it unbelievable that so many LDS children are being left to suffer and die. I have served as Stake President in the past. I am shocked that Stake leaders in South America are being turned down regarding extra Fast Offering funds for such life saving needs as feeding starving children. I would very much like to become seriously involved. Please forward any information that you have available.

  79. Brad Walker says:

    (1) We’ve had requests for information without an e-mail; if you’re one of these folks please send an e-mail to

    (2) From a philosophical basis, the Liahona Children’s Foundation believes that our Church leaders are wonderful, inspired, experienced, and dedicated; that they are called by inspiration; and we are not attempting to change Church policies in any way or criticize Church leaders. We are simply trying to implement their request that we care for the poor and needy among us, esp. the poorest chldren, by preventing their death and stunting by alleviating malnutrition, and giving them the opportunity to go to elementary school. This is per the quotes from our Church leaders contained in the PowerPoint presentation I can forward, as this list of quotes is by no means comprehensive. As I said previously, we are the Church, and rather than worrying about why the “Church” isn’t alleviating the malnutrition and illiteracy issue among our Church children, let’s focus on why we aren’t doing it and make it happen. And nothing would be more harmful to our efforts to help our Church children than our getting involved in side debates related to Church leaders or Church policies that don’t involve the Foundation’s work. And please I hope no one takes offense at these comments from the Blog; we would be so glad to have your participation in our efforts, no matter your individual views related to Church or political issues, but I do think the Foundation’s views should be clear as well.

    As examples of our Foundation, I would mention first the precursor to the Perpetual Education Fund, which was in place and run by individual Church members for a full decade prior to being adopted by the Church; and Enterprise Mentors, who have been doing Microcredit work with Church members for many years with Church approval of their efforts. These are the kind of organizations we would seek to emulate as the Liahona Children’s Foundation.

    People will naturally ask here: Didn’t you individually attempt over a period of years to change Church practices as it related to the allocation of fast-offerings and alleviation of malnutrition and illiteracy in Church children? Didn’t you publish studies and give multiple lectures/talks, including appearing in a SLT article? Guilty as charged, and I still feel the same way. But that’s me the individual, not the Foundation. On this Foundation I’m one of many people on the board. The president is a pediatrician at the BYU student health center and former missionary (female); the Vice-president a former bishop and member of a mission presidency; and I won’t attempt to list the rest here. So in doing this interview I was representing the Foundation, not my own individual position(s) or viewpoints. But additionally I fully support the idea that the Foundation should strictly avoid entaglement or taking position(s) unrelated to its goal of alleviation of malnutrition and illiteracy in Church children and their friends via implementing the requests of our Church leaders.

  80. Brad, how much more do you think you could achieve if you were given the same amount of funding as the City Creek Mall?

  81. it's a series of tubes says:

    Brad, I recently received an email from someone attempting to perpetuate a scam in your name (from an email address almost exactly like yours, but with *paid* where yours has *pad*. I assume you are aware of this but please let me know if not.

  82. it's a series of tubes says:

    Jon, how much more do you think they could achieve if you sold your home / car / etc and donated it all to the foundation? How many kids would that save from malnutrition? Why haven’t you done that yet?

  83. brad walker says:

    (1) Please consider reviewing the new website at that’s currently under construction to make suggestions
    (2) Thanks to everyone for their concern–I’ve never been in West Africa “but I’d sure like to go”. So don’t send anyone money related to the fraudulent e-mail sent out from my accout. Someone “hacked into” it but we’ve reestablished control; believe it or not, I just got a call from someone in Ecuador that was about to send $2500 to somewhere in Africa but I just stopped them. No wonder people run these scams!
    (3) The Foundation I’m sure would avoid commenting about the cold creek project (or whatever it was called); from my individul standpoint I would comment that there’s enough funding to do both either as a Church or as individual members of the Church.
    (4) Like anything else in life, things have to be done according to one’s ability and prioritization. I wouldn’t suggest one abadon everything they own and donate it to the poor a la “Luke”, only that each person including myself evaluate their life in relationship to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and their own conscious to see where they’re at. I’m sure there are people who have “over-donated” to humanitarian work in the past, although that’s not the norm in our wealthy society. And there are of course plenty of opportunities to donate to the World’s poor via the most efficient organizations like OXFAM; to donate to malnourished or illiterate LDS kids we’re one organization. I know of others doing elementary education but not not malnutrition (and would appreciate any “head-ups” related to other organization with a simlar mission.

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