The 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award was bestowed on Monday by President Barack Obama and former President George H.W. Bush to the founders of Outreach, Inc., which feeds children around the world. The recipients encouraged everyone to do what they can to help others, reminding people that "all are God's children."
"We are humbled to receive this award and are honored to represent so many other people who are also making a difference in the world. We are one of thousands – millions – of points of light," Outreach Co-Founder Floyd Hammer said in a statement. "We're from Union, Iowa, which is a town of only 394 people – and it's amazing that a handful of people from this small town can make such a big difference. The more of us who are making a difference, the better this world will be."
Kathy Hamilton, wife of Hammer and co-founder of Outreach, described the genesis of Outreach to The Christian Post on Tuesday. "My husband and I were sailing around the world. Friends of ours had been working in Tanzania and my husband was a carpenter.
"They needed some carpeting work done, and so they stopped by our house and they spent the weekend and said, 'Floyd, we would love for you to come to Tanzania and teach the nationals how to do good carpeting work."
Hammer at first did not think it was such a good idea, but Hamilton said that she convinced him that it was a "once in a lifetime opportunity," and so the couple set out for Africa.
After witnessing firsthand the extreme hunger and deadly diseases that killed many children in Tanzania, Hamilton and Hammer founded Outreach in 2004 as a nonprofit corporation in Union, Iowa. One of their first tasks was to barter maize they had purchased for some of the hand-woven baskets made from people in Tanzania.
They ended up buying 12,000 baskets – which helped provide food for starving people in the region. From the beginning, they knew that simply giving support would not create long-term solutions, and they made it their mission to help communities become self-reliant while helping out however they can.
Since then, through the investment by the families creating the baskets and donor contributions, Outreach has been able to help various communities by providing water, food, medicine, and education, while recognizing that providing the latter is impossible without the first three necessities at hand.
"I went to every village in the county, had meetings with the elders, I asked them what they needed for their people," Hamilton told CP. "Villages made lists that were identical – number one was water, number two was food, number three was medicine, and number four was education."
Hamilton and Hammer have personally traveled to Tanzania, Jamaica and Haiti, though the associates that they work with have extended their mission to Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Guatemala, India and other developing countries around the world.
Hamilton revealed that sometimes they faced difficulties in distributing goods because of government corruption and restrictions. In one case, Chinese officials would not allow them to bring in food for starving people in the Asian country.
The organization says that it has provided ingredients or packaged more than 232 million nutritious meals since 2004.
When describing her faith, Hamilton said: "I believe there is a God, and I believe God is all there is."
Outreach is not tied to a specific religious organization, and Hamilton revealed that they have worked side by side with Christians, Muslims and people of other beliefs.
"Every child is a child of God," she underlined. "I will not say that because I'm Christian, a Muslim child has to die so that the Christian one can live.
"We came home, and created Outreach to help everyone, because we are all God's children, and with Outreach being that, all people can help. We are not limiting the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims – we can help all of them, and all of them can help us. We are uniting, we are not separating. I believe that with all my heart."
Hamilton noted that America also has many children who are in need of help and anyone can contribute in some way.
"If you feel you cannot help someone overseas, help someone here because we can feed a child for a quarter. Feed the child, volunteer – it is so easy to help. Our story is incredible. When people hear our story, they want to help. And I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the story happen to us so that I can share it."
The 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award was presented by Points of Light, the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, started by former president Bush in 1990. Bush was also honored by Obama at the ceremony on Monday for promoting volunteerism.
Michelle Nun, CEO at Points of Light, explained that the Daily Points of Light Award "celebrates the power of individuals, working together, to spark change and improve the world."
"Kathy Hamilton and Floyd Hammer are inspiring examples of people who saw a problem and didn't hesitate to step up and try to solve it. Their work has done so much to create healthier and happier lives for children. They are the walking definition of points of light," Nun stated.
The Outreach website provides people with a chance to view and buy many of the hand-made baskets and other accessories created by people in Tanzania and other regions.