Everyone has a story.
Understanding someone’s story builds compassion.
That compassion can lead to positive change.
And THAT is why we host an incredible program called The Speaker Series.
Be it a novel or a short chapter, people who know firsthand the realities of not having enough food to eat need to have their stories heard.
Through a series of eight weekly 2-hour workshops, Food Bank staff members along with a volunteer with experience in ToastMasters (an International Public Speaking organization) have been educating community members on public speaking and advocacy. They are helping those struggling to make ends meet get past self-doubt and stigmas so they can find their impactful voices.
In addition to the workshops, every year participants travel with the Food Bank staff and volunteers to Hunger Action Day in Sacramento (this year on May 6th). This serves as an exciting opportunity to use their newly-developed tools to effectively express themselves. They meet and educate legislators, so these elected officials can better advocate for the people they represent.
Upon completion of the program, we hold graduation ceremonies where the participants once again use the tools they have been taught to present a speech to their classmates. The pride they are feeling is visible when they are presented with certificates for their accomplishments. Over the past three years, we’ve had 32 graduates–9 males and 23 females.
As is often the case in life, when past graduates initially decided to participate in the Speaker Series to help others, they had no idea how much they would end up helping themselves. This program empowers people and taps into leadership skills they never knew they had in them. Many of our graduates consider their decision to participate in the Speaker Series to be a turning point in their lives.
“I was terriﬁed to speak in front of a crowd! The Speaker Series gave me conﬁdence to be able to open up to speak in front of people.”
– Patricia, 2017 Speaker Series Graduate and now Peer Mentor for the program
Not only have past participants built up their self-esteem during their two-month journey of personal growth, they also built lasting friendships with their classmates. Former classes have organized reunions after bonding over the leap of faith they all took together.
We’re thrilled to announce our 4th annual series is about to begin on March 11th and this year the workshops will be held in Vallejo. We are excited to begin working with our eight newly selected applicants including, for the first time, some community leaders! These leaders have lived experiences with hunger and have the desire to give back to the community. They will be an inspirational addition to the group this year!
Fighting hunger isn’t just about meeting the current need, it’s about stopping the cycle of hunger and this is why big-picture programs like the Speaker Series are so valuable to our society.