Who really cares about the poor? Some people often misconstrue what Jesus said in the scriptures: “…the poor you will always have with you.”
There really should be a war on poverty. Dr. Andrew Simone of Toronto, and his wife Joan thought so too – so they gave away their possessions and founded Canadian Food For Children, a volunteer (nobody gets paid) relief organization that shipped six and a half million pounds of food to some 36 developing countries this year.
This isn’t a bachelor we’re talking about – this is a family with 13 children, one of whom is adopted and mentally handicapped.
Dr. Simone, a dermatologist, kept this profession, built an office on to the back end of his house, and donated his income – minus household expenses – to the poor.
They kept the house. With a family this big, you need a big house. They were foster parents to 24 children. Then the Simones decided to throw themselves on the mercy of God.
This was back in 1961. How have they fared?
The Simones have only had to go from being rich to being poor. And that was their own choice. Have they been happy? Yes, it appears, in spite of the problems that face a big family logistically, very happy.
I think of McDonald’s, which in 40 years has become a multi-billion-dollar operation where a good many of the customers come there often for recreational eating only. Then Dr. Simone tells me that one dollar will feed 40 starving children for one day.
When I quoted screaming Malthusian headlines to him in our daily newspapers about “overpopulation,” Dr. Simone said, “It’s a lie. We have enough food in Canada to feed the whole world, also feed the unborn that we’re sacrificing. We have so much food in our country that we could give it away and wouldn’t know it was missing. As soon as we talk of feeding the poor,” he continued, “we talk about not having the money to feed the poor – forgetting the foreign foods we import. Five hundred million children are starving in the world today and there are some little children not getting one meal a day. There were 200 women and 40 children in a prison in South America. Before our food arrived, six women were dying daily of starvation. They were trying to live on two tiny potatoes a day. I suspect the children got the two potatoes. It’s called third-degree malnutrition.”
“There is too much selfishness in the world today,” said Dr. Simone. “We’re all too selfish. We’re not taking care of the poor and we’re not taking care of the unborn.”
When I complained that some greedy, uncaring companies had donated formula milk to nursing mothers, he explained, “The only time to use formula milk in third world countries is when the mother is dead.”
When I asked him what got him started in the work, he replied, “It was a great insight that we got from God. We felt called to share – in a radical way – with the poor of the world. Mother Teresa wrote us a letter and asked us if we could help Father West, a Jesuit (the treasurer of the ‘Co-Workers of Mother Teresa’ at the time), to send food to Tanzania and Ethiopia. They were experiencing a famine. The first year we collected 200,000 pounds of food and sent it to the White Fathers in Tanzania and to Mother Teresa’s Sisters in countries where people didn’t have enough to eat. Eventually Mother Teresa got so well-known that she didn’t need our help but other missionaries did. So, in 1985, with Mother Teresa’s blessing, we went out on our own and formed Canadian Food for Children.”
“Don’t forget to mention how much my wife, Joan, has been a part of this from the beginning,” stated Dr. Simone. “Often times she gets overlooked. I couldn’t have done it without her backing and enthusiasm. One time I thought of giving up being a doctor – I didn’t want to be a doctor any longer. Then we went down to Haiti to work in the clinics with the very ill. We began to realize that God wanted us to give up much of what we had and to live poorly in order to share more fully with the poor.”
Along with financial contributions to the registered charity, which has a non-paid board of directors, large food companies sometimes give donations. Parishes, schools and individuals donate food, clothing, and household supplies, and sometimes farmers sell large quantities of dried foods as cheaply as possible.
“Once we got a million pounds of food from just one company because they were changing the labels on cans of peas, chowder, spaghetti, and whatever,” Dr. Simone said. “We pack all these donations into 20- or 40-foot reusable steel containers that can hold about 40,000 pounds of food – enough to keep about 500 people fed for three or four months. We call them ‘Miracle Containers.’ Sugar, salt, flour, cooking oil, rice and soap are just some of the many things we need.”
When I asked who packed all the good in these giant containers, Dr. Simone replied, “Volunteers. We have hundreds of them. Older students – retired people – everybody chips in. When the containers are packed they are carried by truck or train and finally loaded onto ships to wherever they’re going. It could be Nigeria, Venezuela, Togo, Brazil, Guatemala – you name it.”
When I told him that it must cost a fortune to ship this food around the world, Dr. Simone said, “The Canadian government helps by paying half the transportation costs. They’ve also thrown in half-a-million pounds of powdered milk every year since we started nine years ago. We’re grateful for this help.”
When Dr. Simone apologized for not having the time to be more closely involved in pro-life work, picketing, etc., he said, “We have doctors who leave a Catholic hospital in Toronto and do four abortions that day somewhere else. There is no such thing as an abortion committee. Doctors go by the library and sign the forms for the abortions and leave. There are some doctors who are doing abortions in Catholic hospitals and deliberately hiding the fact. We pray for Henry Morgentaler around this house every day – by name that he may come to realize the evil of his ways. I have found it impossible to convince doctors who are doing abortions that they are doing anything wrong.”
When a doctor colleague was asked whether he ever intended to imitate Dr. Simone y giving away his wealth and serving the poor, he replied that he hadn’t reached that stage of spiritual development yet.