It began on a crisp winter evening with a delicious plate of food, glass of wine, wonderful company (my husband, Ed), and the general contentment one has after a full day’s work augmented with some outdoor play and fresh air. It was that time of evening when the kids are tucked in for the night, the stove feels cozy, and all seems right in the world. In our family, the word “kids” refers to two burros named Nikki and Norman, two cats, and a handful of chickens and ducks. We used to have kids of the Capra aegagrus hircus variety, otherwise known as goats, but that delightful crew had by this time grown up and old, leaving us for greener pastures in the great beyond.
The television was tuned into the PBS Newshour when a segment on Yemen caught my attention. It was the kind of attention where the fork with a steaming-hot, delectable morsel of food resting on its prongs remained suspended somewhere between plate and mouth. Ripped by five years of raging civil war, Yemen has become a brutal place to live, with devastating impacts on the mental and physical health of an entire generation of children. Thousands of children have been killed or maimed in the violence, over 10 million children are food insecure including over two million who are acutely malnourished, while two million children are displaced. As my morsel of food began to cool in earnest, I also learned that over a million children have fallen sick with cholera, diphtheria, and dengue fever, and the United Nations has warned that Yemen is at risk of the worst famine in a century. To put these staggering numbers in perspective, Save the Children estimates that more than 100 young children are dying from extreme hunger every single day.
My gratifying victuals and satisfied tummy juxtaposed with this abundant suffering amongst infants and children was overwhelming, and it didn’t help knowing that the US government is supporting this Saudi-led conflict. Polishing off my last sip of wine, I decided I would focus my efforts to help.
I own a small, home-based digital video company called Spike Productions. To help support emergency famine relief in Yemen, Spike Productions has spearheaded a new project called the Basketful Relief Project (BRP). The BRP’s objective is to raise money for emergency famine relief for infants and children while doing so in a collaborative and creative way that benefits everyone connected to this effort. To achieve these goals, under the BRP title I have begun a new adventure writing children’s stories in collaboration with local talented illustrators.
The BRP has also initiated a fundraising page for emergency famine relief in Yemen with Save the Children and has committed to donate monthly to this fundraiser a percentage of earned income from BRP book sales. This fundraising is ongoing in that once the fundraising page reaches its determined goal of $2,000, it will clear and start again.
The BRP is Spike Productions’ way to support established organizations in the business of emergency famine relief and care for children in need, while simultaneously enriching young minds with beautifully illustrated children’s stories, professionally published in hardcover, gloss-page format.
To date, the BRP has written and published three children’s stories: The Little Book of Why and Get to Bed!, both illustrated by Morgan Grace Quist of Boulder, and the most recent release, The Pond of Reflection, illustrated by Brooke Connor of Brooke Connor Design. These are delightful stories for varying ages, and each a go-to book for parents reading to their children time and again. A fourth book is in the works, a sequel to The Pond of Reflection called The Hyrax Song. Each book can be purchased online through BookBaby Publishing, Amazon, and locally at Red Canyon Art in Lyons.
The mission of the BRP is to publish beautifully illustrated children’s stories while fostering collaboration with local talent, and to donate a percentage of book-sale proceeds to support established emergency famine relief efforts in Yemen and the world. The BRP has begun the journey of filling tummies and minds with good food and good food for thought until there is no need for emergency famine relief.
No more hunger? Now this would be a fairytale ending fitting for a children’s book.
Donate directly to the BRP fundraising page for emergency famine relief in Yemen with Save the Children. For more information about BRP books and how to purchase one, visit the BRP on the Spike Productions website.
Catherine Ann Russell started her own digital multimedia company in 2002 after a career as a professional research scientist at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Moved to action in 2019 to help address the infant and child famine crisis in Yemen, Cat spearheaded the Basketful Relief Project (BRP) to support emergency famine relief efforts through the publication and sale of children’s books.