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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

A Malian’s First Time in the US! – Volunteers host Farmer-to-Farmer staff in several states

Jen Snow

Earlier this month, Farmer-to-Farmer (FtF) country director Bara Kassambara came to the US for the very first time. It was enlightening and endearing to experience our world through Bara’s eyes and to hear his observations of everyday life in the States. –I assume this is no different than how Bara (and our other country directors) must feel when staff and volunteers come to his home country. These kind of exchanges are part of what make Farmer-to-Farmer so special.

Bara had a whirlwind trip to five states and Washington, D.C., hosted by former volunteers and Winrock staff. Here are some highlights from Bara’s journals:

April 29 – May 1 (Conway, Arkansas) : Volunteer Douglas Isanhart warmly welcomed me in his family and drove me through the countryside to see many places.


Bara & Doug in Arkansas

May 2 – 6 (Juneau, Alaska) : Mark Stopha, FtF volunteer, welcomed me in his family and also brought me to the sea for a fishing party. For the first time, I could see deer on the seaside and whales in their natural environment. Our attention was to catch some salmon, but instead of that -very amazingly- we caught a 125 pound halibut!!

Take a look at this fish! A historic catch!

I also had the opportunity to be interviewed on the local radio KTOO to talk about FtF and the security situation in Mali.


May 7 -9 (New Jersey and New York) : Former Winrock staff Jaimie Bleck hosted me in her family and organized some visits to meet with parents and friends. This gave me the opportunity to talk about my country and also to learn more about American people and culture.

Bare with Jaime Bleck & family in New Jersey

What caught my attention most during the trip: -the American sense of patriotism, which is visible everywhere; -Americans are all hard-working people and are aware of the benefit of their efforts; -Americans are respectful of laws and regulations; -waste management at every level, whether in individual or public properties.

The trip allowed not only a better understanding of American people in general but also the enhancement of family and cultural ties to ultimately improve volunteer management and FtF program implementation in Mali.

Everyone was so proud to show Bara around… and as much as he learned while he was here, he also taught us about how to be good hosts in our own country and reminded us of why we should be proud.

Also, didn’t this make you want to go out and experience a new country yourself?