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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

Arkansas Roots, Arkansas Volunteers, and Arkansas University Partnerships

By Patrick McBride with Tiffany Jacob, Sara Swisher, Kirby Richardson, Wes Manus, and Andrea Zekis contributing.

Winrock International is known for our work across the globe and throughout the United States, but we maintain strong roots in Arkansas, where our work began.

Along with our headquarters, Winrock Initiatives like Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub are still based out of Arkansas. Our U.S. Programs division continues work in Arkansas as well like our work with Lake Village, Arkansas over the past decade, leading to community revitalization.

Winrock also ensures that our roots stay deeply planted by engaging people from across the state of Arkansas in our Volunteer Programs. We have had a multitude of Arkansas farmers and professionals volunteer, but another way we have engaged is through University Partnerships, which have included volunteers from University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and University of Arkansas at Monticello, in addition to our 11-year partnership with University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. According to Tiffany Jacob, Director of International Programs and Outreach at the Clinton School, “Clinton School students have partnered with Winrock International on all three types of field service projects required: Practicum, International Public Service Projects, and Capstone.”

Partnerships began with Class 1 at the Clinton School with student Nancy Mancilla completing her Capstone Project with Winrock International’s Rural Energy Program in 2008. Jacob stated, “A more formal partnership between Winrock International and the Clinton School’s Office of Community Engagement began in 2016 thanks to Jen Snow, Associate Director of Agriculture & Volunteer Programs and F2F Director, and former Clinton School Assistant Director of Field Service, James Mitchell (now Senior Program Associate, Agriculture & Volunteer Programs at Winrock). Together they developed a clear process for placing students with Winrock teams in the field to complete projects. The placements are highly competitive among students and, based on student feedback, have proven to be some of the most rewarding projects academically, professionally, and personally.” Many of these projects through the formal partnership are USAID funded Farmer to Farmer Program projects.

Following are some experiences from Clinton School students in their own words:

Sara Swisher – Practicum (2017-2018)

“I was on a practicum team with three other Clinton School students (Wesley Manus, Wesley Prewett, John Mensah) at the Wallace Center at Winrock International. Our project was to create a recommendations report for how the Wallace Center can engage with community food and agriculture organizations in Arkansas. The biggest lesson I took away from the experience was learning how to work on a team. My favorite part of that project was being able to interview different organizations and learn more about Arkansas and its rich agricultural history. These takeaways helped me in my other field projects in Peru and Little Rock.”

Click here for a Clinton School Blog on this Project

Kirby Richardson – International Public Service Project (2018)

Kirby Richardson

“I was lucky enough to be accepted for a position with Winrock International as part of a project in Yangon, Myanmar. My job over the summer was to support the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) team with the Value Chains for Rural Development project.”

“Something that I learned from this experience is that, while I have traveled extensively for pleasure and for study, no experience can adequately prepare you for working abroad besides the actual act of working abroad. It did not seem like it would be such a different experience from studying abroad for a semester, but it certainly is. Life moves differently within the professional context, and I suspect that that is true regardless of where you are. Interpersonal relationships matter in different ways. Communication takes on a different form, often more practical than cerebral. Consequences for mistakes can be more severe. Expectations are often higher, and time is often in much shorter supply. Add those stresses to the stress of having to engage with a new culture, a new context, and a new set of expectations; that is what it is challenging about working abroad. Luckily, the VC-RD staff are excellent mentors, and each of them taught me a great deal about the joys, and the challenges, of international work.”

After graduation from Clinton School, Kirby will be completing an additional volunteer assignment in Myanmar with VC-RD.

Wes Manus – International Public Service Project (2018)

“Working with Winrock International on USAID’s Asia Farmer-to-Farmer Program was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The geography, people, and cultures broadened my horizons and allowed me to conduct final impact surveys of Winrock’s work in Bangladesh and Nepal. The experience gave me the opportunity to interact with young entrepreneurs, farmers, and university students focused on improving the lives of women and youth to develop a new generation of leaders.”

“In Nepal, young entrepreneurs are starting new businesses and disseminating agricultural technologies. In Bangladesh, women-led initiatives are supplementing family incomes with small-scale agriculture and improving their self-determination. In both countries, agricultural universities are implementing water efficiency methods and advanced breeding techniques to reduce environmental impact and improve yields for fish farmers.”

“Winrock’s cadre of expert volunteers, with deep knowledge in everything from business development and public speaking to goat rearing and advanced breeding, are the heart of these improvements in people’s lives. In the short-term, people are able to better help themselves and improve their livelihoods. In the long-term, the literal and figurative seeds planted by Winrock’s volunteers are being cultivated by future leaders who will guide their countries through a new generation of prosperity.”

Andrea Zekis – International Public Service Project (2019)

The 10th collaborative project between Winrock International and Clinton School is scheduled for this summer. Student Andrea Zekis will be working with Winrock in Nepal to support the USAID-funded Feed the Future Knowledge-based Integrated Sustainable Agriculture in Nepal (KISAN) II project with a variety of research and writing activities.

Andrea stated, “I chose Winrock International for my summer International Public Service Project because I felt our interests aligned. I have a background and passion in geographic information systems, I wanted to expand my skill and experience set into matters involving environmental and agricultural issues. The project requires someone with some professional experience in journalism, which is something I possess. Meantime, I get to work in a country which has expanded its civil rights protections to respect the lives of LGBTQ persons like myself. I see the experience working with Winrock International this summer as an opportunity to bring my entire skill set and self into the work, while working with an organization with clearly defined project and professional expectations in areas which I would like to gain experience. When I learned they would allow me the chance to meet and learn from their own GIS specialists as well, I could not pass the opportunity up.”

Patrick McBride – Internship (2019)

I guess it wouldn’t be fair to leave myself out. I am currently a graduate assistant and student at Clinton School, graduating in May. I was attracted to Winrock based on their commitment domestically and internationally, and what I saw as a strong commitment to effective strategies of helping some of the most vulnerable populations. I started an internship at Winrock International in January working with our Agriculture & Volunteer Programs team to mobilize our USAID Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers and help them in the transition from home to their overseas assignments. Since starting, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to engage with passionate volunteers and help connect them with international opportunities.

Here is a list of some other projects Clinton School students have worked on:

2011, Bangladesh (IPSP) – Moksheda Thapa

This project focused on two distinct programs: the Farmer to Farmer project and Rural Enterprise for Alleviating Poverty. For the FTF program, this project produced guidelines for impact monitoring. For the REAP program, this project conducted primary data collection which informed a list of recommendations for increasing the participation of women in the program

2016, Nepal (IPSP) – Sarah Fowlkes

Conducted a mid-term impact assessment to analyze the impact of Training-of-Trainers (TOT) assignments with youth-serving host organizations and informal agriculture education and training (AET) providers in Nepal and Bangladesh.

2017, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal (IPSP) – Caroline Dunlap

Developed an internship model for in-country young adults enrolled in agricultural programs in Nigeria, Senegal, and Guinea. Dunlap developed a framework that will help educational institutions prepare their students to successfully complete internships and help private sector hosts mentor and prepare them for the workforce.

Since graduation Caroline has completed an additional volunteer assignment in Senegal.

2010, Uganda (Capstone) – Elrina Frost

This project provided recommendations for how GIS could be used with socio-economic data from NUDEIL’s monitoring and evaluation department.

2017, Little Rock (Capstone) – Darlynton Adegor

Developed an Evaluation Framework for the Wallace Center’s Community Based Food Systems Project (CBFSP).