Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, once stated, “let us remember the large numbers of citizens who, day in and day out, through acts of volunteerism large and small, bring hope to so many of the world’s disadvantaged. Let us ensure that this wonderful resource, available in abundance to every nation, is recognized and supported as it works towards a more prosperous and peaceful world.”
As we go into this 4th of July holiday weekend, celebrating patriotism and American values, I can’t think of a better way to summarize how I feel about the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program and its value — for our country as well — in today’s global world. American F2F volunteers donate their time and expertise, and in doing so, build bridges and goodwill in immeasurable ways. These F2F volunteers show the world that Americans are diverse; we are human and imperfect – just like everyone else; and we share some of the same hopes and dreams as the rest of the world.
I just returned from a trip to Bangladesh and Myanmar to learn about the impacts and changes that our F2F program is facilitating on the ground. There were many positive examples of improvements resulting from F2F volunteer training and assistance: cattle farmers who are producing more milk — and at a higher quality — after implementing improved cattle management techniques; teachers at agricultural universities who are using new tools and methods to engage students and foster deeper, more hands-on learning; avocado farmers who are now selling their fruits in the market for the first time. And so many others. But one of the things that strikes me the most, are the personal connections forged between the American volunteers and their trainees.
Village by village, country bv country, I was inspired by stories of these personal connections. In every case, people described their volunteers as kind, generous, hardworking, knowledgeable. I heard examples of how the volunteers are staying in touch after they return to the US, continuing to answer questions and provide guidance and inspiration from afar. I saw joy in the eyes of the farmers, teachers, and technicians who interacted with the volunteers, as they recounted their experiences. I smiled back at their smiles as they spoke, full of pride, about what they learned.
One farmer told us, “This changed our view of Americans.”
One of our NGO host organizations noted, “F2F is really doing something that is symbolic of the American handshake.”
One technician said, “This was our dream.”
It’s our dream too, as Americans, to live in a world where everyone can benefit from a good quality of life. I’m so grateful to be a part of a program that enables me to play a part in helping to make this happen.
Happy 4th of July!