Edie Shannon, who has just returned from Soumbalako, Guinea, shares the following insights: NOT
Central Guinea is a long way from my home in miles, and centuries away in living conditions. I am here to work with a large farm union to help them in organizational development. They know they should be doing more than they are for their farm association members, but don’t know where to begin.
The training has gone very well, despite the fact that we are in Ramadan, and my people, all Muslim, cannot eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. Bright, willing, hot, tired and hungry, they struggle with concepts that are so new to them; management, marketing, strategic planning.
One particular day, I am informed that the next day I would be visiting a potato field. And, as the field belongs to the president of the union, and despite the fact that the visit would in no way forward the training, I agreed.
It led to one of the most wonderful experiences in my life.
I thought the road to my village was bad, until we left that road to go to the potato fields.
We drove through rocky fields, down steep hills to cross rivers and up again. We arrived at a beautiful stand of corn, adjacent to the potato field. At the other end of the field, a group of stoop laborers, all women, worked in the potatoes. I was chatting with the President, who was showing me the fields, when I heard singing. And, in a group the women were walking down the edge of the field toward us, and singing.
“What are they singing?” I asked. “Welcome to the stranger”. The president replied.
Over, and over, and in beautiful voices, they sang, moving toward us. I turned and walked toward them, my arms open. They walked faster, singing.
When they got near, they surrounded me, I extended my hand, and said “Mink Oh Edie”.
My name is Edie.
Filthy callused hands grasped mine, I was shaking hands with both hands, their hands reaching over each other to greet me. Babies on the back. Dirt up to their elbows. Children as young as four working side by side with the women.
I told them I had done that kind of work. Because I have. I told them I remembered how it made my back hurt. They all nodded in agreement. We smiled as we exchanged names.
A look from the president sent them back to work, smiling back at me as they walked.
Maybe not so far from home, as I thought!