Our September volunteer of the month is fisheries and aquaculture expert Dr. Joe Sullivan. Joe served in the Peace Corps as a Fisheries Extension Agent in Zambia after retiring from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Since then, he has volunteered several times with Winrock’s USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program, completing two volunteer assignments for Winrock this year alone. His volunteer service for Winrock since 2002 has taken him to Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal.
During his most recent assignment in Nigeria, Joe worked with the Nigeria Cooperative Women Alliance (NICOWA), an all-female organization set up to assist women from all works of life to engage in productive ventures and attain self-reliance. NICOWA requested support from a F2F volunteer to provide training-of-trainers in catfish fingerlings production to a select group of its members who will go on to train other members of this group. Joe trained more than 100 women. He found NICOWA to be a well-organized cooperative with enthusiastic members dedicated to solving their problem of access to catfish fingerlings for their growers.
“I have been on around 18 volunteer assignments over the years and I would have to say, this one was the most memorable. The host was so enthusiastic about the training and what they could do with the information they learned.”
Joe is a very passionate fisheries and aquaculture expert. During his recent assignment in Nigeria, he was unable to return to the fish farm in the evening to inject the fish with hormones so that the catfish could spawn the next morning. Therefore, he took a couple of catfish in plastic tubs back to his hotel room so he could inject them in the evening. During the night, the catfish jumped out of the plastic tubs and were walking around the bathroom! Fortunately, Joe knows how to handle catfish.
Joe is also a big advocate of volunteerism and the Farmer-to-Farmer program. He recently wrote about his volunteer experiences with F2F for Oncorhynchus, the newsletter for the Alaska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, and he often speaks at public events to share his volunteer experiences. Joe says that when he talks to groups about Farmer-to-Farmer, he explains, “All you need are your skills and a desire to help people; Winrock takes care of everything else!” To be successful, he says, “the volunteer has to connect to the people he or she is training.”
After so many volunteer experiences around the globe, what inspires Joe to keep volunteering?
“It is so much fun and being able to connect with people of other cultures and know you are giving a hand up and not a hand out. Volunteering allows me to give my love and knowledge of aquaculture to others and see them benefit from these assignments. I always learn something new.”
Thank you for your great work, commitment, and service, Joe!