Horticulture expert Gipsy D’Urzo returned last month from West Africa, having completed Winrock’s first volunteer assignment in Senegal for the Farmer-to-Farmer for Agriculture Education and Training Program, funded by USAID.
Winrock is grateful to have shared this milestone with Gipsy, and to have experienced her expertise and enthusiasm. “It was interesting to be the first volunteer in Senegal.Staff finished setting up the office just before I arrived. They were eager to get started,”she explains. “This was my first time to Senegal and to a Francophone West African country. I was very pleased with the experience, and I have a very, very good impression of the Winrock staff there!”
Gipsy started volunteering with Winrock and Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) “almost by accident” in 2007, after finding out about the program during a random internet search. She enjoyed her first assignment so much, she wanted to keep volunteering.
Eight years later, Gipsy has trained horticulture farmers in Kyrgyzstan, improved greenhouse vegetable and seedling production in El Salvador and Egypt, and assisted women farmers with their household vegetable gardens in Bangladesh, in addition to international assignments with other F2F implementers. On her latest trip, Gipsy provided training-of-trainers for faculty at the Horticulture Vocational Training Center in Dakar, Senegal.
Her work as a Winrock volunteer has directly benefitted more than 300 individuals… and beyond that, the assignments also benefit Gipsy herself, both professionally and personally. “Going on these volunteer assignments is always a good chance to learn, and not just cultural things. Professionally, I always learn a lot. It is often a big eye-opener. There is nothing like putting your hands in, talking with people, and assessing their experiences and their reality,” she explains.
Affirming the value of the F2F program – which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year – Gipsy notes, “What makes the program strong is direct contact between different realities. We [as volunteers] are martians, coming from a different world. We must do as much as possible on our assignments, in a short time period. This program exposes both sides – the volunteer and those receiving the training – to new things.”
Gipsy’s recent assignment in Senegal was the first of 150 planned assignments over the next four years. “I think the F2F Program in Senegal is going to be very strong. I have great expectations!” she says, with her signature enthusiasm.
…And so do we, especially after such a strong start, thanks to Gipsy!