About six weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Christian Community Development Association Institute. One of the presenters handed us a poem that resonated with me and I would like to share it for this week's blog. As a staff member of an organization that focuses on world hunger I usually center around the stories of development, so this poem of U.S. poverty is a bit different slant for me, but when you reach the last paragraph you will read the very words that have become a primary theme or maxim at the Foods Resource Bank.
In the Mambere-Kadei area of the Central African Republic, not only do people raise crops, some tribes also herd cattle. The Fulani people are renowned for their love of cattle and as a people group, they span multiple borders from CAR north to the Sahel desert. Peter and I were privileged to visit several groups of Fulani cattle today and were able to speak with two Fulani men about their cattle practices versus those of Peter and his dad in the US. Peter, a cattle man at heart, looked absolutely at home amongst the long-horned Zebu.
We started our trip with several flights, finally landing in Cameroon. After a short sleep we piled into a truck with four others and began a day-long journey driving East across Cameroon. At 4pm we were safely at the border after eating our fill of omelettes later in the day. Once we got over the border and through all of the passport formalities, we made our way to the Eglise Evangelique Baptiste (EEB) mission station. The station was developed by Swedish missionaries decades ago, and thanks to them there exists a 120 bed hospital, housing, a nurses training school, bible school and elementary school.
A trip of a lifetime lay ahead of me. I was going half way around the world to Laos and Thailand, to a world I knew little about. For weeks prior to my departure, I busied myself preparing for this adventure; studying about the countries, getting my immunizations. Anxiety and excitement surged over me all at the same time. Packing became a major ordeal. After all, I take 3 weeks to pack for a long week end and THIS was 3 weeks halfway around the world! I’ll take my grey slacks (they won’t show the dirt); I’ll pack my black slacks too (they’ll show even less dirt). Don’t forget my Khakis (for dress-up), throw in a skirt or two, some hiking shoes, some walking shoes, and oh, don’t forget the sandals. Find a place to shove in the hand sanitizer, a head lamp (for those nighttime treks to the latrine…I think that’s just an “uppity” word for outhouse), some sunscreen, insect repellent, a trekking pole, some Kleenex and baby wipes (I’d heard stories about those “no toilet tissue” places, and I figured, if these work for babies, they would be just fine for me). Don’t forget the long undies for the cold nights in the mountain villages, and the short undies for the hot humid days in town. Remember to pack the allergy pills, the Tylenol, the cold tablets, the Band-Aids, the lip balm, the Dramamine, the sinus tablets and anything else a good pharmacy could put in a suitcase.
Part of Foods Resource Bank’s strategic plan is to involve young people in the growth and development of its programs. This is the perfect time of year to go to the FRB website at www.foodsresourcebank.org to see how you can help support FRB in a variety of ways, in a number of different countries.
It was so exciting to hear of the travels of Nicholas Kuperus and Abby Genzink to Africa on an FRB program visit this summer, but prior to their departure a part of me thought, why weren’t their seats made available to other “more experienced/mature” individuals who could appreciate this opportunity more? How could the world of Xbox, Wii, Facebook and Twitter be set aside long enough to make this trip meaningful?
When you work for FRB, you talk to the most interesting people from the most fascinating growing projects! I just got off the phone with Burt Keefer from the Pigeon MI growing project in Michigan’s “thumb.” (For those who don’t understand the reference, just look at any map of MI – or the U.S. – to see our state’s mitten shape and our famous thumb.)
The Pigeon growing project is unique in that, in addition to soy and corn, they grow white winter wheat, edible beans like navy beans (for your pork ‘n’ beans!), “black turtle soup” beans (for your black beans and rice), and sugar beets. Michigan’s thumb area is a large producer of sugar beets for the refined sugar industry. Thinking of garden beets, I asked Burt, “What do they do with all the red?” Well, there isn’t any red in sugar beets! They kind of look like huge turnips, pale and elongated, not round like a red beet.
Because it’s been obvious to me that long term sustainable development is necessary to address the real issues of hunger and poverty in our world, it is a great privilege for me to serve on the board of directors of the Foods Resource Bank (FRB). After retiring from business, I responded to the 2003 call from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) to run their Disaster Response Services program. (CRWRC) is a founding member agency of FRB). There is a great need in the world today for organized and compassionate assistance when disasters strike and I am proud to be part of an organization that delivers help in the form of volunteer labor, food and other relief services to disaster stricken communities all around the world. But CRWRC is also committed to the long term development of communities, going way beyond the immediate recovery from the effects of a natural disaster. Therein lies the basis for CRWRC’s partnership with FRB.