With Dignity

A couple of years back, FRB had guests from our development programs traveling with staff and host families here in the US. We were having farmers and staff members of our in-country partners in the US for 10 days to visit a few of our community projects and participate in two significant events in the state of Iowa, the Iowa Hunger Summit and the World Food Prize.

My wife hosted a woman farmer from Guatemala and the director of our partner there. She took them to some of the farmers around Rock Valley, IA in the project there so they might see harvesting, Iowa style. At one of the farms, as so often happens, the woman was given opportunity to drive the combine harvesting corn. She was so excited to be able to have the experience of driving a combine. She said, "I have never driven anything in my life! I have never even driven a car, but now I have driven a combine!" Later, I saw a post on face book from her companion from; "Aquí estoy manejando una "combi" o combinada en Iowa. como decía un amigo en guatemala, esto es grande!!! Who needs to translate that, you just know what he is saying.

Meanwhile, I traveled in Minnesota with a Hmong farmer from Laos and a staff member of our partner there. We had similar experiences with similar excitement. There are places where they live that are not even able to be reached by car, and here they were, driving tractors and combines and soaking in all the newness of their first time visits and first time airplane rides.

After nearly a week, FRB staff brought our visitors to Des Moines for the Hunger Summit and Food Prize. The 12 guests from 7 countries met each other and were able to share all their experiences and excitement and it was great fun to watch their faces as they shared their stories. However, when asked if they would share the most surprising or impressive thing they saw during their weekend visit........... no one listed the experience of driving a combine. We FRB staff were struck how each one of our visitors mentioned the feeling they had of being welcomed, being cared about, and impressed how willing these farmers and communities were to share with people they had never met.

Tuesday was the Iowa Hunger Summit and some of these same farmers were presenters in an afternoon session. To listen to the farmers, one man and 3 women, tell of their overcoming the hardships and obstacles in their countries was an incredibly humbling experience. Here they were in a strange country, in a room filled with strangers, sharing the powerful story of how life in their villages was now better because of the wonderful things they had accomplished after being given the opportunity and dignity of improving their own lives.

I can not fully describe how I felt to hear them tell their story, but it was very touching to me as I reflected on it. They looked out at their audience with clear and honest eyes that shown with passion. They sat nervous yet shared their stories unafraid...........with dignity.

Posted by By Ron De Weerd, Director of Resource Development

02/10/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment