Making a Difference

By Lisa M. Campion

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

“What did you learn?”

Members of the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows Cooperative Society (BOWW) in their store during a training session led by Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Lisa Campion. Copyright Lisa Campion 2014, used with permission.

Members of the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows Cooperative Society (BOWW) in their store during a training session led by Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Lisa Campion. Copyright Lisa Campion 2014, used with permission.

This question was a main question I asked on a daily basis. Every day for 11 days, I worked with the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows (BOWW) Cooperative Society to build their capacity in leadership and management training. Over 11 days, I trained almost 500 people, of which 350 were women, as a volunteer for the USAID Farmer to Farmer program. BOWW is located in the Lira District of Uganda Africa.

So what did BOWW learn?
“I learned not to be lazy and to work in my garden. That I am now part of a group and need to contribute.” Said one women in a session (Note: This was translated for me. A “garden” is their farm field). After attending a session and being educated about what a cooperative is, what the roles and responsibilities are of members, the board, the officers and the manager, and learning about how to be a leader in their homes, community and cooperative, this woman along with others learned the important lesson that if you want to be successful, you need to work hard towards your goals. The day after this session, I saw this woman everyday working in her garden tirelessly weeding and planting.

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“I learned that I need to share this information with others who couldn’t be here,” said another woman. There were several deaths in the community that occurred while I was visiting. The whole community would travel to the funeral and burial services. However, on the two days when there were ceremonies, people still showed up to learn. The most important thing they told me they learned was that they need to share information so others, not just themselves, know more and can benefit from the knowledge.

“You changed my life. I lost my husband in war and am a widow. Without BOWW, I would have no one to help me, to talk to me, or to help support me. Your lessons have taught me how to be a better leader, woman and person to help make BOWW succeed,” said another woman. In hearing this, tears came to my eyes. Each of the attendees shared similar stories about how BOWW and knowledge from myself, the Farmer to Farmer volunteer, has helped them come from a darker place to someplace where they have food, clothes, and can send their children to school or to the doctors.

These are some excerpts from participants throughout the training. I’ve tried capturing them in my journal, but they are translated so they are not the exact words of the participants.

So what did I learn?
I learned many life lessons while on this journey. There are too many to tell in this one blog post, but I will share a few. The participants I trained at BOWW Cooperative Society told me that their people had been at war for nearly 16 to 20 years with Sudan and Congo. They told me stories of their lives before, during and after the war. They told me how they had lost many people during the war. They told me how their people once had established communities, but now they were trying to rebuild their lives into what it once was with the help of others. They told me how “blessed” they were to have me sent to them to teach them how to succeed and reach their goals. In listening and seeing their community, I definitely did not know how to relate to what these people had been through as I had never experienced it myself, but I knew I could try use my compassion, kindness and care in teaching them as much as possible so they could lead a better life.

The children of the Ober North Parish in the Lira District on a school break coming to see Lisa before she departed for the United States. Copyright Lisa Campion, 2014, used with permission

The children of the Ober North Parish in the Lira District on a school break coming to see Lisa before she departed for the United States. Copyright Lisa Campion, 2014, used with permission

I also learned that, in order to make a difference in someone’s life, you need to try to experience it for yourself, determine potential solutions, and then work with them to give them the tools they need to succeed. I feel that this was easier to type and say that it was for me to accomplish this in the field. By going to Uganda, trying to experience as much of their lifestyle as possible and truly seeing it with wide-open eyes, I understood what the participants needed to learn in order to succeed. I then became very flexible in how I taught each lesson to them. I had to use a variety of communication techniques along with really having a good relationship with the translator. I learned so much about myself in teaching others that it has made me become a stronger, more adaptable person.

I am so thankful for the opportunity I had with the BOWW Cooperative Society and the ability to make a difference in the world. It was an honor to be a USAID Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, and I would highly recommend it for anyone interested.

As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food. Read more articles on this topic on Agrilinks. Also, make sure to subscribe to receive a daily digest in your inbox, for one week only!

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