Today’s blog post is from Justine Britten, sharing thoughts from her Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer experience in Nigeria earlier this summer:
“It has been nearly 2 months since I returned from my assignment to Nigeria. This was my first volunteer assignment with Winrock, or any other organization for that matter. The assignment was a curriculum assessment of a small agricultural college in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nigeria. I was an assistant to the associate head of my department on this trip.
It was amazing. I know that I cannot capture the full experience of the trip in words but hopefully I can come up with some of the essence. I am not new to traveling but admittedly it had been a while since I’d traveled to a developing country. This trip was an excellent reminder of how much I enjoy getting off the beaten path and experiencing real life in these countries. Abakaliki is by no means a tourist destination and it became apparent that we were the first Caucasians that many of these people had ever seen. So no, there were no wild animal safaris or ancient ruins to tour but what there were was real people, simply living their lives and doing the best they can for themselves, and they were warm and friendly and welcoming of us into their town.
Umuebe Farms College is a new, 2-year agricultural technology program that takes place on an established, working farm. The idea is that students can earn a 2 year technical degree and enter the workforce with employable, practical skills. Our job was to work with the college to do a full institutional assessment of the curriculum, administration and help them to increase enrollment. I loved touring and learning about the farm. Although it is small by American standards, it was in excellent condition. All labor is being done by hand but the animals, crops and production were in great shape. On the day we toured, there were some Animal Science students from the local University visiting to gain field experience. I especially enjoyed meeting two young women, who were Seniors, and telling them that I was also an Animal Science graduate, from the other side of the world.
As part of process of gathering information on the local industry and what employers are looking for, we spent a day in Enugu City, the capital of Enugu state and about an hour from Abakaliki, talking to some local business owners. I really enjoyed meeting these owners of small businesses and hearing their story of how they got to where they are. My family owns a small business, so it touched a personal note to hear how these guys started out with nothing and through hard work were able to build their companies into thriving and profitable businesses, which is not unlike the story of my own father.
Our time in Abakaliki was capped off with a formal presentation of our findings to the administration and owner of the college and then a huge send-off party that they threw us. There is no way I can communicate how special it is for people that do not have hardly anything, to make such an effort for us. It simply goes to show how giving a society can be, even if it is not a wealthy society. The party was a great time for everyone.
Overall, the trip was so rewarding and humbling. I look forward to doing more of these in the future.”