International Volunteer Day Event on Capitol Hill Honors Bipartisan Members of Congress and Outstanding Volunteers, and Features New USAID Initiative to Leverage Pro-Bono Private Sector Expertise
Washington, D.C.—On December 5—International Volunteer Day—on Capitol Hill a broad spectrum of skilled volunteers, bipartisan congressional champions, USAID leadership, volunteer-sending organizations and experts from the private sector gathered to celebrate the contributions of volunteers to effective U.S. global development and discuss a new USAID initiative to leverage pro-bono private sector expertise to reduce poverty and promote prosperity worldwide.
The heart of the day was an awards ceremony for remarkable volunteers with powerful stories of impact around the globe and here at home. Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) awarded six outstanding VEGA and Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers for their service who hail from California, Canada, Massachusetts, Montana, Wisconsin, and Virginia by way of Texas. Scroll down to read their stories and quotes.
Six bipartisan congressional champions were recognized by VEGA for their leadership on USAID programs and policies that leverage American generosity and private sector expertise for more effective global development.
Listen to the audio recording of the event here:
Michael Deal, President & CEO of VEGA:
“We are grateful for the commitment of these members of Congress to ensuring that USAID fully and effectively leverages skilled volunteers for more prosperity and security at home and abroad.”
These Members of Congress in turn thanked VEGA, Farmer-to-Farmer implementers and congratulated the Volunteer of the Year Award recipients. They also spoke in favor of continuing to provide opportunities for skilled volunteers to contribute their time and expertise to help achieve U.S. foreign assistance goals.
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA):
“The work of American volunteers has made an impact for people in developing nations worldwide, and I have been proud to work with them and organizations like Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) wherever possible. I appreciate the volunteers andadvocates being honored here today. VEGA’s network of skilled volunteers greatly furthers the impact of USAID’s meaningful work.”
Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA):
“Congratulations to our dedicated “Volunteer of the Year” Award recipients and thank you to the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) for hosting this international volunteer day celebration. I am honored to receive this special “Congressional Champion for Volunteers for Global Prosperity Award,” and proud to represent several VEGA member organizations and highly skilled volunteers from Virginia’s 11th District. These generous volunteers offer their valuable time and expertise to not only promote growth and opportunity, but also share the best of American values and innovation around the world.”
Rodney Ferguson, President & CEO of Winrock International, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, thanked Senator John Boozman (R-AR) for his leadership and said:
“Senator Boozman is a champion for utilizing American generosity and expertise to generate economic growth across Arkansas, America and the globe.”
Senator John Boozman (R-AR):
“There are two types of people in this world—givers and takers. We have a roomful of givers at this event. I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate, honor and thank them for offering their time, energy and skills to help those in need. They truly have left a mark on this world by saving lives and building goodwill for the U.S. around the globe.”
Ferguson also recognized Representative French Hill (R-AR) saying:
“Rep. Hill understands that effective economic development requires partnership with the private sector—including pro-bono private expertise that saves taxpayer dollars and shares the best of American values through person-to-person diplomacy. This is why he supports Winrock and the successful VEGA and Farmer-to-Farmer approach.”
Representative French Hill (R-AR):
“I am honored to be recognized as a Congressional Champion on International Volunteer Day by VEGA. International volunteerism through groups like Winrock International in Arkansas is a symbol of our nation’s commitment to encouraging international progress, creating opportunities for those less fortunate than ourselves, and advancing growth throughout the developing world.”
Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY):
“Our nation’s humanitarian efforts continue to make significant differences in the lives of people across the world. Through smart investments and diplomacy, the U.S. has saved lives, strengthened our national security interests, and created a more stable global community. I will continue to support these efforts, and I thank VEGA and USAID for their work to tackle international development challenges.”
The featured speaker, James Peters, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator & Acting Global Water Coordinator in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education & Environment (E3), spoke about a new initiative to build on the successful partnership with VEGA and the Farmer-to-Farmer Program: Volunteers for International Security and Prosperity (VISP). He explained that this new initiative will leverage volunteers to reach U.S. global development goals. Peters described VISP as a mechanism through which USAID will maximize development impact and efficient resource use by mobilizing the creative capacity of volunteers globally.
There was also a lively discussion among the expert panelists and audience about this new initiative and current programs creating jobs and opportunity around the world.
CONGRESSIONAL CHAMPIONS HONORED:
Senator John Boozman (R-AR)
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA)
Representative Dan Donovan (R-NY)
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Representative French Hill (R-AR)
VEGA Volunteer of the Year 2017 Award Recipients:
Kate Coffey – Nominated by Land O’Lakes International Development, Canada
Lisa Larson – Nominated by IESC, from Galveston, TX, currently living in Alexandria, VA
Michael Messier – Nominated by Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC), San Diego, CA
Matthew Amato – Nominated by National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA), Medford, MA
Wayne Burleson – Nominated by CNFA (Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture), Absarokee, MT
Erin Schneider – Nominated by NCBA CLUSA, La Valle, WI
James Peters, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator & Acting Global Water Coordinator in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education & Environment (E3)
OTHER SPEAKERS & PRESENTERS:
Representative Scott Peters (D-CA)
Linda Akanvou and Virginia Bunker, NCBA CLUSA
Angela Canterbury and Michael Deal, VEGA
Ryan Donovan, Credit Union National Association/World Council of Credit Unions
John Douglas, Davis Polk’s Financial Institutions Group/Financial Services Volunteer Corps
John Ellenberger, Land O’Lakes International Development
Rodney Ferguson, Winrock International
Ed Keturakis, Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture
Andrea Patrick, IESC
**These speakers are available for comment**
Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) is a consortium of volunteer-sending, nonprofit organizations that generate prosperity worldwide by creating partnerships that bring together volunteers with people seeking skills for self-reliance. Since 2004, VEGA has impacted the livelihoods and futures of over five million people with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other partners through 65 programs in 50 countries and more than 47,000 volunteer days, saving more than $34 million taxpayer dollars. VEGA’s diverse 28 member organizations represent millions of Americans.
About the Farmer-to-Farmer Program:
For more than 30 years, the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program has promoted sustainable economic growth, food security and agricultural development worldwide. Funded by USAID through the U.S. Farm Bill, volunteer technical assistance from U.S. farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives and universities helps developing countries improve productivity, access new markets, build local capacity, and conserve environmental and natural resources. Since 1985, more than 16,000 volunteers have served in 111 countries with more than 11,000 local host organizations, benefiting more than 1.2 million people.
*International Volunteer Day is an international observance designated by the United Nations since 1985.