Kenton (Ken) Ayers, from Stone Mountain, Georgia, is a five-time Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer with VEGA Member Winrock International and has assisted on projects in Bangladesh, Guinea, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
During his assignment in Guinea, Ayers analyzed the cashew value chain and provided guidance to further develop the cashew industry. More than 20 participants attended his hands-on training that covered the concepts of the value chain. Topics included how to select crops, identifying constraints and opportunities, designing interventions and implementing market-based solutions. Following the training, participants eagerly began implementing Ayers’ suggestions and created an action plan for the coming year.
Over the course of his assignments, Ayers has made countless contributions to local communities around the world. So what does the volunteer veteran think about the value of volunteering abroad?
“For me personally, international volunteering is one of the most exciting and fulfilling activities that I have done and continue to do. Over the years I have had many opportunities and I sense it is my responsibility to “give back” for the opportunities that I have received. Also, international volunteering helps me bring back an appreciation for other cultures. I enjoy the people-to-people approach of building relationships with the people and businesses that I provide technical experience. I feel that I receive more than I have given.
These Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer assignments are extremely worthwhile in providing win-win benefits for the volunteers and people that receive the technical expertise. A volunteer advisor that donates their time and expertise provides an efficient and low-cost method of bringing specialized talent and long-term impact to a development program. More importantly when I return home from an overseas assignment, I share my personal and professional experiences as well as my increased understanding of the value of foreign aid with my friends and community, showing win-win solutions for the United States.
I would recommend it to anyone that is considering being an international volunteer in gaining ways to sharing your skills, cultural exchanges, or gaining international professional experience. The Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer program is the best way that I know how to do it.”
*While this particular program was not funded through VEGA, this organization is a VEGA Member and this volunteer is in the VEGA network of more than 100,000 highly skilled volunteers.