Sequoia Ireland: 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award Nominee
This article was edited from two articles written by NCBA CLUSA: you can read more here.
Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Sequoia Ireland completed her assignment with NCBA CLUSA in Senegal in May of 2016, where she brought her expertise in organic gardening and animal health to partner with Senegalese farmers. Partnered with umbrella organization Aprofes, a local women farmers’ group in Senegal, Sequoia headed out with F2F to train women-owned producer groups and cooperatives in four villages across the Kaolack region.
Sequoia quickly adapted her trainings based on assessments made during initial meetings with each group’s leadership. Working with limited resources meant Sequoia had to get creative with her lesson planning. She brought posters and visual aids, and gave the women practical hands-on examples. For example, in villages where crops had already been planted, Sequoia focused on composting and improved soil fertility techniques to ensure the crops received the maximum amount of nutrients. She helped the women explore methods to combat pests, provided trainings on intercropping, and also conducted mini-science classes using locally available ingredients to teach the groups how to perform simple soil fertility tests.
Sequoia knew that to have the greatest impact with her trainings, she needed to gain their trust and build a deeper connection with the women. To connect with the women on a more personal level, Sequoia shared stories and photos of her family and explained her challenges with gardening in her backyard in the US. As Sequoia explained, “There’s a lot of hard work raising fruits and vegetables, and to be able to show them that I was doing it at home as well helped with the trust.”
Sequoia then used her F2F experience to help build a relationship with the middle school science class she taught in Costa Rica. The students laughed at many of her stories of adjusting to Senegalese culture and learned how science is applied on a daily basis in people’s lives.
Sequoia’s trip to Senegal was her first F2F assignment, but not her first volunteer experience. Committed to sustainable agriculture and helping others, Sequoia also volunteers at Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture in Alexandria, VA, educating youth and adults on organic and urban gardening.
Volunteers like Sequoia are the future of the F2F Program. The F2F Program is fortunate to engage so many veteran volunteers who are senior experts and retirees in their fields, but it’s the passion of young professionals that will help F2F thrive far into the future. Sequoia’s assignment in Senegal was her first trip to Africa, and it was a game changer in her life. In fact, the experience solidified Sequoia’s desire to pursue a career in international development and sustainable agriculture. Going forward, Sequoia is considering donating seeds through the Farmer-to-Farmer program and has her retired science teacher mother hooked on a potential future assignment.
Sequoia summed up her trip by saying, “I learned that you’re going to make family wherever you go in the world.”