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Monday, August 23, 2010

Notes from Zambia

August 19 and 20, 2010 BACK IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

After 22 hours of travel, we arrived safely in our nation’s capitol. Though the flight was long, the service was fantastic and the trip did not seem to drag by. We arrived around 8 in the morning and easily made it through customs and to the shuttle. Upon arriving at the hotel, we were warmly welcomed by National FFA staff member Cindy Hefner. We then checked into our rooms, enjoyed a warm shower and a couple of hours of leisure time before enjoying a nice American meal. Afterward, we assembled under the shade of a canopy of leaves in a nearby park, sat in a circle and reflected on the trip. As a group we answered Cindy’s questions about our experience and briefed her on the pros and cons of the program. We discussed how we can share this experience with others and how our knowledge of the COMACO model could be applied in our future careers.

We returned to the hotel conference room for one-on-one interviews with Cindy, questionnaires regarding the trip and surveys about the program. We also took time to write much deserved thank you letters to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for making this entire program possible. For our last dinner as a team, we had reservations at the Founding Farmers Restaurant in Georgetown where we had a wonderful meal and continued enjoying each other’s company.

The end of the day could not come soon enough so that we all could get some much needed sleep and recover from the jet lag that we all were experiencing. Thankfully we were able to sleep in for the next morning.

Our final day together gave us the opportunity to wrap up our debriefing and to take a few hours to view some of the sights of Washington, D.C. before we went our separate ways. Even as we viewed these amazing monuments and reflected on their meaning to us as Americans, our hearts and minds were still with the wonderful, intriguing people of Zambia. They have forever touched our lives and we hope that we have made a difference in theirs. We are very grateful for having been given this opportunity.


Along with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, many thanks to several very special people with the National FFA Organization and Foundation who played a major role in the planning and direction of this experience: Bill Stagg, Marilyn Ross, Julie Woodard, Marty Tatman, Nina Crutchfield and Michael Dolch. I deeply appreciate their support.

I would also like to thank members of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center administration for allowing me to take part in this amazing experience: Dr. Paul Coreil, Vice Chancellor and Director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service; and Dr. Debra Davis, Head, Organization Development and Evaluation Unit. I will have much to share with my AgCenter colleagues as well as our entire state as we continue to move forward in our mission.

Of course, along with the people mentioned above, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to the members of the Z-Team:

Laura Stump: University of Arizona

Jake Chilcoat: Oklahoma State University

Austin Larrowe: Virginia Tech University

Caleb Dodd: Texas Tech University

Wyatt DeJong: South Dakota State University

Catharine Kuber: Purdue University

It was my extreme honor and privilege to have worked with these six outstanding up-and-coming “movers and shakers.” Throughout this entire experience, this first-class group exhibited great professionalism, compassion, fortitude, courage and sense of humor even amidst environments and situations that were at times very challenging. I was continually impressed by their communication skills and willingness to share their particular areas of expertise with the COMACO professionals and local producers. They have touched my life in a very special way and I shall be forever grateful. I wish them the very best as they continue with their respective life journeys.


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