CRL connects farmers to volunteer opportunities overseas
Beth Hyser doesn’t normally compare herself to Cupid, but these days the program coordinator of Catholic Rural Life is undoubtedly playing the role of match-maker.
But instead of potential romantics, her targets are people with agricultural and/or business skills. And rather than affectionate bliss, she offers the chance to take part in meaningful volunteer opportunities overseas.
It’s all part of an exciting partnership between CRL and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). CRS recently began administering the State Department’s Farmer to Farmer program in East Africa, and CRL was asked to help in the recruiting process.
The role may seem out of the ordinary for an organization devoted to rural communities in America, but Hyser says CRL’s connection with rural Catholics across the nation made them an “appealing” partner.
“Our main priority is to make people in our network aware of the Farmer to Farmer program and to provide consultation,” said Hyser.
The Farmer to Farmer program offers volunteers 2-3 week assignments in one of five East African countries. Participants help train locals in everything from crop management to financial skills. Travel costs and basic expenses are covered by CRS.
Hyser described it as a clear example of “living out the values of Catholic social justice.”
“You can provide real help and training to people who don’t have access to a lot of things that we take for granted,” she said.
CRL aims to connect 10-20 volunteers to the Farmer to Farmer program annually, and is receiving modest financial support for CRS for their efforts.
So far, six people have signed up for the Farmer to Farmer program through CRL. Hyser underscored that they come from a variety of walks of life. Volunteers include recent college graduates, a farm service bureau employee, and a dairy farmer from Wisconsin.
None of them have been selected yet, but Hyser says they’re excited about the possibility.
“They think it’s a great and unique opportunity to do so some good in the world.”
Hyser says volunteering for the Farmer to Farmer program is a four-step process.
First, potential volunteers need to hear about the program, and learn how they might be able to participate. She says they can visit the CRL website for more information or give her a call at 651-962-5955.
Next, potential volunteers sign-up at the CRS website. Then, CRS matches applicants with volunteer opportunities in East Africa, and CRL participates in the screening-process. Finally, if all goes well, volunteers travel to their assignments.
Hyser stressed the fact that Catholic Relief Services is a trusted and reputable organization, and that volunteers will be in good hands in the Farmer to Farmer program.
“Really, there are so many reasons to go,” said Hyser, who is considering volunteering herself. “It’s paid for, you get to travel, and you really have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”
So while potential volunteers might not find true love, many will discover the program is a perfect match.
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