This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the Global Gateway program at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, as part of a Global Writing Workshop hosted by a professor at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.
I spent my first night in the Global Village nearly 16 years ago and have participated in the program (as both an outside participant and as part of Heifer Ranch's volunteer training) a total of six times now. While the details of the programming have evolved over the years, it remains one of the most impactful overnight experiences I have ever done.
You're not allowed to bring cell phones, etc. into the village, but they made an exception for my colleague, Annie, and me so we could tweet our experiences live and document our journey in real-time.
Twenty of usmany of us strangers to each otherwere divided into family units and spent the evening negotiating food, water and firewood. Dinner consisted of potatoes and onions, handmade tortillas and rice with carrots. Most seemed to get enough to go to bed somewhat satisfied. We gave birth to water balloon babies, had to make tough decisions (Do we help our family member or keep our cooking utensils?) and slept in conditions quite unlike those we are used to.
The view from the Guatemala House.
The refugee camp.
The urban slums. As luck would have it, this is where I stayed.
We learn a new method of starting a campfire from a Rwandan exchange student.
This is a basic composting toilet. Yes, a toilet.
This is where my six-person family chose to sleep. We opted for togetherness on hardwood over privacy in the dirt. There's something to be said about the security of sleeping in a group, even when you're strangers.
Breakfast Saturday morning. Sparse and bland, but very much welcomed.
Saturday morning chores. I did women's work: dishes.
After chores, we debriefed our experience and discussed the kinds of global issues Heifer faces in our work daily. As an insider, it was great to see new minds wrapping around solutions to hunger and poverty. The more folks out there who are aware of the issues and the work being done to solve these problems, the closer we come to completing Heifer's mission.
Why would I do this, you ask? Why willingly subject myself to a night of little food and sleepespecially considering I've done this before and even work for Heifer? For several reasons. First, it was an interesting opportunity to participate in the program with a group of writers. I'm still learning to think of myself a Writer, and I wanted to gain a new perspective on the work I do here at headquarters. Second, I wanted to hear what the professor from UALR had to bring to the table. We learned a bit about Walter Mignolo, cartoneras and Curbstone Press. And, third, for somewhat selfish reasons. I was 14 when I did the Global Village for the first time, and it was then I fell in love with Heifer's mission. As a young adult, I was a residential volunteer several times. Going back to Heifer Ranch and the Global Village is a bit like going home for me. I feel great peace with the rhythm of the place, and I feel energized about the work I do.
Have you ever been a Global Gateways participant? What was your experience like? If you've never done it, there are several locations where you can have the opportunity:
Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas
Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts
Howell Nature Center outside Lansing, Michigan
Shepherd's Spring outside Baltimore, Maryland
Be sure to check back soon to read about this experience from Annie, who did Global Gateways for the first time.