Last month, a group of state officers from the Arkansas Association of the National FFA Organization  spent a weekend at the Heifer International Learning Center at Heifer Ranch and were generous to share their reflections with us. For your lunchtime reading this week, we'll pass these reflections on to you.

From Arkansas FFA State President, Victoria Maloch

Driving up to the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, AR, I realized something; I am selfish. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean selfish in a greedy, bratty way. What I am talking about is the type of selfishness that probably many of us have. I realized that most of the time I conveniently decide to turn away from all of the problems surrounding us, hoping that if I don’t think about it that it will simply go away. But, it won’t; all of the problems, poverty, and trouble in the world won’t disappear by simply turning our heads. And that, is what I realized was selfish; knowing the problems and issues that are out there and simply choosing to push it to the back of our minds. So yes, even I am guilty of being selfish.


The problem with this type of selfishness is that sometimes it sneaks up on you and manifests itself into the greedy, bratty selfishness. As I drove down the road toward Perryville, I found myself dealing with that kind of selfishness. Knowing that only one of the female state officers would get to room with Alicia, the only girl national officer, I found myself hoping that I would be the one that would room with her. The state officers were also having their Christmas party that night and I caught myself wishing for a great present. Did you catch that? I, I, I. Pure selfishness was what that was. But then I stopped myself. What in the world was I doing? On my way to have a third world experience at the Heifer International Village, I was being selfish? When I knew what I was going into and already had an appreciation for all that we as Americans get to have each and every day. And when I thought about how selfish some of my thoughts had been, I began to feel disgusted with myself. I knew that I had no right to feel selfish and my experiences over the weekend helped to draw me out of the selfish funk that I had found myself in on the drive up to Perryville.

On our first night in Perryville, we got to have our state officer Christmas party, get to meet all of the National Officers, and spend the night playing games with and getting to know each other. Also, joining us was 2 National FFA Staff members, a representative from the National FFA Foundation, an Auburn student representing Universities Fighting World Hunger, and Mr. Chris Bacchus. The next day, we spent the morning participating in fun team building activities. Some were even similar to the expedition challenges from ALC! (Whale tale anyone?) After lunch, we entered the Global Village. I was assigned to be a part of the Urban Slums. Out of all of the buildings representing our little community, only one of the shacks had a wooden floor. Since the other shacks had muddy floors, the 8 of us Urban Slums decided we had no other choice but to sleep together in what can best be described as a glorified chicken coup. Sleeping side by side, the shack barely had enough room for all 8 of us, it had wire sides, and a door that didn’t shut. Needless to say, no one got much sleep and in the morning I was pretty sure that my toes had just barely escaped frostbite. But, believe it or not, I still had a great time.

Now I’m sure you are wondering how that could be. I mean, I just told you how uncomfortable the sleeping arrangements were. My experience in the Heifer Village was great because of the ultimate revelation I had as I was driving back home. (Obviously you can tell by now that I do a lot of my thinking while driving)  After we entered the Global Village, the Urban Slums decided to gather with the other 2 communities and see what resources we had. Eventually, we partnered together with the Guatemalans and shared our resources. Thanks to the generousity of the Guatemalans, we were able to go together and cook our supper using our rice and their pots, plates, and vegetables. Later that night, the Urban Slums and Guatemalans sat around a fire (well, what little fire we could get started) and just talked. We shared funny stories, plans for the future, and so much more. After a night of admittedly not much sleep, all of the slums woke up at 8 in order to make everyone a breakfast of oatmeal with a few raisins and a little bit of brown sugar. Then each community left the village to do chores such as washing the plates, making bricks, and picking vegetables. Later we had a time to process and understand our experience.

Over the weekend I really discovered two things. The first, is that when you have little, you become appreciative or proud of things that we normally would turn our noses up at. A great example of this was our mealtimes in the village. The Slums and Guatemalans were so proud of our supper when at any other time or at any other place, if that were the food being served, I’m sure we would have just passed and waited for the next meal. Another great example is breakfast, when people would become excited that they received 2 or 3 raisins in their portion of the oatmeal. Finally, the second thing I discovered and the revelation I mentioned earlier is this, it’s not the things we have or the places we live that add to the quality of our lives. While those things do help our standard of living - something that this weekend even further grew my appreciation for - but in the end, it is the quality of our lives that really matters. What this experience taught me about our quality of life is that it is our friends, family, and relationships that improve our quality of life, not our things. I discovered this when I thought back to all that had happened and the fact that I still had a great time. The relationships and friendships that we were able to form with all of the other participants are priceless. They helped us to get through the cold and bad times. We discovered that when you have nothing else, all you have is each other, so you must value and rely on each other.

But this lesson doesn’t just apply to times when you don’t have anything. This experience taught me to value my friends, family, and relationships, because in the end those are the only things that will always be there for you. Take the time everyday to grow your relationships with friends and family and I guarantee you that you will find yourself happier and see that your quality of life increases.

My experience at the Heifer International Village in Perryville is one I will never forget. Not only did it help to further open my eyes to the needs of those in poverty worldwide, but it also taught me valuable lessons that I can apply in my everyday life. It was truly a life changing experience and I hope that one day you all will be able to have a similar experience, either at the Heifer Ranch, or elsewhere.

Author

Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She has a master's in social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is married, a mother of two, and a wannabe urban farmer, raising her own chickens and killing most of her vegetable crops.