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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 Southern District Vice President, Emily Hawkins

There are eight of us walking down a long narrow path while we carry all we have on our backs. We are a family. Our eldest was soon to be bedridden if we did not get medicine for him soon. We barely saved him, but in the process we had to trade all of our metal for his medication. Another is pregnant and will give birth any day now. We will have to find shelter soon at least for tonight. After a few minutes we reached our destination, and might I add we were pretty excited to get this evenings' exploration started. Quickly we put our sleeping materials in the best place we could find and then rummaged through the few supplies we had left. In our food basket we had almost two cups of rice, which could last a while. We also had a rag or two. They could come in handy, but I was starting to worry. We did not have any pots, bowls, or even silverware, but we did have each other. There was not any firewood close around to use, because it has rained a lot lately. What would we do? I knew we would need all the strength we could get for the night to come, especially with the baby coming. So a plan was made. The elder stayed back to watch over our belongings while half of us went West to the surrounding villages and the other half North to do the same. We did this to ask if any other families had anything to spare. 

Our group made it to a Guatemalan village. I could tell this family was well off. They had chickens, a goat, and a beautiful garden. Not to mention a gorgeous house and running water. There were four of them. Each came out greeting us with very warm smiles. They also had someone expecting. Listening to us with open ears, the Guatemalan family graciously invited us to dinner that night and also granted us with an unlimited amount of water supply. We were filled with much joy just thinking about the dinner we would soon get to eat. We hurried back to tell the others. Everyone was so excited. We now had a place to sleep for the night, a warm meal, and fire wood the other group had received. What else could we ask for? There was absolutely nothing else, because we were so blessed for the night! The family in the Zambian village was not as kind. The Guatemalan family had also invited them to dinner, so we could all have a big feast. We learned the Zambian family had the best and most dried wood out of all the villages. Two members of that family had agreed to bring wood and a few more vegetables before asking the rest of their family. After going back and discussing, the other members of the Zambian family did not agree. So we lacked a little bit, but nothing we couldn’t live without. Dinner was being made.

The dinner with the Guatemalan family was wonderful. To top it all off while the food was preparing the Guatemalan’s had their baby. Everything was going great. Afterwards we invited our new friends back to our place to gather around our camp fire. We told several stories and got to know each other very well. Our baby was delivered at this time, and everyone was excited. After a little while we all decided to start heading to bed, because it was so dark and getting very cold. We parted our ways after inviting everyone to breakfast. It was the least we could do. 

Waking up this morning around 7:15, but I’m not really sure. My back is killing me, I cannot feel my feet because it was so cold last night, and I really don’t want to leave; I just want a little more sleep. I peek around my cover to see the structure that kept part of the wind off my family last night. It was not much. It was basically an old run down chicken coop, but it was better than sleeping on the bare ground with no protection from the weather or any of the animals living in the woods. My family and I momentarily live in what everyone else calls the slums. This doesn’t matter to us though, because home is where the family is. Moving around so much we have to view it this way.  At any given moment the police or anyone for that matter could run us out. We do not have much to carry, but there is only so many hours in the day we have to find another shelter for the night. For the time being we only worried about breakfast and our chores for the day. The Guatemalans brought oats, brown sugar, and raisins. We cooked the meal and dispersed it among us. Even the Zambian family came despite their recent decisions. We all made peace with each other and ate our meal happily. Later in the morning we washed the dishes that were used, and then joined the Guatemalan family making bricks.

Isn’t it funny how we live our lives day by day not thinking about poverty or world hunger? When we skip a meal later that same day we will say “Man, I’m starving!” Without even thinking we can say something that seems so small, but in reality happens everywhere twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The experience I have described was my own at the heifer international village in Perryville, Arkansas. Along with the National FFA Officers, the Arkansas FFA Officer team had the most amazing opportunity to live one night like someone in poverty. Though it wasn’t as severe, I now understand a little more about poverty and world hunger. I could barely sleep throughout the night. Each time I woke up I wanted to scream “How can people live like this?!” Then just as quickly I realized many people do, and not by choice. There I am feeling discomfort for one night, while people live like this every single day. This not only happens in other countries though. Many live like this here in America, basically in our own back yard. We walk by several people every day not truly knowing if they had eaten yet that day. Faces we see on a regular basis can seem so happy, even though they know the only meal they will receive that day is from school at lunch time.  Our theme this year is I believe. As FFA members we need to believe we can do all we can to help end world hunger.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.