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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 State Reporter, Brittany Richert

This past weekend the State Officers had the opportunity to spend the weekend at the Heifer Village with the newly elected National Officers. Our group learned about the statistics of hunger and how Heifer is involved in changing those statistics. Our group also experienced living in typical housing conditions of third-world countries. For example, I spent the night in a circular brick hut with a concrete floor and a banana thatch roof. This hut did not have a door or electricity. There was no stove. The window remained uncovered in the cold night. To say the least, it was uncomfortable. Six of us shared a meal of three potatoes, five small carrots, and four turnips boiled on a fire outside the hut. The next morning, all twenty participants shared one communal pot of oatmeal, and then went about typical daily chores of Zambian and Guatemalan villagers.  I had a three hour drive home, so I obviously had a lot of time to reflect on my experiences in the Heifer Global Village. Now that I am home, I find myself in utter amazement at all the things I take for granted. I know I am so blessed to have the things I do, but to finally notice and appreciate the things I take for granted every day, and it is a huge wake up call.  When I walk into a room I flip a switch and never have to question the lights will come on. In my Zambian hut there was no electricity. Each person in my house has their own bedroom, with other rooms to spare. In my Zambian hut, six of us slept on the concrete floor in the only room there was. Not only do I have a locking door at the front of my house, I have a locking door to my own room. The Zambian hut had no door at all. I felt very exposed and almost unprotected. At home I have running water, both hot and cold. I have heat and air. I have a toothbrush. I wear makeup. I eat three meals a day and snack in between. I have pictures on the wall and food in my refrigerator. My family has several sets of silverware. I have enough clothes to pile up my dirty ones for a week if I’m lazy enough. My point is, when I “lived in Zambia” I didn’t have any of those things. These are things I take for granted every day. No, my family is not high class, but we do enjoy better-than-simple things. I get worn out on luxuries every day that other people never even hear about in their whole entire lifetime. This summer the State Officers hosted Hunger Banquets for the members and for the National FFA Alumni. We knew the facts and had sympathy, but now we know the feeling, even in one day, and have empathy. Sympathy and empathy are two different things. To sympathize with is to feel sorry for. To empathize with is to put oneself in to another person’s shoes, to understand their situation.  This summer the State Officers talked the talked, but this weekend we walked the walk. FFA members, it is time to take action. It is time to practice empathy and to improve others’ lives. The majority of the world goes without basic necessities every day. One in seven people on this planet are literally and painfully starving. We have the means to change the world. Now, let’s go out and do it. Donate food. Donate money. Donate time; volunteer. Promote awareness. Get informed! Make a difference. We must because we can.


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.