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Melanie Bloom

Living To Serve: FFA to Haiti

Posted by Melanie Bloom in Ag Ed in Bloom on Sep 24, 2012 11:34:06 AM

A few years back, you all remember the major earthquake that devastated Haiti.  A year and a half ago, some people from little ol? northwest Iowa (farmers, preachers, teachers to misquote Randy Travis? song) got together and started a project that has been amazing.  Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey (@bnorthey on Twitter) and other government dignitaries worked on the "Special Delivery: Homes. Help. Hope. For Haiti" campaign along with Iowa Soybean Association and Global Compassion Network (kinda headed up by two personal friends of mine).  The goal was to raise funds and raise over  40 specially designed homes (which resemble small grain bins designed by Sukup, an FFA-friendly company from Iowa - their engineering genius is evident!)  Each home would be accompanied by a package of food similar to those packaged during WLC the past few years.


My students started: they wanted to get involved packing meals here at school.  Within a week of that idea, I had a group of students bent on raising funds for one home themselves ($5700), then extended the application to traveling to Haiti - themselves - to build it and meet the people they were Serving.  The Haiti Project was born.  They set up a home during State FFA Convention in April and talked about their project.  Sounded like there were Iowa FFA members interested in learning more and maybe traveling in 2013.


In July, four FFA members traveled to Haiti with Dennis Anderson and Ken DeYoung of GCN and built homes, worked with orphans, and learned about their ag projects near Les Cayes (northeast part of the country).  I wasn't able to go, but the experience described to me when they return was obviously life-changing.  (By the way, there are several good pictures in this article).


Two weeks ago, my students helped set up and man the GCN display at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture conference in Des Moines - they met and talked to personnel from 44 states as well as other countries about their trip to Haiti and the project in 2013.  Most were very receptive (contact your Secretary of Ag's office and see if they remember the "grain bin home" in Des Moines.  This event was the coolest thing I've seen my students get to do in 11 years of teaching.  I was moved by the experience, and the students were so excited and proud to be part of it, and really stepped up to the plate to represent National FFA as well as their own chapter!


Sven (following an unsuccessful campaign for Iowa FFA Vice President) lead the team comprised of Brad (State Rising Star Award), Jordan (first year FFA member) and Carly (who joined us from another chapter for this project).  They're some good kids.  But they want all students to have the opportunity to travel to Haiti next summer to experience what they did.


Hence my blog post.  I want to extend the opportunity to travel with GCN to Haiti next summer.  My four students (and another 4-5 students from Sioux Central who hope to travel to Haiti in 2013) want to lead FIVE groups of FFA members from Iowa - and the US during June and July.  We have not started fundraising, and I don't have a lot of specifics nailed down since an FFA Service project like this has never been done before.


The cost for the 10-day trip was $1,200 per student in 2012 - costs will most likely be the same for 2013.  We will also need male and female chaperones for each group.  Our contacts in Haiti, which are primarily faith-based organizations, are also trying to jump-start agriculture projects (rabbits, chickens, wheat and other crops).  It sounds like SAE projects to me.  Very, very cool connections for our students.  Pretty sure I can relate all of it to the Common Core!  Communications, leadership, 21st Century Skills - they're all there.  Dennis and I were brain-storming last night - what if we found a contact at Disney World in Orlando, FL and set up the pre-trip prep day at Disney for each group so the students can gather in Orlando, do a final training/preparation and then fly to Haiti (and then another debriefing day following the trip before they fly home)?!?  Wow.  The ideas are bigger then I know how to organize, so I'm reaching out to my ag teacher peeps for the following help:


1) If you have contact(s) at Disney (a big dream, I know, but wasn?t it Disney that had the "When You Wish Upon a Star" jingle?!?)

2) If you'd be interested in traveling with a group as a chaperone.

3) If you have student(s) interested in traveling to Haiti.

4) If you know of organizations who might be interested in supporting the project in some way - students and Haitians could use seed, tools, gloves, clothing, etc - as well as financial support to provide some travel money.


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