WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South Miami Valley Career Technical Center’s FFA Chapter hosted a Food Packing Event with Wittenberg University on Saturday, Nov. 3. 4
They participated in Wittenberg University’s Lesotho Nutrition Initiative, and they partner with the country of Lesotho in Africa to bring meals and nutrition to those in need.
There were approximately 70 volunteers at the pack, but not all of them were TVS FFA members. During the packing, there were students from National Trail MVCTC FFA, the Twin Valley South Girl’s Basketball team, and TVS alumni.
As co-founder Dr. Scott Rosenberg explained, there are many orphans in Lesotho and AIDS/HIV is also a rampant problem which results in the deaths of both adults and children who are infected. Many of the country’s children are malnourished which leads to them being behind physically but also academically. The country is virtually barren as only 10 percent of its land can be used for agriculture. The country’s climate is similar to fall or winter the majority of the year, which also makes it difficult to grow crops.
Rosenberg founded this project with his students, intending to bring food and much needed medical care to those in the country. His love of Lesotho stems from 30 years ago, when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in the country.
As a professor with Wittenberg, Rosenberg has taken 30 students to Lesotho per summer since 2003. They spend a month doing serve projects — working with orphaned kids, building houses, building chicken coops, working in schools, and more.
It was students from that trip that came to Rosenberg with the idea to do more. From there, the Lesotho Nutrition Initiative was born.
“We started this project three years ago. Lesotho is a country in Southern Africa and it is the only country in the world entirely surrounded by another. It is one of the 30 poorest countries in the world and has the second highest AIDS/HIV rate of any country in the world,” Rosenberg said.
“Nearly 35 percent of children suffer from sever or chronic malnutrition and stunting. It is particularly prevalent in children under the age of five. What the Lesotho Nutrition Initiative does is we host packing events like this, where we come to local schools and churches and set up packing events where we pack meals that contain rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and a vitamin packet with 21 vitamins and minerals.
“These meals are scientifically proven to not only halt malnutrition and stunting but to reverse the damage that has been done by it. Right now, we are feeding approximately 2,200 children in Lesotho. Most of them are under five and many of them are HIV positive and/or orphans.
“In the first two years of our project, we shipped over 670,000 meals to Lesotho. This year, our goal is to pack over 650,000. Each year we get a little bigger.”
TVS FFA Advisor Alison Derringer found out about the project through a pack a former student was hosting. She thought it would be a way for her students to give back to a country who does not have a lot agriculturally, all while fulfilling the FFA mission and giving back through community service.
“Our mission is to serve others and to enrich the lives of, not only our students, but those who we help. Being an agricultural based group, giving back to a country that doesn’t have a lot agricultural wise is all of those things and helps with mission of helping our students and others,” she said.
“Our students don’t really have an issue, for the most part, with basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. It is good for them to see that there are people who are less fortunate then themselves. By giving back through community service, they get to help others and they love doing it.
“I feel like this helps them have compassion and empathy for others who don’t have as much as they do. I think it also helps them to see that they are not here on this earth to serve themselves, but to serve others, which is part of the FFA Motto.”
Additional information can be found at www.lesothonutritioninitiative.com.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH