WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) FFA Chapter hosted a food packing event with Wittenberg University on Thursday, Feb. 20. The group participated in Wittenberg University’s Lesotho Nutrition Initiative, partnering with the country of Lesotho in Africa to bring meals and nutrition to those in need.
There were 181 student and six adult volunteers at the packing event. Together, they packed 22,000 boxes to send to those in need in Lesotho.
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. This year they have a goal to pack one million meals and they are always looking for new partners to achieve this goal.
Rosenberg believes there are many benefits of partnering with the Lesotho Nutrition Initiative, one of which is the students learning they can make a difference in lives with their actions and time.
“One of the things I think makes us different, is there are a lot of things out there that asks you to write a check, but you know nothing about it and you’re not involved. What we’re asking from these students is their time, which I think is the most valuable asset they have. I’m hoping they take away from this a sense of what they are doing and that they are capable of giving back and making change,” he said.
“Sometimes I think it is hard for students to realize how much of an impact they can have. I’m hoping by doing this, they realize that in two hours today they’ve made enough meals to feed 3,000 kids for seven days. I hope they realize the magnitude of what they’re doing and how many lives they’re effecting.”
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.
“I hope [my students] realize it is better to serve others than always serve themselves. We have so much to be thankful for in the United States. Some of them don’t even realize that with the many things they have available to them, how fortunate they are to just have a good meal every day, let alone three or four good meals a day. Hopefully this gives them some perspective to appreciate what they have and hopefully want to give back more,” she said.
Through participating in the Lesotho Nutrition Initiative for two years in a row, Twin Valley MVCTC FFA Chapter members have learned how fortunate they are and seen how important it is for them to give back and help others with need.
“I think this is important for our FFA Chapter because it helps our chapter get our name out there, but we’re also helping kids in other countries. It helps our members open their eyes and see what other countries have and see that we have it so good in the United States,” FFA member Mackenzie Neal said. “We are very fortunate to have everything we have. It means a lot for us to be out here helping other countries and people who are less fortunate then we are.”
FFA member Jordan Glander added, “This also gets our organization out there and gives us more opportunities to do more community service, such as this. The people in Lesotho are very grateful for this food.”
Additional information can be found at www.lesothonutritioninitiative.com.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH