Congressional champions, government officials, nonprofit organizations, major corporations and thought leaders gathered to celebrate the vital role of American volunteers in effective global development
Washington, D.C. — On International Volunteer Day, December 5, in Washington, D.C., a broad spectrum of youth and skilled volunteers, congressional champions, government officials, nonprofit organizations and major corporations gathered to celebrate the contributions of volunteers to effective global development.
At the International Volunteer Day Forum and Awards Celebration, thought leaders and doers celebrated the vital role of American volunteers, discussed the special value of volunteers in multi-stakeholder efforts to meet this century’s global development and security challenges and called for prioritizing effective volunteer programs and policies in the new Congress and Trump administration.
The heart of the day was an awards ceremony for remarkable volunteers with powerful stories of the impact around the globe and here at home. Awards were given for the exceptional service of seven volunteers who hail from California, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., gave the keynote speech on the value of volunteers and prioritizing volunteer service in U.S. foreign assistance. Former Senator Harris Wofford presented the BBC Award to Steve Rosenthal. Justin Finnegan, USAID, Bureau for Food Security’s Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, offered remarks about the successful John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program and presented the award to Charlene Nash of Tennessee, who was also invited to join Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Dec. 6 at the Tennessee Tuesday Breakfast co-hosted by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Later this week, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif. will present VEGA Farmer-to-Farmer SPSP Voluteer of the Year Awardee Neelam Canto-Lugo with a Congressional Commendation.
More about Farmer-to-Farmer 2016 Volunteer of the Year, Neelam Canto-Lugo
Nominating Partner: Winrock International
In May of 2016, Neelam Canto-Lugo completed her first Farmer-to-Farmer assignment with the Women Development Advocacy Center (WDAC) in Nepal to assist youth, women, and community organizers by providing training on technical proposal writing, career development strategies, and effective communication techniques. Neelam’s time in Nepal had such a profound impact on her that she returned home determined to raise funds and collect computers for WDAC’s digital literacy project, which provides computer training to economically disadvantaged women in the Dhanusha district and places them as teachers in rural schools. She also raised funds for WDAC’s micro-enterprise acceleration project that helps empower and provide resources to select small business owners. To date, she has raised $9,800 and received a donation of 11 laptops for these projects. After completing her first assignment in Nepal, she returned just over three months later to continue her work with WDAC, training staff to better assist rural entrepreneurs and boost the growth of the small enterprise sector. She conducted several well-attended trainings, one of which attracted roughly 150 women.
Neelam often goes above and beyond the call of duty. She consistently participates in various outreach activities including an appearance on Nepal TV to discuss her work in country, several rotary and university speaking engagements to share her experiences, and she was even invited to a small Nepali village to participate in two blog conversations about her work.
Neelam’s dedication to serving the people of Nepal has not gone unnoticed, especially by her own beneficiaries. She was recently notified that WDAC is creating a “Teacher of the Year” award and naming it after her. “They’re in love with me and I am in love with them,” Neelam said of the honor. “Very rarely have I encountered such kindness and affection in the countries that I have traveled. I encountered so many young men and women who have become my lifelong friends.”
Neelam Canto-Lugo is a retired professor of Yuba College, in Yuba City, California with more than 36 years of experience in education, communications and global business consulting.
More about Farmer-to-Farmer SPSP 2016 Volunteer of the Year, Charlene Nash
Nominating Partner: National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA-CLUSA)
Charlene Nash has volunteered three times with National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) F2F projects this year for a total of 48 days, once in Zambia under the VEGA SPSP, and twice in Senegal. In Zambia, Charlene supported the Chipata District Farmers Association and Community Oriented Development Program members in improving peanut seed production. During the improved soil fertility portion of the training, Charlene introduced compost tea and demonstrated how a solar air and water pump can be used to brew the tea, which is poured over the soil and the compost. Charlene left the device with the farmers and gave instructions so they could each brew tea for their field and then pass it along to other farmers.
Charlene also worked with a group of farmers on marketing strategies for selling their peanut seeds to other local farmers and buyers. She helped them design a logo for their seeds and donated money to the program to get the first 1,000 labels printed. As of September 2016 these farmers are now selling their peanut seed to local buyers in the newly labeled packaging.
Charlene’s dedication to the F2F Program goes far beyond her volunteer work on the ground in Africa. In 2012, Charlene started a nonprofit called Soil Resources Initiative to raise funds to purchase inputs and training supplies for her F2F assignments. Over the past four years she has raised approximately $15,000! Charlene’s goal is to expand Soil Resources Initiative’s fundraising efforts after she retires and can dedicate more time to the nonprofit.
Charlene Nash’s impact is not only in the number of assignments she’s completed, but also in her tireless efforts in the U.S. to educate her community about the important work the U.S. government is doing to promote sustainable international development through the F2F Program.
Charlene, originally from Columbia, South Carolina, is the Senior Horticulturalist at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she has worked since 1992.