Friday, February 24, 2017

Andrea Fión’s US Travels Come to a Close

On February 4th 2017, as a Field Officer for the Farmer-To-Farmer Program (F2F) in Guatemala, I got the chance to travel to United States in order to participate in the 2017 Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JECP) Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Prior to the start of the conference, I had the opportunity to do a quick trip to Washington, DC where I had the chance to visit Partners of the Americas’ international headquarters. By further cementing our professional relationships, the visit to HQ provided with the chance to deepen the link between field office and the HQ staff. On February 6th, I was fortunate enough to lead a presentation on the work being done by the F2F Program in Guatemala. This was a great platform to unveil my work as a F2F team member and present to others the significant impact that F2F has had in Guatemalan communities for the last two and a half years.

During the presentation, I was also able to answer all the questions staff members had about the field work and what impact we were making. This was a great opportunity to link the coordinated work being carried out in the field and at Partner’s headquarters. The visit to our international office also gave me the chance to meet new members of the F2F team: Miss Stephanie Verganza and Mr. Andrés Varona, both Agriculture& Food Security Program Officers.  We were able to discuss subjects of common interest and solve doubts from the field office to the HQ office and vice versa.  

Later that day, Miss Peggy Carlson, Partners of the Americas’ Senior Director for Agriculture and Food Security, and I met with J. Erin Baize, Farmer-To-Farmer Program Analyst from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This meeting served as a great opportunity to share with her the pros and cons of USAID’s procedures for F2F field staff. We were also able to discuss and share with her the program’s success stories and the positive impact that has been accomplished by the F2F work in the region, specifically in Guatemala.

On February 7th, I met with Michael Moscarelli (Director for Agriculture and Food Security), along with Andrés Varona, and Stephanie Verganza to review Guatemala’s F2F Recruitment Plan for the next six months. We also had the chance to solve doubts and establish a better relationship between the program officers and the field office. Later that day, I left DC and traveled to Orlando for the JCEP Conference.

On February 8th and 9th I participated in the Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JECP) Leadership Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was “Emerging Leadership for Tomorrow’s Extension.” As part the conference, I was invited by four former F2F volunteers (Normal Samuel, Vanessa Campoverde, Shawn Steed, Lee Harrison, and Dan Culbert) to help them co-lead a panel session titled: “University Extension Educators Responding to International Emerging Issues.” Through this session, I was able to shared experiences about our F2F programs and promote the F2F Program to potential volunteers.  

All in all, this conference was a great professional opportunity to showcase the work of F2F Guatemala. All the seats in the room were filled and we had a fun, interactive session. I was very happy to represent Partners of the Americas and the F2F Program, and my country. The JCEP Conference was a great professional growth opportunity, I learned so much from it and felt more empowered as part of the F2F team. It was amazing to be on the “other side” of the work and have the chance to travel and share with others the work I do each and every day. I also believe this conference afforded me the opportunity  to learn more about the F2F Program itself as I was preparing for it; and not only from the Guatemalan end, but from the diverse perspectives of our other focus countries, Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic.
As a field officer, I feel this activity made me feel proud of being part of the F2F team.  While the work that Field Officers do is demanding, and it is also extremely rewarding as it determines the success or failure on any assignment. By giving me the chance to grow as a professional, I am confident that all of F2F Guatemala staff will benefit from these experiences. I believe opportunities like this should be awarded to Field Officers as part of their regular training and their engagement headquarters.

I had an amazing time visiting DC, it was my first time in this city and I just felt in love with it. I enjoyed touring the city on a bike and learning so much from the Memorials and the so many Museums, which I still can’t believe are free! I will definitely be returning. As for Orlando, although I had been there before, it was the first time I went there on “business” and it was a great experience overall. I also got the chance to visit Orlando’s attractions and had a blast!

I would like to thank all of the Partner’s staff members who made this possible and made my stay in DC an incredible one. A very special thanks to Vanessa Campoverde, who accompanied me in Orlando, to Daniel Culbert who introduced me to so many great people and started this whole adventure, and also to F2F volunteers, Norma, Lee, and Shawn. And once again, a big thanks to the wonderful Courtney Dunham who always believed in me and encourage me to always get better, all of this great success may honor her memory. 

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