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From a YES student: My experience at the World Food Prize

October 29, 2009

Sunday Ishaya is a 17 year-old YES student from Bauchi State, Nigeria. He is living with Diane and Terry Pollard in Alta, Iowa. Sunday attends Alta High School.

Sunday was one of six of IRIS’s YES students chosen to attend the World Food Prize Youth Institute in Des Moines from Oct. 15-17. In addition to several activities, he presented a research paper on the topic, “National Responses to Food Insecurity.”

WFP students

Ndeenga, Suleiman, Sunday, John, David and Miriam at the WFP Youth Institute

On Thursday morning, October 15, I got up early in my hotel room with my host family and got myself ready to go to an exciting new experience at the World Food Prize in Des Moines. I was very excited to have this opportunity, because I knew I was going to meet many new people and learn many new things.

When we got to the Holiday Inn, there were different students from different parts of the world as well as IRIS students. They included Ashley, John, David, Miriam, Ndeenga, Suleiman and Jessica. We were given World Food Prize polo shirt and all the materials we needed. We took our luggage to a room, and then I went quickly to the bathroom to put on my new shirt, because I had my orange speech club shirt on! For some reason, they didn’t want me wearing orange!

We loaded in the transport van, and we were taken to first get the exciting opportunity to hear Mr. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and a world humanitarian who gives much money to help fight against AIDS. His speech to all of us was challenging and gave us much information.

The rest of the day Thursday was a very busy and long day. There were so many things to do and see and learn. We had an orientation so we would know what was going on for us and what we were to do while there. The events for WFP were held at the Marriott downtown, and it was a very nice and big facility.

Around noon, we had a luncheon at the Marriott where we also heard a guest speaker who is the Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.

YES students meet TZ ambassador

John, Suleiman, Ndeenga, Miriam and John met with the Tanzanian ambassador, Ombeni Sefue

In the afternoon, it was our responsibility to go to the State Capitol building and take care of meeting

and greeting the dignitaries from all over the world. This was a very exciting opportunity to meet people we had never met before and who were involved in many things related to agriculture and nation-building.

On Thursday evening, the big event took place in the House of Representatives for us to hear the WFP Laureate, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta from Ethiopia. He was responsible for developing sorghum hybrids that are resistant to drought in sub-Saharan Africa and have enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people. He received a $250,000 World Food Prize Award. This was amazing!

Friday we got up very early (almost too late – ask Ashley!). We hurried to get in the van, and we went to the Marriott again for a full day of learning again from lots of different speakers.

In the middle of Friday morning, all of the students went to pack food in bags for the country of Tanzania. This was a very exciting thing to do and see so many students working very hard together. The teamwork was amazing! We packed about 15,000 packages of food for people in this country who are in need. This is really cool! Everyone was so surprised at how many packages we did in a short time. It was like a big assembly line in a factory – and everyone worked very diligently and very well together. It was a good lesson to learn about how people can work together to get something done for others.

After this, we came back to the Marriott hotel and listened again to Dr. Ejeta from Ethiopia. We then went to the Des Moines University and toured it. Then, we listened to the former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack. He is now the U.S. Agriculture Secretary. He spoke to us about his future plans for agriculture in the United States and also in Korea what he would like to see done.

Hunger Banquet

Ndeenga sits on the floor and eats white rice at the hunger banquet

On Friday night around 5 p.m., we had what was called a hunger banquet. We were allowed to choose a colored paper which indicated where we would be seated for this. We began with an ambassador from Africa speaking to us. We then found out what our colored papers were all about.

  • The people who were seated on the floor represented the beggars and people in the world without enough food to eat. People on the floor had only white rice and water.
  • The people sitting on horizontally arranged chairs were middle-class and people who lived a comfortable life. The people on the horizontal chairs and rice and beans and water. Their rice was better than the white – it was spicy and flavored.
  • The people sitting at the round tables were the richest people who had enough to eat and enough to give away.  The people sitting on the round table and rice, chicken and cake and all kinds of drinks!

The idea of the hunger banquet was that the poorer people had to find a way to get food from the richer by bargaining things to purchase – such as wristwatch, cameras… anything we had to get food from the rich! The purpose of this was to teach us that not everybody in the world enjoys the same lifestyle and the condition of some people in the part of the world who had no food to eat – they have to find a way to get food from one person to another. This was a good lesson for us to learn.

We got to bed very late on Friday night, and we were very tired. We kept very busy all day learning many things, which was a lot of fun.

On Saturday at 7:30 a.m., we visited the Pioneer Carver Center, which was a place that conducts research on producing seeds. We had our breakfast there, and we met some ambassadors and interacted with them and other dignitaries. It was then time for a group photo of the essay students.

Sunday group discussion

Sunday participates in group discussion during the WFP Youth Institute

After that, we went to our separate groups and made our presentations on our essays we had written. Then we gathered our ideas from our essays in our group and had one person to represent us in the general presentation time of all the groups.

We concluded by listening to past WFP intern students telling us about their experience in the internship program. I took some pictures with the former intern students and other participants of the World Food Prize. And then it was time to load up and go home!

The World Food Program is one experience that I will never forget in my life, because it impacted me a lot and helped me see the people I have never thought of seeing. Two thumbs up to IRIS for bringing me the opportunity to be here in America in the first place and also for the opportunity given me to be in the World Food Prize program – an experience of a lifetime!

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