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From a YES student: About the Global Youth Institute

November 5, 2009

John Keto is a 16 year-old YES student from Tanga, Tanzania. He is living with Peggy and Mark Chidister in Ames, Iowa. Sunday attends Ames High School.

John 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.”


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

By God’s grace, I got the opportunity to be one of the IRIS exchange students who attended the World Food Prize (WFP) Conference of the year 2009.

I didn’t have any idea whatsoever of what I was getting into at the time I chose to get involved, but I didn’t regret it later. It was a simple essay that we had to write concerning world food insecurity, and if it happened that one ended up being chosen, they would finally find oneself in a position of attending the conference.

It happened! I wrote an essay (at least a portion of the essay I expected to write [the summary]) and sent it to IRIS with other 23 IRIS-YES students. I didn’t know what was going to happen — just simply asked God to take control of the whole situation.

Days went by while the participants were chosen, and finally there were 6 out of the 23 (including me) who were chosen to attend the conference, and I just praise God because I knew that whoever was chosen to go, he had intended and the situation was under his control.

Days went by and all the six of us faced the ultimate test: the writing of the essay.

I didn’t think that it was a hard job writing the essay not only because we just had to collect data and put them together, but because God led through every single step of the essay writing.

It is true, I have to admit: I couldn’t have done it on my own without the hands of a few editors such as my present host dad Mark Chidister, IRIS associate Ashley Heffern, my upcoming host mom Allison Greenwald and many others who contributed in one way or the other.

Saying enough about the essay, now down to the real business: the World Food Prize itself.

Founded in the year 1986 by Dr. Norman Borlaug after he won a Nobel Prize in Agriculture in the year 1970, the World Food Prize has, since then, been honoring people all around the world for their tremendous works in developing either the quantity, quality of amount or food available within the world.

The individuals who receive the World Nobel Food Prize (alternative name for the prize) are known as the World Food Prize Laureates. A number of individuals including ministers, scientists and doctors have received this prize. These include Dr. M. S. Swaminathan from India (the first laureate to receive the World Food Prize in 1987), Dr. John Niederhauser from the United States (1990) and many more in every year since 1987.

This year, the second laureate from Africa, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, received his prize in the Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA on October 15th 2009.

Learning valuable lessons

I have to say that attending the World Food Prize Conference this year has taught me a number of things while challenging me to some extent as well.

I learned that this organization also had a youth institute along with it which allows high school students to participate in the program. The Youth Institute this year consisted of about 100 high school students within the U.S. and many more from around the world, some even from Kazakhstan and Peru.

The giving of a presentation before a group of educated and important people is not something that everyone gets to do every day and has experience in, but I got the chance of doing that. I made a presentation along with my partner and eight other high school students.

This was one of the most exciting and happiest moments I had in the whole conference. In my group, we spoke about problems facing various countries that I and my group members wrote about.

The most important part of this is that we didn’t consider solving the problems only in the countries we focused on in our essays but focused on the whole world as our area for action. This enabled the possible addressing of world food insecurity from the world level.

World Food Prize Internship Program

It would be a great mistake if I, by any means, forgot to say something about this: the World Food Prize Internship Program. I daresay that this is one of the most fascinating experiences of being in the Youth Institute.

Every year, the organization sends at least 14 students all over the world: China, Africa, South America, Europe and many other countries.

No, the students are not paid for this; they go out to these countries to help in the fight against hunger within the country concerned. They might get involved in anything from interviewing individuals of the area so as to obtain valid information on the real ongoing situation to participating in research of various plant species and anything related to that in one way or the other.

The individual (student) gets to choose the three most preferred countries to go to and later gets to go to one of the three listed.

It is a competition because most of the high school students that attend the conference end up applying for the internship. However, the 14 get to be chosen after a series of interviews and career assessment of the concerned.

This is what makes the World Food Prize even more breathtaking: it is all about the concerned, they play a huge important role in most of the decision-making.

All of these things come down to one strong point: The World Food Prize is dedicated to reduce and, if possible, eradicate world food insecurity. This is shown by the way that the organization gets involved with all kinds of kinds of people in different parts of the world, but especially the youth — knowing that the youth is the world’s hope for tomorrow.

They build in them the behavior of helping and getting involved with the rest of the world (through the Youth Institute and internship program) which lights their minds and shows them that life is much about others but a little about oneself.

Poverty and hunger reduction is possible, but only if all nations in the world together work as a team against poverty and hunger.

In this way, there will only be one aim within the policies of all of these nations hence increasing the possibility of winning the war, the war against poverty and hunger. So let us all go ahead and play our roles, roles that are important for poverty and hunger eradication, roles that will make a change in our world.

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