WATERLOO – It all started with her dad and his dream of wanting to see the world, which he made a reality, but then he pushed his daughter to make it a reality also.
Julie Moore, of Waterloo, traveled to Liberia for two-and-a-half weeks in partnership with the nonprofit organization ACDI/VOCA, which stands for Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance.
Moore’s dad worked with this organization for 25 years, and once it was time for Moore to retire from her job working for Sygenta Seeds as a credit manager, he strongly encouraged her to become involved as well, which is how she ended up in Liberia.
ACDI/VOCA is dedicated to expanding opportunities and empowering others, which is why they send people like Moore to developing countries to teach the local residents about different things to help them succeed in a global economy.
Moore explained that basically what she did in Liberia was visit a farmers’ cooperative and a credit union to teach the basics of financing and how to better their farming business.
A farmers’ co-op is a group of farmers that come together to strengthen their business. They are not just restricted to Liberia, they’re all over the world, including the United States.
“Eventually we got to a business plan, which is what you need when you go to get financing. The problem is, in Liberia banks don’t loan for agriculture, so I feel like I started a little piece of what they need, and hopefully when it gets to the point that banks do figure out that agriculture is profitable – they’ll be ready when that happens,” said Moore.
The farmers in Liberia are subsistence farmers, which means what they grow is what they eat. If they don’t grow anything – they don’t eat. Moore said that they don’t have a lot of abundance like the United States does, but they know what’s out there, and they’re definitely trying as hard as they can, but they just lack opportunity.
“Next steps may be finding banks that will loan to them, learning how to build storage facilities – even things like learning farming techniques because they’re farming techniques are basically a hoe and a machete,” said Moore.
One thing that left Moore speechless and heartbroken was the amount of poverty and pollution she saw.
“Beautiful sand beaches, or could be beautiful, but there was plastic trash everywhere. The waves coming in were bringing in more plastic, and it was just lines of plastic bottles, shoes, doll arms and it was so unbelievable to me that people have to live like this,” said Moore.
Moore said that she’s definitely not done yet, and she would love to continue doing this, but in more places than just Liberia. Her goal is to travel with ACDI/VOCA at least once or twice a year from now on.
Moore said that the people in Liberia were so kind. They always looked out for her, were there to help her with everything and they were so anxious to learn, but coming back to the United States, she just couldn’t believe how lucky we all are to live where we do.
“When I left the credit union – that last day they had a closing ceremony for me, which kind of still gets to me,” said Moore. “They bought me an African dress, and it was just like, you guys have nothing, and you’re giving me things. It was just amazing. So I think no matter where you are in the world, there’s good people, very good people.”
Moore encourages anyone interested in working with ACDI/VOCA to definitely look into it. There’s always a need for more people.
If you would like more information, visit their website here, or check out their social media sites by just searching “ACDI/VOCA”.