ECHO: Cultivating Relationships
Written by Plant With Purpose on September 30, 2010 in General
by Colin Richard
I recently had the opportunity to go to a demonstration farm called ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) for a week to take a course on tropical agriculture development. Having been a big fan of Plant With Purpose for a good while, it was an amazing experience; ECHO has been a helpful resource for Plant With Purpose over the years, and many of the techniques and concepts in use at ECHO are being implemented in Plant With Purpose’s programs abroad.
The first stirrings of ECHO began in the early 1970’s and continued to develop in the form of projects in Haiti until 1981, when Dr. Martin Price (who continues to live just around the corner from ECHO, remaining active there and now also at the Au Sable Institute for Environmental Studies) joined the organization and helped refocus ECHO’s role as a supportive agency for other overseas agricultural development organizations. Dr. Price warmly invited our class of 19 over to his home for dinner, and it was great to have the opportunity to connect and converse with him. He shared with me some of his sometimes bewildering personal journey with God from a promising career in academia to a less certain life path as liaison to agricultural missionaries. His powerful story can be found here.
Our week was a busy one, with our class staying on the ECHO campus and meeting daily from 8am to 5pm, spending most of our time listening to lectures and the rest on the farm or in ECHO’s densely stocked library. Class participants had come from various backgrounds and locales, some being expatriates living abroad at home on furlough, and others being foreign nationals who came just for the class. Still others were just getting their very first real exposure to agriculture and development. We shared meals, got to know each other, and had the opportunity to encourage each other as we exchanged ideas of what we’d love to see happen with the knowledge we were gaining in the class.
One thing I really valued was the emphasis on how to relate to people living in challenging life circumstances that are likely to be very different to those we as Westerners are used to, especially in regard to material poverty. To be able to give these people the dignity and respect they deserve and acknowledge that they, despite their apparently humble existence, have plenty to teach us is crucial in setting the stage to form authentic and enduring relationships. Cultivating crops is certainly important, but will only have the chance to produce the desired outcomes if relationships are cultivated first.
Colin Richard has volunteered many hours at Plant With Purpose over the last few years and served as our Haiti Relief Intern after the earthquake on January 12. Recently Colin said, “Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ‘There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one hacking at the root’. I’m proud to be part of organization that is “hacking at the roots” of poverty and not just the “branches”, holistically empowering the rural poor of the developing world to be agents of change in their communities.”