Jaunty Fashion, Proud Cultures, and Fighting Hunger in Guatemala and Ethiopia

men in red striped pants in guatemala


After a very productive scouting trip in Ethiopia and Guatemala, I’m home again — and I’m already looking forward to going back. I’ll be there again in April with our crew, to film a one-hour public television special on the hows and whys of modern development aid.
My trip was made possible by many wonderful non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and I’d like to credit them now for their support and commitment to making our world a better place.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a great impact on Ethiopia. They were my primary “fixer” there, and Meron Semunegus, from their Addis Ababa office, was my guide. Gates is synonymous with smart development in Ethiopia — a country with a changing image, thanks to recent progress.

I’m a big fan of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and part of the inspiration for this project came from David Beasley, the executive director of the WFP. A year ago, I had dinner with him in Rome, where he oversees the distribution of UN funds to fight hunger, and his passion for this challenge was contagious. On this trip, I visited WFP health posts in southern Ethiopia and Guatemala. In Guatemala, I worked with the director of the WFP there, Laura Melo.

In Ethiopia, I visited a village in the Tigray region supported by A Glimmer of Hope, which provided many vivid examples of how to help people help themselves. And we visited with Bete Demeke, who heads up Project Mercy — an NGO that’s innovating winning ways to stoke development.

In Guatemala, I hired Augsburg College’s Center for Global Education and Experience (my alma mater in Central American educational tourism) to provide me with essentially a private tour. CGEE’s Guatemala Site Coordinator, Fidel Xinico Tum, was my primary guide there. We met with Nate Bacon, of InnerCHANGE, to learn about Guatemalan gangs and life in a Guatemala City barrio, and Karen Larson of Friendship Bridge took us to see their microloan and women’s empowerment work at Lake Atitlán.

I spent a very busy day in Huehuetenango with the Guatemala director of Project Concern International, Pascale Wagner, seeing the impressive work they do — and another experience-filled day in Nebaj with Chris Megargee, seeing the inspirational work of Agros International in three communities (El Paraíso, La Esperanza, and Cajixay).

Every day on this trip, I met people whose mission is to help struggling people lift their lives out of poverty. And I flew home excited to make a TV special that shows that the battle against extreme poverty is a battle worth fighting — and it’s a battle we can win. Stay tuned.

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