Celebrating Women Humanitarians

Surina Goel, Communications Intern

On August 19, 2003, a terrorist attack hit the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people. Since 2008, August 19 has been designated as World Humanitarian Day to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people impacted by crises around the world. 

In honor of this year’s theme, #WomenHumanitarians, we celebrate the contributions of all of our volunteers, especially our women volunteers. In 2018, 6,122 Partners volunteers and members served more than 11,000 hours. 

Farmer-to-Farmer is one program that has provided a platform for many highly skilled women volunteers. Volunteers support farmers and agribusiness professionals in developing countries to improve their livelihoods and food security. The program sends volunteers from the U.S. on need-based assignments to provide hands-on training and mentorship to communities, cooperatives, agribusinesses, and educational institutions. Over the next five years, Partners plans to complete 610 volunteer assignments in Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, and Jamaica.

Melanie Forstrom has served communities as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. As the first volunteer of the 2019-2023 cycle, she worked to shape the youth development strategy in the Dominican Republic, providing trainings and frameworks for agribusinesses and cooperatives to integrate youth development programming. Forstrom has worked in youth development for almost two decades and is a 4-H Association Issue Leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Clare Licher shared her expertise as a volunteer with our 2013-2018 Farmer-to-Farmer program in Haiti and Jamaica. During her two-week assignment in Haiti, Clare worked directly with the Haitian nonprofit Fanm Limye. The organization assists beekeepers in cultivating essential oil-yielding plants to provide nectar for their bees and creating scent candles made from their beeswax.

While in Haiti, Licher gave trainings and shared techniques to assist the farmers in cultivating essential-oil plants that would provide nectar for their bees, scent candles made from beeswax, and oil distillation training. Thanks to Licher, more than one hundred small farmers and beekeepers in rural Haiti have improved their capacities to simultaneously support their bees and supplement their income. A farmer herself, Licher has operated her Arizona-based family business, PhiBee Aromatics for over 30 years.  

In March of 2018, Kathleen Lestina served as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer in Colombia. She leveraged her experience as a business owner and designer to assist Zue Botanicals in its expansion to the United States. Found in natural grocery stores like Whole Foods, the beauty line is a brand of quinoa-based natural cosmetics that emphasizes sustainable, ethical manufacturing and fair trade to improve the lives of quinoa farming communities in Colombia. Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers have been integral to the growth of Zue, as several agricultural and technical volunteers have helped train indigenous farmers to harvest quinoa.

Partners celebrates the work our Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers do to connect, serve, and change lives. Partners of the Americas has been an implementer of the USAID-Funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program since 1991. Interested in joining us? Learn more about opportunities to volunteer with our Farmer-to-Farmer program here and volunteer assignments here.