My birthday is on May 16th, and this year, the best gift I got, was an email informing me that I had been selected to participate in the Global Youth Institute (GYI), part of the World Food Prize that occurs in October. Since then my anticipation and eagerness for the event has dramatically grown. So you can guess how excited I was last week as I packed my bags to travel to Des Moines for this three day conference.
The drive there was a soothing way for me to get ready for the 3 days ahead of me. After checking into our hotel, and changing into the standard green-polo given to each of the GYI students, my teacher and I headed over to the Marriot hotel where most of the events would be taking place. From the moment I walked in I was mesmerized. The flags of each of the countries from around the world bordered each stairwell and a huge banner hung from the top floor of the hotel to the bottom with an intricate weaving of a woman harvesting a field. I stood for a few moments, mouth-ajar, just taking in the whole scene. When we got to the second floor, where all the panel discussions and talks would be taking place, security checked me in and handed me a head piece that would translate some of the speeches that were being delivered in a different language. That was when I really understood the magnitude of this conference.
Later that day I met my group which was largely diverse: we had people from California, North Carolina, and even Canada. We got to tour the World Food Prize building that was decorated with stunning pictures of people in living conditions far worse than I have been used to.
That night was the big watch party. All of the GYI students crowded into a room to watch the live telecast of the World Food Prize award Ceremony. Dr.Sanjay Rajaram was ceremoniously awarded the prize (equivalent to a Nobel Prize in agrarian research pertaining to food insecurity). The recipient had an Indian origin but had done all of his research in Mexico, so in honor of that, they had a cultural performance by an Indian girl singing Latino music.
The following day, I met a farmer from the region that I had researched and was able to have an in-depth conversation with him about problem he faced regarding food productivity. It was really encouraging to hear that many of the solutions I had suggested in my paper were beginning to be implemented.
Later the GYI students traveled to a food packaging site. Within 2 hours, we had packed 24,000 meals, showing us the power of teams and collaboration. All these meals were then sent to Libya to aid food insecure individuals. It was a great traveling experience.