The Groundwork of Change
There is a saying in Vietnamese that goes, “Có công mài sắt có ngày nên kim,” meaning, “The labor of finely sharpening a piece of metal will one day produce a needle.” My journey with sharpening my block of metal dates back to 4th grade. Coming from a refugee background, my mom emphasized the importance of education being a pathway to a better life. Her memories and stories of poverty that she experienced in Vietnam left a deep impression on me. It put into perspective the privilege of opportunity. I learned to cherish the education I had and promised to make use of it. It was in the 4th grade that I decided to dedicate my education to my family. Navigating through the education system from my first day of elementary school to my experience as a first-generation Asian American female student in college was no easy task. If I wanted to see my block of metal take the form of a needle, I had to instill within myself a strong sense of discipline. That meant committing myself to persevere through challenges and taking hold of opportunities in order to evolve.
After a long sequence of repetition from using the same tool to sharpen my metal block, the tool I had been using was becoming dull. I needed to polish my tools and seek new, innovative ones. I was inspired by the World Food Prize and their humanitarian efforts to bring together people from all backgrounds to end poverty and hunger. Through the George Washington Carver Internship, I was able to interact with people who were directly involved in the fight to end poverty.
As an intern, I have a vantage point to observe how the foundation operates as a non-profit. When I started as an intern for Youth Programming and Education, I lacked confidence in myself. What I have learned from being included in staff meetings is that the World Food Prize has a serious respect for what interns have to say. One of the most impactful lessons that I learned during a staff meeting was to be unafraid to speak up and express myself when I noticed a problem. Because of staff members’ encouragement, I felt that my voice mattered. As I got more accustomed to the staff meetings, I found that my voice contributed to the collaborative effort of planning the World Food Prize week of events. Slowly, my technique in sharpening the metal block became more refined as I gained more experience.
The amount of planning and implementation it takes to welcome over 400 teachers and students to the Global Youth Institute was a daunting task because I had never managed such a crowd. The trust that my mentor had in me to assign me tasks to lead others spoke volumes to the type of interactive hands-on learning approach of the World Food Prize. One of the hallmarks of the youth programs at the Foundation is the mentorship component. During the Global Youth Institute, diverse panels of experts specializing in different fields from all over the world take their time to provide feedback and engage in discussion with students about their solutions to ending poverty. From their example, I believe it is pivotal to have a mentor figure. If we want our future to be a certain way, we must have examples that emulate that. It’s not about which person sharpens their needle the quickest. It is about laying the groundwork to produce a fine needle. For all the youth that I met during the week of events, I could feel they had taken ownership of making the effort to engage with humanity’s most pressing issues.
Through learning about Dr. Borlaug’s work at the World Food Prize, I found out it took him many years to develop the wheat that would save a billion people. I have only started on my journey of helping to end poverty. But with discipline and determination I believe I can make an impact.
Until then I’ll work diligently to sharpen my metal block so that one day I can produce my needle and perhaps make a mark on the world.
Given my own background in Vietnam and having many refugees in my family, I found My Nhan’s Blog particularly poignant. Her comments about her experience as an intern were very rewarding.
Kenneth Quinn | 02/10/2019 2:51 AM