Meet Paul: Hunger Griot

Published on 23 November 2011

Paul Ingram's students auctioning at an event about local and global hunger. 

In early October, WFP launched a unique online course with the One Campaign and WFPUSA to transform students from all walks of life into powerful spokespersons in the fight against hunger.

249 students from all over the world enrolled in “Growing Solutions to Hunger: The Hunger and Agriculture Griots Project” to learn the facts of hunger, explore agricultural solutions, and challenge themselves to develop new advocacy skills. Six weeks later, these proud graduates – one mom, one teacher, one PhD student, and one grandfather – wanted to share with you their personal stories of transformation.

 

What he learned: How to speak passionately to his peers on hunger

I love being a middle school teacher. Is there any job more rewarding than being able to have an impact on young minds and young lives? I have had the privilege of being able to teach in many diverse parts of the world but wherever I have gone I have noticed a few things about the students regardless of gender, race, religion or academic ability.

First - most students will find any subject interesting if their teacher is passionate and excited about teaching it.

Second - students in middle school always assume their circumstances are ‘normal’ for the world or at least for most people.

Third – Students will learn more if they are having fun.

I let my students in on a very special secret: “They are not normal.” With half the planet’s population living on less than $2 a day my students, who live in the developed world, are living anything but a ‘normal’ life. The statistics can be grim and overwhelming for a young person, but if the students are infused with the sense that they can make a difference they will not be overwhelmed but rather empowered.

In my quest to keep myself well-informed I came across the Griot program. I have taken online courses before but nothing like this. From the first day I logged into the course I knew this was going to be a unique and special learning opportunity. During orientation I met fellow students from an almost unimaginable variety of backgrounds. The diversity ranged from people working on the ground in Africa and to academics in Asia to activists in Europe and teachers and young adults in North America.

The course content has kept me excited and passionate about learning in a way few learning experiences have. There is a wide enough variety of information presented to appeal to any learning style. I am enjoying the articles and videos so much that coursework which should have taken me 5 or 10 minutes took much longer as one link leads to another; I can't let them go by so I click and the time flies by. It is all related to hunger, poverty, and agricultural development. I have been exhilarated by all of the positive innovations I am learning about.

The world really is making progress in the fight against hunger and poverty. More importantly the fight against hunger has never been more united on what needs to be done. Bill and Melinda Gates say it as succinctly as anyone: “When aid is focused on poor people, when aid is done properly, it works.” There is still much work to be done and I believe that this course is helping me convey to my students my new found sense of hope that mortal hunger really can be eliminated.

The course has not only made me a better teacher but a better advocate of both hunger eradication and agricultural development. It has given me confidence that I really do know the facts and sustainable solutions. I have never had any trouble talking with young people but I have always feared that speaking passionately to my peers would set me apart as radical or different. Watching my fellow Griots become advocates I have learned that courageous people are still afraid, but they don't let the fear paralyze them.

To steal a great line from my fellow Griot Martha Wyatt: “…it is up to me to raise my voice and say, “No more.” I will call, write and use social media …Because no child should die of hunger.”

 

Written by Paul Ingram

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