Alumnus Fights Global Hunger

garciaJESUS GARCIA ’99 distinctly remembers a trip through the Mali Province in northern Guinea, West Africa where he fell asleep despite the heat and bumpy road. When he awoke, the smoothness of the road was surprising. Boulders had been cleared, granite had been crushed, bricks had been intricately placed.

The changes, Garcia realized, were evidence of the improvements made through the World Food Program, the food aid branch of the United Nations. As the head of the WFP’s sub-office in Middle Guinea, Garcia knows that global food aid is viewed by some as wasteful and ineffective, but he can see the impact it has on communities.

Seeing such progress validates Garcia’s decision to join WFP six years ago.

“I joined WFP because I had a desire to do something meaningful and to help others,” Garcia said. “WFP’s efforts target the most vulnerable—children under 5, girls, women, the elderly, and people living with HIV. I was particularly drawn by this mission.”

Garcia oversees three WFP activities: school feeding, assistance to rural development initiatives, and support to health and nutrition. All are tied to fighting hunger and promoting food security, though the specific approach for each program differs. Some projects provide direct food aid while others provide local improvements, such as the improved road, that are tied to food assistance.

Much of Garcia’s job involves representing WFP to others. He relates the group’s mission to authorities and partners, ensures staff members and operations are safe, and works with government representatives of the education, agriculture, public health, and transport ministries (with the hope of addressing problems in those sectors). He also trains and guides the sub-office team.

The days are long and weekend work is often involved. “I’m always on call,” he said. Yet Garcia believes passionately in his work: “A lot of people would go hungry if it weren’t for WFP assistance.”

The reminders of that are all around Garcia. The area he visited that hot day was like many others in Guinea—inaccessible, lacking in basic amenities such as running water, electricity, a health center, and suffering from a high malnutrition rate. It is also populated by the very young and the very old, and the population in between is overwhelmingly female because teenage boys and men have left to find work.

“The old, invalid, women and children left behind survive on subsistence farming and remittances from their émigré sons, fathers, and husbands,” Garcia said. “These and many other factors make the members of this community vulnerable and food insecure, and justify, in my opinion, food aid. Yet that community is also proof of how food aid can be used to promote development.”

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