The organization of USAID seeks to tap the creativity, energy and innovative ideas of individuals and organizations around the world to discover new ways to tackle global challenges.
Smoke Rise member, Ken Ayers, is one of those motivated individuals who has taken on
short term assignments in many places around the world. Ken’s background of working for a non-profit in international development for 10 years, plus 5 years with The Peace Corps, has given him a valuable perspective on the world. He got started on volunteering for USAID when he took his vacation time one year and took on one of the short term projects. These assignments sometimes are about train
ing other trainers who work in the area but typically involve doing an evaluation of the whole process that occurs from the farmer to the consumer. This is referred to as the value chain: it includes the growers, marketers, infrastructure, transportation, and financing. The goal is to see where the system is breaking down, who is getting left out, and what can be done to improve the lives of the people who live in the area. Ken recently led a 7 day workshop in Nepal for the local community leaders and farmers. His heart was particularly burdened for the most vulnerable of that culture – women, children, the disabled and the poorest of the poor. Child labor is a big problem. “It takes a whole family to survive there. I thought, there must be a way for the family to have a sustainable life without children having to work.”
“God leads me with encouragement for this work.”
It was apparent that God had plans for Ken’s life to have a positive impact on people in many parts of the world. After surviving an attempted robbery including having his throat cut in 1996, Ken rededicated his life to God. His volunteer work for USAID has led him to Macedonia, Ethiopia, Guinea, Angola, Bangladesh, Guyana, Nicaragua, and Nigeria. He will soon be going to Sierra Leone for 3 weeks. Ken says that what impacts him as a person of faith the most is the time for prayer away from all the typical conveniences and distractions of home, being among these vulnerable people, and the feeling of closeness to God it brings. “God leads me with encouragement for this work.”