4-H created lasting international bonds

4-H created lasting international bonds

Oct 10
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development
  

For many years, 4-H sponsored international exchanges that brought young people to our shores and sent young Americans abroad, in many cases launching careers and certainly creating lasting friendships. One such exchange invited young agricultural professionals from Poland in the mid-1970s to work and live with American farm families. Earlier this month, Krzysztof and Urszula Stępowski, traveled from Warsaw, Poland, to relive the experiences that Krzysztof, we called him Kris, shared with our family for a year and half in Newark, Illinois. Kris also worked for the local FS cooperative, now GROWMARK / Grainco. It had been 37 years since Kris came to Illinois, but he and Urszula reveled in the memories of the Prairie State. As a side note, my uncle arranged for a Polish judge to marry them in Chicago when Urszula came to visit, just so they could say they were not married under the communist regime in Poland. That probably was not in the 4-H program guidelines, but it was life changing for them. We kept in touch with Kris throughout the period of martial law, the Solidarity movement, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the reemergence of Poland as a full-fledged member of the European Union. Our lives intersected while I was on the 4-H Young Agricultural Specialists Exchange Program in Russia and on later occasions during our respective careers, both catalyzed by our international experiences with 4-H. Many 4-H alumni can relate similar stories of their international 4-H experiences, mainly under the banner of IFYE, and the lasting relationships are invaluable. Incidentally, my American colleagues from the 4-H YASEP program have met faithfully every five years for the past 37 years. We are looking forward to our 40th reunion! #thats4H

Vogen