This learner introduced herself this way: “My name is Shirley Hayes Ganao; my degrees, PhD, MS, BS, and AA are in education and dental health; I became a Bahá’í during the 1970s. I am retired, but I have worked at Howard University, my alma mater; the University of the District of Columbia; and the University of Southern California, another alma mater. I married and lived in Congo-Brazzaville, where my three children were born, as well as my three stepchildren. We all live in the States now, but we return to the Congo sometimes via France, where we have relatives.” About taking the Wilmette Institute’s new course Bahá’í Perspectives on Agriculture and Food (faculty, Paul Hanley, Arthur Lyon Dahl, Kim Naqvi, Neil Whatley, Robert White), Shirley added this about her purpose for taking the course: “I am excited about this course because I wish to apply spiritual principles to an agricultural project in Congo-Brazzaville, on the Bateke Plateau, a region north of Brazzaville, in Djambala, where my husband, now deceased, was born. . . . I intend to consult with my children as often as possible to get their opinions about the project. When possible I will also consult with relatives in France and the Congo.” Shirley also noted that the Bateke Plateau is not an agricultural area and has no water and no irrigation; she does not know what crops might grow there with little or no water. After taking the course, she modified her initial goal to planning a more modest community garden. Shirley shared the following about what she had learned. But she has not shelved her more ambitious project.—THE EDITORS
I have reflected on what I learned in this course. I did accomplish my personal goals, read everything, and looked at the videos. I wrote notes in a journal about the reading material and the videos. I am glad I did because I referred to them often. I prepared an interfaith devotional on the Spiritual Meaning of Food in the Sacred Books of God. I also presented to our study circle, Ruhi Book 8, The Covenant, information from Unit 3 in the course on Norte del Cauca, Columbia; Bihar, India; and the SAT program in Honduras because we were studying the Universal House of Justice’s message on the Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs being built in Norte del Cauca and Bihar.
I now have some knowledge about agriculture and how to apply the spiritual word to agriculture programs as a means of transformation. I learned that rural agricultural programs are accompanied by modules in economy, organization, environment, and social programs. When the entire community is involved in a program, a solidarity group may arise. This group strengthens community organizational structures and values. Working and praying in unity, having common goals, learning and planning together helps to make community-building programs sustainable.
In the immediate future I would like to use the skills I learned to help youth-at-risk build a community garden as a practice for Ruhi Book 3, Unit 3. Sometime in the future I intend to return to the Plateau Bateke near Congo-Brazzaville, to initiate a small agriculture program.