Experience for Saving Lives

In Ethiopia, USAID chose to partner with FH, as a trusted and experience organization, to help farmers grow food-producing trees for saving lives.

I like learning. I’m happiest working on a new skill.

This weekend, it was masonry. I built an outdoor kitchen for my backyard.

After the skeleton was built, I sheathed the exterior in cement board. Then, it was time to apply stucco.

In the Southwest, where I live, stucco is the most common exterior surface in residential construction. I wanted my outdoor kitchen to match my house.

Getting the Wrong Advice

I went to my local home center for materials. On the advice of one of the clerks, I bought a bag of cement for stucco. But when I got home, after researching the technique on the Internet, I found out that the clerk had forgotten to tell me to buy sand.

I returned to the store, looking for the sand specified by the manufacturer. Another clerk told me that any sand would do. I bought the only sand on the shelves.

I mixed up some stucco and applied it. Yuck. It didn’t look like my house. It was a mess.

I went to a different home center. While the clerks didn’t seem more knowledgeable, this store did have different products to sell. I bought pre-mixed stucco. And this time it worked.

The Beginner’s Mistakes

I watched a few videos on YouTube on stucco application and studied my technique. The experts made it look easy. After practice, my outdoor kitchen looks pretty good. It’s ready for paint.

But it got me thinking about the beginner’s experience. I had approached it with the enthusiasm, optimism and freshness that I found invigorating.  I’d learned a lot. And the end product was something of which I could be proud.

But there is another phrase used to discuss the efforts of novices: “Beginner’s mistake.”

It means that beginners make errors that are obvious to experts. Avoidable. Wasteful. Just like my early efforts at creating and applying stucco. In the business of saving lives, there isn’t room for those beginner’s mistakes.

Trusting in Experience

I thought how blessed I was to work for a relief and development organization that brings considerable experience to its work.

Food for the Hungry started in 1971. We’ve learned many lessons over the past 42 years. Our experience has taught us how to transform communities and respond to emergencies in wide variety of cultural and political contexts.

For church partnerships – we offer an expert’s eye.

As a result, we can be more efficient and effective. Better stewards. Because of this, we are chosen for partnerships with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for saving lives. In the picture above, FH partnered with USAID to help Ethiopians grow orchards to create a stable food supply.

If we were novice, USAID wouldn’t partner with us to help desperate people. There is too much at risk to not get it right the first time.

As Chief Financial Officer, I’m proud of that FH has a reputation for getting the job done right.  I hope as our partner, you’ll be proud of that, too.

About Barry Gardner

Barry Gardner is the Chief Financial Officer at FH. He joined FH in 2010 after a 20 year career as a financial consultant to non-profit organizations. He and his wife Susan live in Phoenix, where Barry enjoys year-round cycling weather.

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