Liberal Arts Graduates teaching Cameroonian farmers how to farm?

An Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s NY Times by the former country director of Cameroon brings into question the usefulness of sending recent college graduates overseas to help people that probably don’t need any of their help.

Robert Strauss writes:

In Cameroon, we had many volunteers sent to serve in the agriculture program whose only experience was puttering around in their mom and dad’s backyard during high school. I wrote to our headquarters in Washington to ask if anyone had considered how an American farmer would feel if a fresh-out-of-college Cameroonian with a liberal arts degree who had occasionally visited Grandma’s cassava plot were sent to Iowa to consult on pig-raising techniques learned in a three-month crash course. I’m pretty sure the American farmer would see it as a publicity stunt…

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Will Mobile Phones Prevent the Next Rana Plaza Disaster

(Arifa, a single mother of three children, and a garment worker I met while traveling in Bangladesh)

One moment Reshma Begum was sewing. The next she was falling from her station on the second floor into the basement of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh.

She lost consciousness. She awoke to cries of help that gradually silenced. Her clothes were shredded, everything was dark, and her hair was stuck in the rubble. She ripped her hair free and scavenged the dark crevices on her hands and knees finding four crackers, a small bottle of water, and the occasional puddle to quench her thirst. She probed her surroundings with a pipe for pockets of air.

This was her life. This…

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On the faculty at Ermapalooza! Registration opens tomorrow!

When humor goes, there goes civilization. –Erma Bombeck

I’m excited to announce that I’m on the faculty at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (April 10-12). I’ve been to the conference twice as an attendee, and it is definitely one of my favorite conferences. The conference made me better as a writer, led to some major assignments, a book blurb from Senator Sherrod Brown, and, the best part, I made some real life friends, who are hilarious. That’s the great thing about a humor conference, the people who attend it are typically pretty darn funny.

I’m teaching one section…

Writing Nonfiction: Connecting People Through Stories
Kelsey Timmerman

Writers of creative nonfiction explore truths through verifiable facts, shaping the narrative using the same tools as writers of…

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Where Am I Speaking in November?


Want me to visit your high school, university, or group? Let’s make it happen. 

Falls really zip by for me. November wraps up a busy few months of speaking at high schools, universities, culinary schools, and libraries.

Here’s where I’ll be speaking in November:

11/7: Lock Haven University / International Education Week: 7PM at Price Hall (free and open to the public)

11/8 5:30 PM – South Bend, Indiana: Facing Project event: Voices of Teenage Girls

11/9 7:30 Michigan City Public Library – Writing Out Loud (free and open to the public)

11/11 Private High School

11/11 Purdue N. Central Westville, Indiana

11/16 Writers Center of Indiana: 2013 Gathering of Writers / Teaching a nonfiction workshop at 12:45

Truth, Justice, and the Creative Nonfiction Way
Works of creative nonfiction…

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Lesson from my stupid big bro: It takes courage to change

Dr. Timmerman

Kyle, either posing like a “scientist” or planning to takeover the world.

My brother, Kyle, always led my earliest adventures into imaginary realms. We fought trolls with wooden swords, goblins with clumps of dirt scooped from the field surrounding our club house.  (Once I was the goblin and Kyle made a throw that could’ve been on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 as it connected with my face.)

He was the best big brother an annoying little brother looking to prove himself could have.  He never whooped me. Not once. I tried like hell to fight him and he would figuratively and sometimes literally hold out a brotherly stiff arm atop my head as I swung…

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July Appearances: California for chocolate and wine, Indiana for writing friends and libraries

Summer is a time of rest, bike rides, backyard pools, and teaching my 4-year-old daughter to rider her bike without training wheels (on Father’s Day! I won Father’s day!).  But I love summer events.  They tend to be more intimate and laid back.

Here are my July Appearances

July 20 – Paso Robels, CA: Project Hope & Fairness Fundraiser at Pear Valley Vineyards. Wine and chocolate? Yes please! I traveled with Tom Neuhaus of Project Hope and Fairness in Ivory Coast while researching WHERE AM I EATING? Happy to help them raise money to improve the lives of cocoa farmers in West Africa.

July 22 – Columbus, IN: Batholomew County Library.  Love visting libraries and happy they are having me back to talk about EATING after I spoke there about…

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Part I: Meeting a slave to chocolate in Ivory Coast (video)

I met a slave when I visited a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast researching WHERE AM I EATING.

His name is Solo.

Shortly after we first met, a villager began recording Solo teaching me how to harvest cocoa.  (As a writer, it’s rare that I capture such poignant moments on video.)  I began to ask Solo about his life, where he was from, what he gets paid, when certain disturbing facts came to light:

1) He called his boss “master”

2) He had worked 4 months and hadn’t been paid

3) He told me that the donkeys are treated better than he is because at least they get fed when they don’t work

4) He asked to leave and wasn’t allowed to

5) Solo is a…

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What has aid ever done for anyone?

Somewhere along the line aid has become less cool.

Everyone is all about teaching a man to fish, not giving him a fish. Everyone is all like trade and not aid. I’m guilty of this too. (See my give a man a job making shoes not a free pair of shoes argument regarding TOMS.) In response to this, Save the Children UK made a Monty Python inspired video about the not-so minor things aid has accomplished.

It’s hilarious and gets the point across.

Want to support smart aid? Be a smart giver. Learn how here – here….

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Kelsey Speaks

To arrange a speaking engagement, email

Speaking Header


“Kelsey puts names, faces and compelling stories to the global economy.”

I connect students to the world and help you:

  • Empower students to think globally and act locally.
  • Engage students with their educationsand the world.
  • Help students see where they fit in as doers, learners, consumers, volunteers and glocals (local and global citizens).

(Teachers & professors you can get a free copy of Kelsey’s book Where Am I Wearing?: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes HERE & learn about using Where Am I Wearing? in the classroom HERE or as a first year common reader HERE)

“Kelsey has the rare gift…

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Where Are You Teaching?

J.R. Jamison wrote the service-learning section in the Appendix of Where Am I Wearing? Below you’ll find a few of J.R.’s ideas followed by some resources and how to contact him if you need consultation on developing a service-learning curriculum or creating a roadmap to becoming an engaged campus.

Take it away, J.R. –

Spending the past decade of my career guiding campuses throughout the world on infrastructure development for the intersection of community engagement and higher education, I know the challenges institutions face when working with their local communities to focus on a shared issue. Add in glocal (global + local) experiences for experiential learning, and the complexities rise. Often, our own infrastructures hold us back from achieving what is possible.

Imagine a…

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