Seeing our lives through the eyes of an IVEPer

Insight from IVEP supervisor

Editor’s note: Jacob Landis is co-manager at the Landis Farm in Sterling, Illinois. He supervises 2023-2024 IVEP participant Maswe Nyihongo from Tanzania.


Partnering with IVEP on our farm had been discussed occasionally over the years. If you go back far enough, my grandparents had hosted a young woman from the Netherlands in the mid-1960s through an MCC program that was a precursor to IVEP. More recently my wife, Leah, and I had the pleasure of getting to know various IVEP participants who were hosted in a nearby community. We enjoyed getting to know people from around the world and saw how the program made a positive impact on the communities and organizations that hosted IVEP participants.  

This year it finally worked for us to host someone ourselves. We received a call from MCC looking for an additional IVEP placement in this region. On our farm, my parents, two brothers and I work together daily and have a good system for getting things done. After some conversation and prayer, we decided to invite Maswe to join us at the farm for the year.  

Maswe arrived in August, right in the middle of the season, and he quickly found his place! Maswe’s main responsibility has been feeding the calves for the first six months of their lives and cleaning parts of the milking barn. The calves have become “his calves.” He takes ownership of making sure they are not only well fed, but also have plenty of clean bedding. In addition, he has been meticulous at keeping the barn clean, playing a vital role in helping us pass our regular health department milk inspections.

IVEP participant is crouched and feeding a baby calf with a bottle.
Maswe feeds a calf at Landis Farm. (Photo/Lois Landis)

We have done our best to teach Maswe what it’s like to farm in the U.S. In addition to various local field days and open house events, he joined us at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, and took in the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois. Maswe has been eager to learn, and diligently applies what he learns to his responsibilities at the farm.  

Of course there have been some adjustments along the way. When a sudden, aggressive illness claimed one of the calves, we assured him that it was not his fault. It was a good opportunity to talk about the different vaccination programs we use as well as how to spot and treat illnesses in the cows and calves.

Another teaching opportunity came a few months later. Winter in northern Illinois is a little different than winter in Tanzania. I would have never thought about it, but since Tanzania is so moderate in temperature, you don’t need to layer clothes to keep warm or change layers throughout the day. We taught Maswe about layering clothes and bedding to keep warm, and about the dangers of frostbite.  

One of the joys of hosting an IVEP participant has been getting to know about a different culture and country. Maswe has taught us how to cook some Tanzanian food, and sometimes makes lunch for everyone at the farm. I have enjoyed talking with Maswe about what life is like back in Tanzania, different family traditions, and what he hopes to apply from his time here when he returns home. It was also fun to see our lives through the eyes of someone from a completely different experience.

The lessons from IVEP go much deeper than the physical skills and knowledge that participants learn with us. Maswe has expressed an appreciation for the change in routine that this year has given him, and for seeing how different parts of the world work and making new connections. 

IVEPer and another person stand at a stove cooking together.
Maswe Nyihongo (right) and Becca Landis (left) cook “chips mayai,” Tanzanian french fries with fried eggs. (Photo/Lois Landis)

I think one of the reasons we have enjoyed our time with Maswe so much is that both we and he continue to be curious. Even after nine months, there are new things for us to learn about each other and our cultural expectations and experiences.  

If I could give advice to someone considering hosting an IVEP participant at their home or organization, I would say communication and curiosity are key. There is always something new to learn or some assumption that can be challenged. The blessings have been many for us at the Landis Farm, and we pray that Maswe has been blessed by his time with us as well.


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