Lieketseng “Keke” Phooko is only 30, but she’s spent most of her adult life volunteering for MCC and its partners.
Phooko is from a small village called Ha-Maphohloane in Lesotho. After she graduated college, she was looking for something to do when she learned about Growing Nations Trust (GNT), an MCC partner in a neighboring town called Maphutseng.
GNT staff research different methods of agriculture and teach people in the community about ideas and techniques they can use in their fields, including conservation agriculture through a Christian lens.
“From 2010 to 2011 I stayed at GNT for the whole year volunteering and learning about leadership, conservation agriculture and recruiting residential students,” she explains.
At the end of the year, she began to wonder, “What’s next?” It was then that Phooko learned about the International Volunteer Exchange Program through MCC and was invited to apply by James and Joan Alty, who now serve as area directors for Southern Africa.
Between 2011 and 2012 Phooko volunteered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at Canadian Foodgrains Bank as a public engagement intern.
Canadian Foodgrains Bank photo/Naomi Johnson
In that role she gave presentations at schools, churches and conferences to explain the impact of climate change in Lesotho and how MCC's and Canadian Foodgrains Bank's partners, including GNT, are promoting conservation agriculture.
“My first presentation was in a classroom. My presentation wasn’t good at all because I was so scared. My voice was trembling, but it was practice. Doing all those presentations in schools was good practice,” Phooko explains.
She adds: “I got to grow spiritually, emotionally and personally. I never felt homesick because I was enjoying and meeting lovely people and staying with different host families.”
Photo submitted by Lieketseng Phooko
These days, Phooko is serving with MCC as a Seed program co-facilitator in Zimbabwe overseeing participants serving in Southern Africa.
Seed is a two-year program that brings together a cohort of young adults ages 20–30 from around the world to learn, serve and reflect.
“I find this job to be challenging. I really like challenges because they help me to learn and grow. I get to travel and meet different people,” she says.
Phooko adds that this role helps her stay connected to young people who also are interested in community building.
It keeps motivating me with my dreams and interests of empowering young people as future leaders. The future is in our hands." - Lieketseng "Keke" Phooko
“It keeps motivating me with my dreams and interests of empowering young people as future leaders. The future is in our hands,” she says.
In fact, empowering young people is one of the goals of the Seed program. Ultimately, their role in their community and in the world is up to the participants themselves, Phooko says.
“We want them to go back to their communities and impact them. But change begins with them. Is this what they want to do? Is this their passion?” she asks.
For Phooko, whose role as Seed coordinator is coming to an end this year, her goal is to move back to Lesotho and farm a piece of land she owns near the capital, Maseru.
Eventually she hopes to teach other young women in the community how to grow crops sustainably, even in the midst of a drastically changing and hostile climate. Phooko credits her leadership capabilities, skills and knowledge to her volunteer work with GNT and MCC.