From cattle to classrooms: how cattle feeder Martin Zuidhof is giving back

This is the second post in our volunteer spirit series – a look at the generosity that is so strong among Alberta’s cattle feeders.

This week we caught up with Martin Zuidhof, ACFA’s board chair. Martin and his wife, Annette, recently visited Nicaragua to help build three new classrooms for a school in the capital city of Managua.

Martin explained that the trip was somewhat spur of the moment: “I was having dinner with my two sisters and two brothers-in-law, just after Christmas,” he said. “One brother-in-law was planning his seventh volunteering trip, and he suggested we should all go together. It seemed like a great idea, and we decided to try and go as soon as possible.” The group ended up going with just two weeks’ notice.

The school they worked on already existed, but had six classrooms for 345 students. Because school was in session at the time, the group of volunteers worked with an audience of teachers and children. “The students would watch us from their own classrooms and I could just imagine the teacher telling them ‘get your educations otherwise you’re going to be like those North Americans who come down here to get out of the cold – this is the best they can afford,’” he joked.

Even though the work was backbreaking, and the sun hot, Martin found the experience very rewarding.

cattle feeders volunteer spirit Martin Zuidhof“We had to hand-dig holes with picks and shovels, and there was lots of rebar to tie. It was hot, and after the first hour or two I really wondered what I was doing there. But you get used to it, and the teachers were very appreciative,” he said.

“The kids put on a little program for us at the end, and the principal said it means so much that people would come and do this rather than taking a summer vacation, because the key to their future is getting more of their children educated.”

Fortunately, the trip wasn’t all work. Martin said they enjoyed their evenings in the town, and had time for some sightseeing.

You can read about a trip taken by another of Alberta’s cattle feeders in ‘Alberta’s volunteer spirit shines among cattle feeders: meet Jacob Bueckert.’ In future posts we’ll introduce you to some more of our industry members who epitomize Alberta’s generosity.

Alberta’s volunteer spirit shines among cattle feeders: meet Jacob Bueckert

Not content with merely feeding the world, many of Alberta’s cattle feeders also have a strong commitment to building community. We think that’s pretty special, and in upcoming blog posts we will be featuring some of the ways our members volunteer their time to help others.

This week we met Jacob Bueckert, of Driland Feeders in Warner, Alberta. Jacob and his wife, Caroline, recently flew their three children down to Mexico to build homes for a disadvantaged family.

“We went to Vicente Guerrero about four hours south of San Diego to build a house for a family who was basically living in a one-room shack,” said Jacob. “They had one bed for a family of four, and a baby on the way in less than a month.”

building homes for the needy Vicente GuerreroJacob’s family flew down and joined a church group and friends from Burdett, Alberta. In all, the group of 33 people built two houses.

Alberta is well known for being a generous province and, like so many others, Jacob is motivated by a desire to enrich the lives of others.

“I wanted my family to experience the joy of giving, rather than just sending money down,” he said. “When you send money, you enrich the lives of the people receiving, but when you go and help, you enrich your own life, too.”

Jacob’s children found the experience so rewarding that they are keen to forego their usual family vacations in order to do the same again. They are planning another volunteer trip in two years’ time. “When we got back, my son brought me his tablet and laptop and said that he thought he should start reading books instead of playing on these.”

Creating community here in Alberta too 

Jacob sits on the ACFA board of directors and also volunteers as a youth group leader. “Ten teens meet twice a month to have fun,” he explained, “but also to learn how to tackle life in a way that will bring joy.” As the industry struggles to encourage young people to stay in rural areas and work in agriculture, these activities help provide youth with strong roots and a sense of having a future in their communities.

In an upcoming post we will speak with board chair, Martin Zuidhoff, who recently visited South America to help build a school.