Faith and International Development Conference in the works

Calvin’s Faith and International Development Conference (FIDC) tells students to “come ready to challenge and be challenged.”

The annual three-day event gives students opportunities to meet and interact with professionals from Christian organizations who work in the field of international development, as well as with students from around the U.S. who share their interests.

Next year’s conference will take place Feb. 6-8, at the end of the first week of spring semester. Registration is $20 for Calvin students.

Students can attend seminars and breakout sessions led by speakers from development organizations working around the world.

The 2014 conference will include speakers such as Brian Fikkert, the founder of Chalmers Center for International Development, which helps teach churches economic strategies to help empower poor people; Rob and Tara Cahill, a couple who lead efforts for forest conservation in Guatemala; Tarek Abuata, the Pakistani coordinator for the Christian Peacemaker’s Team, an organization dedicated to ending violence and oppression; and a few others. There will also be a free half-day seminar run by Christian Peacemaker teams about nonviolent activism.

There will be more than 30 sponsor and partner organizations at February’s FIDC. They set up information tables and host breakout sessions where students can learn more about them; many also offer internship opportunities.

Calvin’s FIDC began in 2006 with about 300 attendees. It has since grown, and now attracts an audience of more than 600 students, faculty leaders and professionals from around the country. It is and always has been completely student-run. This year, senior Audrey Hughey and sophomore Gabriel LePage are co-directing the event.

Hughey said an important part of the conference is integrating people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“If you are interested in working cross-culturally, then this is the event to attend,” said Hughey.

The conference focuses on development, but integrates a wide variety of concentrations to attract a diverse group of students. According to Hughey, topics can range from economic development to agriculture, water sanitation, anti-corruption, community development and small business enterprise.

Hughey said the conference gives students a chance to interact with development leaders who work outside of academia. Students can meet people who have field experience and are running their own organizations to get a sense of what real development work is like.

The conference also features a ‘topic table’ lunch, where attendees can sit at specified tables to eat and talk with other students and professionals involved in areas that interest them.

Besides attending the conference, students can get involved with the FIDC by volunteering during Interim or during the actual conference or by hosting students from other schools in their dorm rooms. LePage said hosting can be very rewarding.

“The students are busy with the conference all day, so they don’t need to be entertained,” said LePage. “But I hear from last year’s dorm hosts that one can have mighty interesting conversations with students interested in international issues.”