Calvin College Chimes

Conference encourages and inspires students and non-students alike

Current+and+former+FIDC+student+leaders+pose+for+a+picture.+Photo+by+Hailey+Jansson.
Current and former FIDC student leaders pose for a picture. Photo by Hailey Jansson.

Current and former FIDC student leaders pose for a picture. Photo by Hailey Jansson.

Current and former FIDC student leaders pose for a picture. Photo by Hailey Jansson.

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From February 9 to 11, Calvin hosted the 12th annual Faith and International Development Conference (FIDC). According to the organizers, 374 attendees from 21 schools around the country gathered on Calvin’s campus last week to learn about international development.

In the midst of so much global unrest and hopelessness, co-directors Katie Ulrich and Kaitlyn Kline chose the theme “The Power of Hope” for the 2017 conference. Ulrich explained, “Our world is really broken — to use Calvin-speak.” Development work can be discouraging, especially when working in the midst of poverty and injustice. The conference reminded attendees how hope shapes individual lives, and also of God’s redemptive plan for all creation.

Senior Katie Ulrich and junior Kaitlyn Kline, who are both studying international development, took the helm for this year’s conference. After taking part in the 2016 conference in different roles, the two were excited to lead the Faith and International Development Conference into its 12th year. The two shared responsibilities, with Ulrich heading up the committees and coordinated with the other schools involved, and Kline managing the speakers and organizations.

Ulrich’s experience as a volunteer at last year’s conference equipped her to lead the 20 committee students and 50 volunteers. Over the past few months, she contacted schools about their interest in sending students. During the conference, she also coordinated registration and housing.

With the help of their faculty advisor Professor Roland Hoksbergen, Kline was able to gather speakers who work in various areas of development from diverse countries. She also coordinated the 30 organizations that sponsored this year’s conference.

Over three days on campus, attendees heard from five plenary speakers and a devotional speaker on topics ranging from economics to agriculture to foreign aid advocacy. The variety of topics and backgrounds represented in the speakers was designed to give attendees a taste of the breadth of international development work.

A special treat this year was a Friday night screening of the documentary “For the Love Of,” which explores climate change. Historically, the FIDC has shied away from the issue of climate change, but the co-directors this year wanted to explore how it disproportionately affects those in poverty. The panel discussion which followed went so well that the speakers did not have enough time to answer all the questions from attendees.

From the beginning, FIDC has been a student-led conference. In the spring of 2006, the first two co-directors desired to put on a conference to teach students about the work of international development. According to Ulrich, this conference is unique that it is by students, for students. Not many similar conferences target students as the primary audience.

Following the theme “The Power of Hope,” the Faith and International Development Conference aimed to be both realistic and encouraging. Ulrich noted she and Kline adopted their motto from the previous directors: “Educate. Inspire. Equip.” In accomplishing these three things, they were able to connect attendees with organizations and real people who are “doing the work.”

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