“All of you here have built CIAT’S future.” This was the message that Joe Tohme, director of CIAT’s agrobiodiversity area, gave to the 500 former employees who came to the Center on June 9 to celebrate the Great Reunion, as part of the celebration of CIAT’s fiftieth anniversary, an event which, without a doubt, was magical, thanks to the enthusiasm and affection that the participants showed for an organization that allowed them to reach professional and personal goals.

The event took place through several specific moments: in the morning a general meet-up was held where various themes were established and, with the assistance of special guests and the participation of those in attendance, anecdotes, events, and personalities of the institutional life of the Center were remembered. The conversations with the invited guests and those in attendance were enriched by the projection of photographs and videos that illustrated the themes and helped reconstruct the stories.as.

Later, in the afternoon session, an “open house” was organized in which each participant could move to their area of interest and hold conversations with the current personnel of that area. To facilitate this, a call for volunteers was made within CIAT that enabled a brigade volunteers to get involved by accompanying the visitors to the different areas of the Center. The Reunion came to a close with a cocktail hour, where those in attendance shared an informal space of exchange and camaraderie.

Beyond the hugs, the laughter, the shared anecdotes, and the memories of times past, the Great Reunion left us with lessons that support the words expressed by Dr. Tohme in the first paragraph of this text.

The first one may be obvious, but it is fundamental to mention it: it is not possible to make history in the present without taking the past into account. In this way, the Reunion made it possible to recognize that all the work that is currently being done at CIAT is based on groundwork that other people built before. It is often said that it is easier to see into the distance when you are sitting on the shoulders of giants. In that way, the Reunion was the opportunity to give a standing ovation to our “giants” and remember that the great contributions to agricultural research that the Center has made, has been done thanks to the pioneers who blazed a trail using the methodology of “learning by doing.”

Tres de los investigadores pioneros del CIAT: James Cock, César Martínez y William Roca (de izq. a derecha)

“CIAT was my second school throughout my youth. Everything I have I owe to CIAT and to my boss, Anthony Bellotti, may he rest in peace.”

Julio E. Bonilla.

Cassava entomology (20 years at CIAT: 1974-1994)

The second lesson is that, thanks to the informal nature of the event, other moments and other spaces were mentioned, beyond the research, which made it possible to build community over these 50 years. Being able to remember the shared cultural experiences and sports activities within CIAT demonstrated that the importance the Center has given to these events over time has had repercussions in the creation of strong ties among colleagues of diverse disciplines.

“Only words of gratitude for an institution that always looks after the well-being of its staff. Excellent celebration.”

Isabel Cristina Giraldo.

Beans (32 years at CIAT: 1979-2011)

This brings us to the next lesson. People from all areas attended the Reunion. For CIAT, they all have equal importance, from the people who did their work in support areas such as transportation or food service and lodging, to those dedicated to research. The best part was seeing that, in fact, all the relationships among the staff who have worked at the Center have been like that: no matter what role they play within the organization, everyone demonstrated affection for and appreciation of each other.

“The emotion that came over me in the Reunion has no comparison. I returned to the past and at the same time I was living in the present. So many memories and so much joy in getting together with companions and friends.”

Carmen Montini.

Entomology (9 years at CIAT: 1973-1982)

Finally, the challenge of organizing the Reunion and planning all the logistical aspects to carry out the event without any setbacks was an accomplishment that could not have been possible without the participation of many people. The unselfish support of many who offered their work voluntarily, the willingness to work together to recognize those who built the present and the future of CIAT, were the keys to our success.

“With the Great Reunion, they ratified the fact that CIAT is a Center of Excellence, an institution that enjoys the immense affection of those who pass through it, that maintains a place of honor in the hearts of all of us who were present here, and in the hearts of our families as well. The welcome, the memories, the anecdotes, the affection that we found everywhere, the generosity of the care, the photos, the music, and even the climate, joined with the aspirations for excellence of the event managers. The logistics were impeccable and impressive, the devotion and painstaking care of the organizers and volunteers were extraordinary. The hospitality of the staff in the afternoon visits and the details with which they welcomed us all added up to a magnificent and unforgettable event”

Luis Sanint.

Pastures, Cassava, Rice, FLAR (Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice), Savannas, Agronature, Finance.

Without a doubt, the Great CIAT 50 Reunion showed that united we can go farther and to better destinations. A lesson that must not be forgotten if we wish to continue building the future, betting on science to cultivate change.

More pictures of Gran Reencuentro here

Video of the event here

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