September 9, 2002 - Cedar Rapids Gazette: Senegal RPCV Bill Aossey honored as first Muslim Peace Corps Volunteer

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Senegal RPCV Bill Aossey honored as first Muslim Peace Corps Volunteer

Read and comment on this story from the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Senegal RPCV Bill Aossey who recently attended the Peace Corps' 41st anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C., where he was recognized for being the first Muslim to volunteer for the organization. Read the story at:

Peace Corps honors Cedar Rapids man*

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Peace Corps honors Cedar Rapids man

By Tom Owen
The Gazette
Monday, September 09, 2002, 12:02:23 PM

CEDAR RAPIDS -- Bill Aossey recently attended the Peace Corps' 41st anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C., where he was recognized for being the first Muslim to volunteer for the organization.

The 40th anniversary celebration had been scheduled for last year in September but, after the Sept. 11 attacks, it was postponed until this year.

At the event, Aossey took part in a panel discussion with four others who had volunteered in Islamic countries. About 4,500 current and former Peace Corps members attended, he said.

Aossey, 60, of 1105 60th Ave. SW, grew up in Cedar Rapids and graduated from Cornell College in Mount Vernon. In 1972, he founded the Midamar Co., a Cedar Rapids company that markets food products to Muslims across the globe.

In 1963, he joined the Peace Corps, which sent him to Senegal with two assignments: coach what would become the 1964 Olympic wrestling team and hand-dig wells that could bring the country a more sanitary water supply than the shallow pits they had been using for wells.

Getting the local people to understand the need for clean water wasn't difficult, but indoctrinating them into American wrestling techniques was a little harder. The Senegalese had a traditional sport that involved knocking the opponent off balance but, at first, they didn't understand why they should change their ways.

Aossey wistfully recalled that after his two-year stint in the Peace Corps, he and a friend hitchhiked across Africa, the Middle East and Asia for six months, with few concerns about their safety.

In the wake of Sept. 11, such carefree adventures seem much less attainable. Still, Aossey said he believes that tragedy will have at least one positive effect by galvanizing Americans to take a greater interest in other countries. Since Sept. 11, applications to the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent.

"I think all of a sudden people are saying there is a need for Americans to have a better understanding of the new world order," he said.

He noted that since Sept. 11, the Peace Corps wants its volunteers to not only learn about other countries, but to come back and speak to American groups and educate the public about the countries in which they served.

"It's important to tell what America stands for," he said. "That's well and good. Now, after Sept. 11, the Peace Corps' perception is we should bring some of this culture and understanding back home."

MIDAMAR: A Foundation of Service based on Tradition

Read and comment on the following background information on Bill Aossey's company, Midamar at:

MIDAMAR: A Foundation of Service based on Tradition

MIDAMAR: A Foundation of Service based on Tradition
In 1972, MIDAMAR was organized specifically as an International Development company. The principles of service, dependability, and honesty that have guided MIDAMAR through the years were learned from Haj Yahya Aossey's life as an immigrant to the United States in the early 1900's. Haj Yahya Aossey was the father of founder and current MIDAMAR President William "Bill" Aossey Jr.
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In 1907, Yahya Aossey, a young boy of about 16 years old, left the Lebanon Region of Syria to immigrate to the "Promised Land" of America and to the heartland of the U.S.A. With no formal education and the inability to read or write, Yahya settled in Iowa as a farm-hand for German immigrant farmers. Lacking worldly knowledge, he was unaware that during his first two years with his adopted German family, he was learning the German language instead of English, the native language of the United States. During this time he was also "given" a new American name of William.

After working as a farm-hand for disciplined German farmers, he was sent to a small town to work as a stock boy in a grocery store. Within seven years he managed to save and buy a horse and buggy which he was very proud of.

Rural Iowa was a beautiful, though vast countryside with great distance between small towns and isolated farming families. With the horse and buggy, he was able to travel the state of Iowa selling a variety of food products, as well as household and farming supplies. Excellent service and quality products were the only means for his survival and the key to his SUCCESS. Yahya utilized the horse and buggy, managing to succeed without the comforts of electricity, phones, and modern conveniences. Today, fax, e-mail, and the Internet are integral parts of business communication. As a young man, Yahya "William" Aossey quickly learned the necessity of dependability, honesty and integrity. Without the opportunity to obtain a formal education, he learned early on that if the business owner takes care of the customer, customer loyalty remains strong.

There were some very basic principles the Senior Aossey handed down to his sons. First, keep business simple! Take care of the customers and give them the best quality and service imaginable; this is the only way they will come back to you! Second, each citizen must pay his taxes since it is an obligation to support this "new country" that provides for its citizens. Third, all suppliers and the bank must be paid on time because they supply the products and services that help grow your business. Good relations and excellent credit are vital aspects of a company's success. To conclude, if one follows these simple principles of operation, the result will be much success and satisfaction between the business parties involved, your customers, and your company.
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MIDAMAR: From Idea to Reality
Sometimes an idealistic dream may develop and become a reality. Founder of MIDAMAR, Bill Aossey Jr. was born, raised, and attended school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with further studies at Cornell College in nearby Mt. Vernon and graduate studies at the University of Iowa. With the intention of becoming a lawyer in the early 1960's, the foresight of President Kennedy's dream of the Peace Corps took Bill Aossey away from the campuses of Iowa, to Senegal, West Africa for two years. After serving two years in the Peace Corps in West Africa working in water well and rural agricultural development and coaching the National Olympic Wrestling team of Senegal, Bill Aossey and another Peace Corps coach, Carl DeCaspers, from Pennsylvania, decided to travel and explore all of Africa. By the end of the journey, both had managed to not only travel completely around Africa but also continued across the Middle East, through Central Asia, to the Far East and back to the U.S.A. After months of traveling by every means possible, they had visited nearly 70 countries, literally hitchhiking and traveling around the world. Upon Bill's return to Iowa, he never looked back at Law School.

During graduate school, after his return, Bill again interrupted his studies in 1966 to accept a grant and scholarship through the Fulbright Foundation and the Institute of International Education to do an independent agricultural study in South Vietnam on, "Declining Agriculture as Related to Increased Military Conflict." Upon completion of the study in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam, Bill Aossey returned to the University of Iowa to complete his graduate studies in the field of International Development.

Once again, by circumstance, Bill Aossey found his studies interrupted by the opportunity to go to Saudi Arabia in January of 1967 on a technical teaching program; he stayed until 1970. Having spent nearly seven years overseas in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, an observation of the lack of agricultural development and the lack of protein and widespread malnutrition of millions of people in a common global belt became a stark reality. The question arose, "Why can't agriculture, technology and food development from IOWA be transferred to the countries and regions in need?" From this idealistic and humanitarian thought came the reality of an International Development companyůMIDAMARůMID AM-erican- A-gricultural- R-esearch.

With a global knowledge at a grass roots level and the support of two brothers and three friends, Bill Aossey borrowed US$5,000.00 from each of them to establish an International Development company in 1972. This minimal budget was to cover the office development, compensation, international travel and market research. In 1974, MIDAMAR had achieved a business and organizational status and, was thereby, incorporated in the State of Iowa.

MIDAMAR: International Development
The first five years from the mid 1970's were very challenging and difficult for a newly organized company in International markets with most of the activities focused in Africa and the Middle East. Oil was the global driving force of economic development and MIDAMAR focused its operations in many of the newly developing nations. The mid 1970's to the early 1980's were devoted to developing North African and Middle Eastern markets to create stability for MIDAMAR. In the mid 1980's, Bill Aossey and MIDAMAR'S focal point became the development of the Southeast Asian markets. Between 1978-1988, MIDAMAR achieved the development of two stable major global marketing circles. The African and Middle Eastern markets complemented the growth in the Southeast Asia region. With the growth in International food service and the demand for higher quality food products, MIDAMAR recognized the early demands for quality and was quick to respond to changing government import regulations in newly developing countries.

With much of the growth in the Middle East and Far East, MIDAMAR was a leader in developing Halal food products, as well as a pioneer in exporting quality U.S.A. products in total compliance to ever- changing and demanding newly developing import country regulations.

MIDAMAR: U.S. Development of Halal food market
MIDAMAR was initially established on the foundation of international sales and development. After several years of dedicated work and market research, MIDAMAR became a well-known and respected name for servicing international markets requiring quality Halal meat and food products. Starting in the early 1980's, MIDAMAR was, perhaps, the first North American company to recognize the potential for a high quality U.S.D.A inspected and processed line of Halal meat items for U.S. consumers.

Most of the immigrant Muslim newcomers to the United States traditionally did not consume Western style processed meats in their home countries. However, with the growth of international food concepts focusing on burgers, pizzas, and a full range of family restaurants, a need was filled by MIDAMAR to provide a high quality Halal product. Within 5 years, MIDAMAR was producing more than 40 beef and turkey products to the highest nutritional standards with quality packaging under U.S.D.A. regulations and in total conformity to Halal guidelines.

MIDAMAR's commitment is to make the highest quality Halal products available to all Muslim consumers. The MIDAMAR food name is recognized in the diverse and multi-cultural Muslim societies of the U.S.A. Muslim consumers, especially the children and youth, have come to love American food just as their friends and neighbors do. Further, MIDAMAR'S continued goal is to satisfy the Western and Ethnic Halal food requests by Muslim consumers wanting to be part of Western society, yet still remain faithful to the teachings of Islam with regard to what is Halal and Haram.

By the late 1980's, MIDAMAR was outgrowing the office space, which was leased, in addition to leasing and renting three separate warehouses and cold store facilities. By 1990, plans were made to expand and build a new modern facility to house MIDAMAR's offices and warehouses, and to apply for U.S.D.A. approval for a self contained freezer, cold store containing chilled facilities, and a blast freezer. However, MIDAMAR faced a tremendous set back during the period of the Gulf War. The Middle East and Gulf area was and continues to be one of MIDAMAR's major markets. Literally overnight, MIDAMAR saw it's market in Kuwait and the region wiped out! Nevertheless, the MIDAMAR staff had faith in the recovery of a right and just order, having worked in the region for some 20 years. In 1992, MIDAMAR completed a new facility of 55,000 sq. feet, which contained MIDAMAR's offices, a modern warehouse, and U.S.D.A. inspected cold store and freezer facilities.

Recovering from the Gulf War, MIDAMAR was optimistic about global growth and planned additional facilities only to face the economic downturn in Southeast Asia in 1997. Again, because of optimism and confidence in the people and markets which MIDAMAR serves in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, in late 1999, MIDAMAR planned it's second major expansion adding another 15,000 square feet of warehouse, 120,000 cubic feet of freezer space, and 50,000 cubic feet of chiller cold rooms, all under U.S.D.A. inspection.

MIDAMAR: 2000 and Beyond
Entering into the 21st century and approaching 30 years of service in all 50 states, Canada, some 30 countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North America, and the Caribbean, MIDAMAR is committed to our continued belief in providing better service and more quality products to our customers. MIDAMAR continually focuses on improved customer service and new product development. In addition to the commitment to further international service and development, MIDAMAR has placed a major focus on servicing growing market demand for Quality MIDAMAR products.

As we look ahead to the next decade, MIDAMAR looks to achieve further growth and satisfaction from its friends and customers around the world, following the same beliefs, teachings, and principles based on traditions taught by Haj Yahya Aossey to his son Bill Aossey Jr., founder of MIDAMAR Corporation.

About Us | International Services | MIDAMAR Halal | Halal Products | Contact Us | Home
Copyright © 2001 MIDAMAR Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
1105 60th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404 USA. phone: 319-362-3711, fax: 319-362-4111

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