Heifer International's goal is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. When I first heard about Heifer International, I read the information, saw the YouTube videos, and participated in a Heifer project at my church. I knew they sponsored projects in the US and abroad. They gave animals to families to improve nutrition and health (such as heifers that provide milk). Part of their program included training for families in animal husbandry before they received the animals. Each family that received animals was expected to "Pass the Gift," or give the first born animal to the next family in need, after training that family in animal husbandry. This all sounds very good and sounds like an organization I could and would willingly support. But I am one of those people who want to know for sure this is what the organization does. So I travelled for 21 day with Heifer International in the Philippines. I met and talked with people in communities with whom Heifer works. I listened to their stories, and I watch the respect they showed to the Heifer workers. I watched the care they gave to their animals and how they taught others to care for the animals, so they would be ready when their animals came to them. And I am here to say that "HEIFER INTERNATIONAL DOES WHAT IT PROFESSES TO DO!" I listened to parents talk about the malnourishment their children suffered before Heifer came into their lives. Parents shared with me how they were able to send their children back to school, because they sold the extra eggs, milk, etc. their family did not use. I guess one farmer truly put it in perspective for me. He said, "If I die, my children will weep. If my water buffalo dies, my children will starve." For me that was the turning point in my relationship with Heifer International. I am now a regular donor and have added Heifer International as a beneficiary in my will. I volunteer for them whenever they need me, working with schools, civic organization, and churches to introduce them to Heifer and / or assist them with their Heifer projects. In my book, HEIFER INTERNATIONAL IS THE REAL THING!
I would like to respond to the review written in October 2011 from the person who thinks Heifer recipients treat animals as a commodity. They don't sell the animals because they can't feed them. Before they receive an animal from Heifer, they receive training from Heifer about caring for their animals, using the bi-products of the animals (milk, manure, muscle, etc) to bring their families out of hunger and poverty and to educate their children. They have a CAHV worker (Community Animal Health Volunteer) in each community or a nearby community that is trained by help families when their animals become sick, need vaccinations, give birth, etc. They teach families that all members within the family have value and are equal. They sponsor projects for women, who, in many countries, are considered less valuable than men and are not allowed to own land or animals. As far as being a religious based group that inflicts their religious values on the projects' participants, that is not true. They would with community members who are Catholic, Presbyterian, etc., and at no time did I witness Heifer trying to convert the Filipino natives toward any specific religion. That is not the mission of Heifer. Their mission is work with communities to end hunger and poverty and doing it in a manner that cares for the earth. So, before making statements about an organization, especially one that does so much to help millions of people in the US and abroad, you might want to check your information. Having seen Heifer doing their work up close and personal in the Philippines, I know those statements to be untrue. And by the way, their pride in their animals is very apparent. The animals are cleaner than any animals I have seen on farms in NC. I have watched them wash and care for their animals with great compassion. The animals that end up in US supermarkets should be so lucky!
I am an area volunteer for Heifer International and would like to clear up some misconceptions in a previous post. The original animals Heifer donates to needy families are neither sold nor eaten. They are an opportunity for a family to earn a living through the sale of the products the animals produce such as milk, eggs, honey etc. The first offspring of the animal is passed on to another needy family and so on. I have been to Heifer headquarters (green),in Little Rock, Arkansas to the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, and on a study tour to Armenia and I can assure you every cent that is contributed to Heifer International is well spent. Heifer does not give people an animal and leave them, they are there educating them on the care of the animals, supplying veterianary care and help in producing feed among other services. Heifer is one of the most transparent agencies you will find. I am proud to be a part of this organization that has been around since 1944 and has helped many people become self sufficient and communities come together that once were at odds and they have empowered women and educated girls where otherwise they may not have had that opportunity.
Of all the many organizations working to end extreme poverty that I have studied, Heifer seems to me to have the best combination of pragmatism and idealism. They recognize that the problems they wrestle with are complex and intertwined: how hunger is related to social injustice, war, environmental degradation, gender inequality, ignorance (both here and abroad), and apathy. They manage to fight all of these problems together.
Founded by an extraordinary man--Dan West--after his experience doing relief work in Europe during the Spanish Civil War, this group continues to refine its methods and spread its idea that impoverished people all over the world can solve their own problems--and then go on to help others-- with just a loan of livestock and training, which they then pass on to others.
My own experiences with Heifer have included participating in various fund-raising and public outreach projects, including a joint fundraiser with the African Children's Choir and a recent banquet in California's wine country, projects that are run primarily by grass-roots volunteers--interesting, fun, passionate, wonderful people!
I have also attended two educational weekend seminars, "Heifer University 101" and the more in-depth "Heifer University 201," which were both excellent--very informative and inspiring.
So whether you want to learn more about how to fight poverty and its attendant problems, put your own shoulder to the wheel with active participation, or just send your donation dollars to a group that will spend them well and multiply them, check out heifer.org. This is a great group.
For over 25 years Heifer International has been a major influence on my life. For over 60 years Heifer has been sharing resources and knowlege with limited resource farm families across the world and in the US. I have visited projects in Honduras, Maine, New York City, and Appalachia and met impoverished people whose health, dignity and hope have been restored through Heifer's unique work. I have been blessed with the opportunity to share these stories with schools and congregationa as a heifer volunteer, and to meet international "partners" in Heifer's work. Heifer "invests" donors funds with marginalized men and women who, records show, respond overwhelmingly and "pass on the gifts" they receive to others, thus leading to new levels of selp-sufficiency in small rural villages worldwide.