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Heifer International Helps Fight Poverty, Hunger

Heifer International Helps Fight Poverty, Hunger

An idea that began with a cup of milk has led to cows and other farm animals being given to people around the world to help fight hunger and poverty.

As a relief worker during the Spanish Civil War, Dan West, an American farmer, saw the need for long-term assistance as he was pouring out a cup of milk. "Not a cup [of milk] but a cow was needed" to give people a continuing source of food, West believed.

His effort, Heifer International, began in 1944, when 17 heifer milk cows were shipped to Puerto Rico. They went to families whose malnourished children never had tasted milk. Each family that receives a heifer from the organization agrees to "pass on the gift" and donate a newborn calf to another family in need. Recipients also must teach others the sustainable agriculture techniques taught by Heifer. So the gift of food is never ending.

By helping one family at a time, Heifer, since its founding, has helped 8.5 million families –- some 45 million people -- in 125 countries.

Heifer International, between June 2005 and June 2006, spent $59 million on projects in 57 countries. In 2006, approximately 140,000 families were aided by Heifer animal gift programs. Another 200,000 families received training in sustainable farming techniques from the organization. Most of the donations come from individual Americans, but contributions also come from people, organizations and Heifer affiliations around the world.

Heifers are not the only animals given to people to help them become more self-reliant. Donations also provide ducks, sheep, water buffaloes, camels, goats, pigs, oxen, llamas and many other productive animals. Every gift of an animal provides benefits such as milk, wool, eggs and fertilizer. These products increase a family's income and help it secure better housing, improved nutrition, health care and education.

Farmers prepare for the animals by attending Heifer-sponsored training sessions, building sheds for livestock and sometimes planting trees and grass.

For example, a good dairy cow can produce 17 liters of milk a day. That is enough milk for a family's needs and a surplus to sell. A water buffalo gives milk, serves as a draft animal to cultivate the land, and carries produce to the market.

In battling hunger and poverty, Heifer uses a community approach to its projects. It works with local governments and leaders to analyze what they need, what Heifer resources are available and what they hope to accomplish in five years. When the community plans specific activities to accomplish these goals, Heifer's "living loan" becomes a reality.

In messages to Heifer, recipients expressed thanks for its programs:

• "Thank you for assisting the poor all over the world through Heifer." -- Archibald Tarawia, Heifer project leader, Tanzania

• "I am taking care of two [grand] children for the last nine years ... I have had to pay for everything on my own from my pension [$20 per month]. Heifer International has been our savior. Without this cow, these children surely would have died." -- Kotyck Maria Dmytrivna (a 69-year-old grandmother), Ukraine

• "We have lived with nothing all our lives. Our house was empty, but now full of hope. Because we have received the cow from Heifer, we will be able to send our children to school." -- Kein Tien, Vietnam

• "My cow is my treasure and vision. No longer do I sit alone in total darkness, but work as a farmer." -- Lydia Chelangat-Mutai, (A legally-blind Heifer recipient), Kenya

• "After the goats arrived, there was such an excitement in the house and enthusiasm to look after them. Their offspring have given us milk and improved the appearance and the health of our children. We were so excited to pass on the gift to another family." -- Lily Daka, Zambia


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