Report to the Founder/ Part 3 of 3
To: Dan West — Prophet, gadfly, dreamer, youth leader, motivator, peacemaker, and founder of Heifers for Relief.
From: Tom Lyon — Heifer volunteer for 26 years
Subject: Armenia trip — November 2011
As I’ve said in parts one and two of my letter, I’m certain you would be pleased, and excited by all that I recently witnessed during my study tour to Armenia. Here some additional things I saw that kept me thinking of you…
While serving as National Director of Youth programs for the Brethren Church you were working with, motivating and empowering young people. You dedicated much of your life to youth. In Armenia, youth development in underserved rural areas has become a major focus of many of Heifer’s partner groups. We visited two of the programs, modeled after the U.S. 4-H program, where youth are receiving training in “life skills.” They provide hands-on education in areas such as agriculture, business, logical thinking, journalism, ecology, and health education, giving new opportunities for growth in small communities otherwise lacking such important services. With an emphasis on proactive peacemaking, youth empowerment and education, the YES Youth Clubs are having a tremendous impact by increasing “social capital” for the nation. What a joy it was for us to visit these children so full of pride and dreams for the future.
Your life was a constant journey to find practical ways to bring about world peace. You believed that ending hunger was the first essential element to bringing about lasting peace. Heifer Armenia has incorporated that vision as a major component of everything they do. Heifer’s country director, Dr. Anahit Ghazanchyan, reminded me of you when she expressed her strong belief that “instead of just talking about peace, we need activities to bring people together to solve social problems, and in the process get to know each other.” Heifer Armenia’s practical activities include using the Heifer model of conflict resolution through group decision making, “Peace in our Homes” programs targeting youth, addressing issues of domestic violence and gender equity, and cornerstones training that applies not just to raising livestock, but to virtually all phases of life development.
I once received a Heifer T-shirt that said ”Peace begins with food and dignity for all.” That simple phrase, to me, became synonymous with your life’s work and Heifer’s long term vision. And on this trip I was privileged to see its practical, everyday application in a small, faraway country:
- Food: The result of honest hard work, teamwork, training, and careful stewardship of a fragile land.
- Dignity: Based upon pride of place, shared goals, hope for the future, and a humble desire for peace.
We saw life-altering miracles evolving every day throughout rural Armenia. Miracles brought about by a dedicated staff; a proud, determined and historic people; a proven process; and a set of universal values expressed in the 12 Cornerstones. This is what we shall always remember about Armenia.We all return to the US with new friends, new understanding and a renewed dedication to do all we can to create “a world of communities living in peace.”
Years ago, you wrote the following: “Nothing binds people closer than fellowship in a great adventure.” After this journey, I cannot think of a better way to explain the worldwide Heifer “family” that exists and is thriving in so many places today. Together we are ending hunger. There is no greater adventure than that!
Thank you Dan for your dream, your persistence and your founding of an organization that brought me to a place — both physically and in my heart — that I would never have gotten to alone!
Editor’s Note: Dan West, a relief worker and dairy farmer, founded the organization that is today Heifer International. Though Dan passed away in 1971, his principles still guide Heifer and its work.