- Our Work
- Get Involved
- Inside Heifer
- Ideas in Action
Check out the fantastic online Finding Solutions Newsletter by Jane and Larry Levine. The newsletter is published quarterly by the nonprofit program Kids Can Make a Difference (KIDS).
Their Winter 2011 issue focuses on Food and Sustainability, and includes my story about 7-year-old Sifa, daughter of Timothy Sheghere Mgonja, a Heifer International camel project participant.
Sifa is a bit shy when the towering adult camels get too close, but she’s all smiles when the young calves start nosing around (as seen in the above photo.)
She’s also able to attend English primary school and has an improved brick home and better nutrition, all thanks to the Heifer camel project. Let us know what you think and please share the newsletter with others who might be interested.
If you didn’t catch it in the Holiday 2010 issue, read a related World Ark article on a Maasai camel project here.
So let Heifer handle the details and be a part of helping a struggling family overseas. To order a camel or a share of one in honor of a family member or friend, follow this link.
Why give a camel?
No. 1 reason: Camels supply nutritious milk rich in vitamin C to families in drought-prone areas where other livestock can’t survive. The milk provides food and income to help with other necessities.
No. 2: A camel is a quirky gift of optimism and joy and reflects a wish to play a small part in a better world.
Some fun camel facts courtesy World Book Encyclopedia:
Deep in deserts, camels serve as almost the only source of transportation, food, clothing and shelter.
They can carry loads of up to 330 pounds for eight hours. They can run 10 miles per hour and travel as far as 100 miles in one day.
A camel can hear well but like a donkey it often pays no attention to commands unless there’s something in it for him.
Long, curly eyelashes protect their eyes from blowing sand. Thick eyebrows shield them from the sun.
The hump of a camel is mostly fat. If food becomes scarce, the animal can use fat in the hump to provide energy. It isn’t a storage place for water as many people believe.
Camels are sometimes called the “ship of the desert” for their medium-speed pacing. Both legs on the same side lift together and come down together, providing the swaying motion.
To read World Ark‘s article how Heifer camels continue to help a Maasai community in Tanzania, go here.
“A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles.”
— Tim Cahill
Heifer Tanzania camel project beneficiary Timothy Sheghere Mgonja’s mother, Sifa, is 91 years old in a country where the average life expectancy is the mid-50s for both men and women.
In Tanzania, someone who is your elder is offered the respectful greeting Shikamoo, which translates roughly to “I hold your feet.”
Yet the most honored member of her family tried over and over to give up her chair for Heifer staff members. She finally succeeded by leaving the room. When she returned, she sat next to me on the plush couch in her son’s new brick home, made possible by the income he receives from his Heifer camels, and took my hand in hers.
“Thank you for the camel that gives us milk,” she said in her tribal language, translated by Simon Sandilen, a Maasai warrior and Heifer Tanzania’s senior logistics officer, who has taught himself many languages. He said she also wanted me to know how happy she was that we would come so far to honor her family’s success.
Yet this is exactly what my trip was for — to meet the families who have worked so hard to lift themselves out of hunger and poverty with our donors’ help; to share meals and challenges and successes; and to then share them in World Ark magazine with those in the U.S. who have helped make their transformation possible.
Now that I’m back in the office, what means the most from the trip are the quiet conversations with Heifer’s project participants, the ability to witness in person the sweat and love that has gone into their overwhelming successes, and to hear over and over, at each new site we visited: “This work is my soul,” “I have found my life’s work,” “Heifer saved my marriage and my life,” and “God bless Heifer.”
Many thanks to all my new friends in Tanzania, Heifer staff members and project partners who spent weekends away from their families (and in Country Director Peter Mwakabwale’s case two whole weeks!) to help us tell the stories of Heifer Tanzania.
I have many more stories to share here, including a closer look at Heifer Tanzania’s partnerships with churches and a tire-spinning, dust-kicking look at why 4-Wheel-Drive vehicles are so vital to Heifer’s field work.
Look for full-length features on camel projects, fish farming and dairy farming in coming issues of World Ark.
We have our hard-working Heifer staff in Mbeya to thank for opening the office late on a weekend (about 9 p.m. Saturday here) so we could share video footage from our field visit to Tanzania.
On the way to a Maasai women’s camel project northwest of Arusha, we came across these giraffes strolling in the morning sunshine. They paused for a moment to see what all the shiny stuff was about, then went on about their day. Our expert guides told us these are Maasai giraffes, taller and darker in color than the type more commonly seen. Animal conservation parkland now takes up a lot of the land the Maasai used to roam with their cattle herds.
Video by Dave Anderson
Donna Stokes is managing editor for Heifer International’s magazine, World Ark. The past two weeks she’s shared experiences from her visit to projects in Tanzania. You can read her previous posts here.
We have our hard-working Heifer staff to thank for meeting us late at the office in Mbeya in south-central Tanzania so we could upload this video I promised of Maasai women milking a camel. The women’s group received the camels about a year and a half ago. Some of the first training they received was on milking, and a special process they use to naturally preserve and pasteurize the milk.
Video by Dave Anderson
Timothy Sheghere Mgonja (pictured with his family) got the idea to ask Heifer for camels after he visited the Meserani Snake Park and Maasai Cultural Museum in Arusha, Tanzania. The park offers camel rides, and Timothy thought the camels could make a great tourism business.
Once he learned the other benefits of the camels he convinced his group in the town of Same to ask Heifer for the animals. He, his family and all group members now use the camels to carry water, pull a plow, entertain tourists and produce milk. He says this work is what he was born to do and can’t imagine ever doing anything else. You’ll read more about him soon in World Ark and on www.heifer.org.
Our Heifer group also sought inspiration on a rainy afternoon at the Meserani Snake Park, where black and green mambas, pythons and other slithery creatures such as crocodiles lurked around every corner.
Richard Bugaisa, Heifer Tanzania communications officer, bravely volunteered to wear a mildly poisonous African grass snake with the proper spirit of adventure, all in the name of getting attention for Heifer. He got a bit nervous, though, when the snake started to wiggle.
Photo by Dave Anderson
A Maasai child enjoys the very last drops of sweet camel milk, one of the many benefits of a Heifer camel project that so far has brought more than 30 camels to this semi-permanent settlement. Climate change, including a severe drought in the 1990s that killed most of their cattle, inspired the women in this project to seek a new source of income to adjust. The Heifer camels are ideal as they only need a drink of water about once every two weeks.
The camels continue to give milk, even in the dry season when cows and goats are unable to produce. Camel milk is the only kind of milk to include vitamin C. It also has medicinal properties from the tree leaves the camel grazes on that can boost the immune systems of those with HIV or AIDS. Camels can be milked up to five times a day.
You’ll get to know a Maasai family and learn how the camels have helped them make a better life in an upcoming issue of World Ark magazine. You’ll also see more photos and video from Dave in World Ark magazine and at http://www.heifer.org/. Keep a lookout for a spectacular video by Dave of Maasai women milking a camel while its baby tries to jump in on the action.
Heifer Tanzania Country Director Peter Mwakabwale has been graciously escorting photographer Dave and I around, pointing out scenic and cultural highlights along the highways and byways of his spectacularly stunning country. That includes this topographical wonder that we passed twice in recent days on the road from Arusha to Nairobi.
In Swahili, the name is Mlima Matako. Yep, you guessed it, Butt Mountain. Yet Simon Sandilen, senior logistics officer for Heifer Tanzania, says some people just call it Maria’s Butt. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of who Maria is.
Check back again soon, we have video from Dave of camel milking at a Maasai project and giraffes in the wild to share when we have more upload power.
Wildlife is everywhere here, you just have to keep your eyes open. This morning, tiny monkeys chased each other through the giant trees in the courtyard at the Elephant Motel in Same. Just as I was typing this in the SUV on the highwaybetween Same and Korogwe, Peter slowed to point out a baboon family not 20 feet from the road in the bushes, one carrying its baby on its back.