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Photos and video by Geoff Oliver Bugbee
The unity in Heifer communities shows itself in many ways. Camaraderie and joyful greetings of welcome are a part of each meeting. Members blend their voices in song and touch hands in dance and friendship. They exchange advice, ideas and the bounty of their hard work when they come together for meetings, their bicycles laden with corn, pumpkins, sugar cane, bags of ground nuts and jugs of fresh milk.
They also reach out in compassion to those in need, whether they are part of the group or not. This all grows from the values-based training that transforms individuals into communities, recipients into donors.
Ten women formed the Twashuka Women’s Group in the Luanshya District of Zambia in 1995 to address severe poverty in their community. In 2005, after failed attempts to raise livestock on their own, they applied to Heifer International for help and received five dairy cows and three bulls. Today the original group and its two pass-on groups together own 206 dairy cows.
Group members adopted six orphans in the community when the children were just one day old. As a community the women agreed to donate a liter of milk every day to the children on a rotation schedule to improve their nutrition and help provide for their care.
Pelina Lubumbe, who cares for Anna, age 5, said the girl would not have survived without the group’s generosity. “This is a child of Heifer International,” Lubumbe said in thanks.
the Twashuka group at a community meeting last week.
Hey Heifer Fans!
This is Zach Meskell writing this one, your local charismatic and perky chap!
Anyway, I just wanted to all let you in on the recent smashing news of our donation from those fine fellows at St Gabriel’s Episcopal Church. This spiffy little institution has something called an Outreach Committee, which is essentially a chapter of the church which fund raises for amazing non-profit institutions like us.
For their holiday season bonanza, they had their annual Advent Fair, where the members of the church donate handmade goods to the Outreach Committee, who then sell them and give the money to us. How totally cool is that, or what?
All together, they raised $1,800 for the local Heifer group!
Well, really they raised a little less then that, because there was a second part which I have yet to mention: The children (Not the Youth, we’re talking 6-12 here) have raised almost $60 by themselves over the summer by collecting loose change, which was also included in the check.
So, a few weeks ago I went up, accepted the check, gave a quick talk, glorified the qualities of the good food at the meetings, recommended that people check out the volunteer group, and was generally thankful for the money.
Over all, a hearty toast to all those people at St Gabriel’s,
…for Heifer Portland (not live),…, this is Zach Meskell signing off.
Zack Meskell, a young entrepreneur and CEO of Cards for Cows, started to his business at the age of 8 years old. He and his brother and sister design and create hand-drawn greeting cards on 100% recycled paper. They donate their proceeds to Heifer International.
This post originally appeared on the Heifer in Portland volunteer blog.
From my trip to Uganda, I was able to see firsthand why biogas is so important in poor rural communities. So far, I’ve shown you why it’s important for women and for the environment. Now, I’d like to show you why it’s important for rural children.
The very first farm we visited was that of Miriam and Wilberforce Muwonge in the Ntaawo Ward, Mukono District. Miriam and Wilberforce live with their three children and six grandchildren on about one acre of land. The family had already participated in a Heifer project, from which they received one dairy cow. They had little money for fuel for cooking and lighting, but they had plenty of cow manure. Since Heifer Uganda installed their biogas unit, they have been saving the equivalent of U.S. $10 a month on fuel costs. The children are not only able to attend school, but they are also able to study at night in their home.
In contrast, while driving to another field visit the next day, we passed three boys carrying loads of firewood on their heads. These were not the children or grandchildren of Heifer participants. They most likely do not get to attend school, because they are busy gathering firewood and probably water.
As a mother, I was understandably drawn to the children I saw on this trip. To see the difference Heifer makes in the lives of children was amazing. They look healthy, their clothes are cleaner, they go to school, they read books. The gifts of a dairy cow and a biogas unit, and the accompanying training, sure go a long way.
Junior Heifer supporters braved a cold morning in Little Rock, Ark., earlier this month to tempt neighbors and passersby with steamy mugs of hot drinks. All proceeds went to Heifer International. Teddy Jones and his friend John Maris, both age 7, teamed up on the hot cocoa stand after they were inspired by a Read to Feed program they participated in at Episcopal Collegiate School.
The kids asked for a donation of 50 cents per mug of cocoa, tea or cider. “Our goal was $50 and they raised $160!” proud mom Lisa Jones said.
Neighbors are urging John and Teddy to open their stand again next year, and are even offering help with marketing.
In the picture, left to right, are John Maris, 7; Emmie Jones, 5; Will Jones, 2; and Teddy Jones, 7.
Photo provided by Lisa Jones
Good news is reported on lower child death rates in Kenya and other countries. Ted Conference presenter Hans Rosling uses graphic “bubbles” to show new UN data to help us see the big picture on reaching Millennium Development Goals. Some investments — electricity, clean water, and education (especially for girls) — may take an entire generation, but great progress steadily follows.
The New York Times and The Heifer Blog both chimed in recently about Plumpy’nut, a sweet, foil-wrapped nutritional supplement given to children in crisis situations who need quick energy and a nutrient boost. Great idea, right?
But food guru Marion Nestle was unimpressed by Plumpy’nut. In an interview with Heifer’s World Ark magazine, she questioned the wisdom of loading kids up on convenience foods packaged in throw-away wrappers and manufactured far, far away.
We think Nestle would be a fan of Nourimanba, a Plumpy’nut alternative produced and distributed in Haiti by the nonprofit Partners in Health. Production of the peanut butter-based food boosts the local economy by employing local farmers to grow the nuts and local women to sort and process them. Instead of single-serving foil wrappers, the Nourimanba is packed into reusable plastic canisters. Learn more about Nourimanba and see photos of the children who have benefited from it here.
by Amy Carter
part 2 of 2
From the Kitomari home we traveled more than one very bumpy hour in Land Cruisers up the slope of a dormant volcano named Mount Meru. At an elevation of 6,000 feet above sea level, we were still only at the base of the mountain. As our bodies bounced and swayed up the windy, dirt road, we passed many women, men and children walking down. The women carried baskets of avocadoes on top of their heads and children waved at us with smiles that lured out our cameras. It is impossible to not smile in response to even the sight of these children, who nearly always turn their eyes to stare at our own. For many of us missing our own children, every day it is tempting to wrap each of them into a hug and kiss their dust-covered faces.
When we finally arrived at our destination, we were greeted by Mama Anna, a short, round woman with the personality of a natural entertainer. She and the other women in her group welcome us with a song and undulation, their tongues trilling in a way that none of our group are able to accurately mimic. Afterward we introduced ourselves, each of us labeling ourselves “Mama” and “Baba” followed by our oldest child’s first name. I was “Mama Owen,” and I don’t know that I’ve introduced myself as proudly as in that moment.
“Ubuntu” is an African term meaning, roughly, “I am because you are.” As we stood in the circle, chanting in Swahili — I, however, not managing much more than the commonly used greeting “jambo” — and sharing our lives, we weren’t separated by geography, economics or gender. We instead were united as parents, children and individuals earnestly seeking to learn more about one another and celebrating our humanity, successes and challenges. We shared a lunchtime meal of chapati, stew, rice, fruit and tea prepared by their hands. Mama Anna and her husband Ishmael then told us about the Heifer training he had attended in 1992 that taught him how to build a cow shed and how one year later they passed on one of their cows to another family in need. In 1997 they began producing award-winning cheese, and now people in the community travel to their home to purchase the cheese and other produce. One of their children has gone to university and they have contributed to the building of a school.
“I am thankful,” Mama Anna said. “All things have happened because of Heifer.”
Each member of the group participated in churning butter as the women danced and sang around us. Even I, rhythmically challenged, was glad to take one of their hands after I finished turning the heavy blue cylinder. They gladly taught us how to transport their luggage — bananas, in this case — on top of our heads, and we helped to smash coffee beans in a large mortar. Three of the women demonstrated by alternately lowering and lifting their pestles in what — for them — became an easy, graceful dance. Ishmael joined us around the mortar, throwing his grandson into the air, the giggles of a little boy joining in our song.
We were family that afternoon, discovering joy, blessings and unity at the base of Mount Meru.
The true face of poverty stares you in the face in Rautahat. In the eastern plains of Nepal, dire need and scarcity is plentiful. Scattered along what can be defined as roads, are huts. Made of mud plastered in dried bamboos and sticks, the walls shelter humans and animals alike. There is no differentiation. Thin, sparsely clothed children run about on a weekday. There is obviously no school for them. The flat lands extend out as far as the eye can see. It’s almost time to plant rice, so every plot has a thin man in a wrap-around following a set of bullock, the most used draft animals. Tractors are rare here, too expensive to hire, let alone buy. They wait for the rain.
Under the mango trees, the heat is bearable. It’s why they have chosen this place for a Passing on the Gift ceremony. Near the shade are two sheds, local schools someone points out. Many here can’t afford to send their children there. The air is festive with the sound of local indigenous instruments. It sounds like a wedding. The buffalos and the goats chew away at the grass on the ground. They seem less impressed with the facade.
The women are seated on the floor. Rows of vibrant colored sari against smooth dark skin, the contrast is amazingly beautiful. One end of the sari goes around the head. Tradition demands that all women of age cover their heads. It connotes respect for the elders and the essence of being a woman. Perched around are men and children of all ages witnessing an event so rare in their community. A cluster of older men are seated on chairs. It’s clear that these are the more respected ones.
Pachiya Devi Shah also sits with the men, a strange sight in Rautahat. For women here have boundaries; invisible lines that they dare not cross. Speaking to strangers, removing their head cover and sitting with men are definitely on the other side of that line. But Pachiya Devi sits and chats confidently. It is clear that she is accepted, respected almost. As Heifer’s Golden Talent Award winner, she won more than the $1000 prize money. Being able to help provide for her family has won the respect of her family and the community. She won acceptance on the other side of the line, making it a bit faint for others who follow her.
Sarala Yadav, a member of Parliament elected from this constituency, presides as the chief guest. “As a woman, I understand the challenges that women face. Their struggles are far harder than mine. This project, I feel has been especially successful in helping the women overcome these sensitive challenges,” she says.
Seventeen buffalo and 43 goats were passed on from Saraswoti and Shiv Shakti Women Group to Jana Shakti and Nari Shakti Women Group. Vegetables and fodder seeds exchanged hands along with advice and assurance. As the timid recipients’ lead their animals away, the crowd moves toward the school. A feast was being prepared. Men and boys kneaded the dough and flattened the rotis. Another group fried them in huge quantities of oil upon a wood fire. Everyone sat down on the cramped junior school desk and the feast began.
The servings were plentiful. So were the hopes and dreams as another generation of gifts and training enriched the lives of more families. Soon there will be milk and meat in more homes and more children will go to this school.
Puja Singh is a Heifer communication officer based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In La Union, in Guatemala’s northeastern jungle, a community displaced during the long and bloody civil war has returned from its 14-year temporary home in Mexico to reclaim its Guatemalan roots. Although the land they live on now is far from the village they were forced to abandon in 1982, they’re doing their best to embrace their new home. The children in this video will have to work hard on their remote chunk of land far from any good roads and reliable water sources. But those worries will weigh on them soon enough. For now, it’s time to play.
Video by William Russell Powell
Austin Bailey and Russ Powell visited Guatemala last week to check in on Heifer projects there. You can read about what they found in World Ark magazine.
All around the world, participation in Heifer projects is a family affair. Children help keep animals clean and fed, and they often provide the lion’s share of affection, too.
Is there anything sweeter than a 12-year-old boy who hurries home from school each day to feed and pamper his beloved cow, Esta, whose milk brought his family the money to build a decent home? I met this boy, Lubega Matia, in Uganda last year. An AIDS orphan, he was taken in by a struggling couple with four biological children and one orphan already. Luckily, their Heifer-provided cow made a huge difference, bringing them good health and comfort. By keeping Esta’s pen spotlessly clean and her feed bin full, Lubega makes sure the family returns the favor. Here’s a shot of him with one of his family’s goats.
Pretty great, huh?
Below are photos of other children like Lubega, who happily help care for their feathered and fuzzy Heifer animals around the world.
Boys in Namitpitan, the Philippines, take a break and splash in the irrigation canal between rice fields on their way home from school.
Anasthasia Stepanuk hugs her goose in Polozhyvo, Ukraine.
Emilia, Victoria and Anna Soroka enjoy milk from their Heifer cow in the Shatsk district of Ukraine.
Photo by Jake Lyell
Wang Yin Ping, 10, cuddles with her rabbit in Yu Chi village, Bei Yuan Township, China.
Photo by Geoff Oliver Bugbee
Photo by Geoff Oliver Bugbee
Channel Cyuzuzo, 6, of Kibungo District, Rwanda, poses with her cow she named “Superbness.” Channel is one of 12 children in her family. Seven of the children are AIDS orphans the family took in.