Every week we feature a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom. To date, Heifer Mexico has helped rural families in 23 states with over 3,000 farm animals, mainly pigs, sheep and dairy cattle.Over the weekend many families in Mexico will celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of one victorious battle in the fight for independence from the French. It is a festival of Mexican pride and heritage celebrated with parades, traditional food and of course, a party with family and friends.
Once a week we will be featuring a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom. This week, we learn how to make mud bricks like people use to make houses in some parts of the world.
In southwestern United States and Mexico (as well as other parts of the world), where there are not many trees, people often build houses out of mud bricks called adobe. Adobe houses are warm in the evening and cool in the daytime.
If a mud brick is warmed by the sun, how long will it continue to give off warmth once the sun goes down?
Materials for making mud bricks:
Large mixing spoon
Straw, dry grass or pine needles
One-pint milk carton
A sunny window
Pencil and paper
How to make mud bricks:
Gather some straw. If you do not have straw you can use dry grass, or dry pine needles.
Put the straw, soil from your yard, and water into a bowl and mix it well.
Open the top of the empty one-pint milk carton. Pour the mud mixture from the bowl into the milk carton.
Make a hole in the mud by pushing a pencil halfway down in the middle of the opening. Loosen the mud around the pencil by moving the pencil in a small circle, and then leave it in the carton.
Place the milk carton in a sunny window and leave it there for several days to dry.
When the brick is firm and dry, take the pencil out of it and peel off the carton.
Leave your brick in a sunny window for one more hour. Then, put the brick on a table out of the sunlight.
Put a thermometer into the hole of the brick. This will measure the temperature inside the brick.
Lay another thermometer nearby on the table to measure the temperature of the air outside the brick.
Wait a few minutes, and then read and write down the temperatures showing on the thermometer inside and outside of the brick. (How long will it take before the thermometer inside the brick is the same temperature as the one outside of it?)
Many people around the world use different materials to build their houses. What are some of the advantages to using adobe bricks to build a house? What could be added to the mud mix to make stronger bricks?
Adobe bricks are not used for building in places where there is a lot of rain, or where it is cold. What would happen if adobe bricks froze and thawed a lot? What happens to adobe bricks if they keep getting wet?
What are some other materials that can be used to build houses?
To download a PDF of this activity, go here. You can find more fun and educational activities at www.heifer.org, or help families improve their living conditions with a donation.
Farmers in Mexico are trying out an unusual crop, with Heifer International’s help. Amaranth is a grain native to Mexico that hasn’t been widely cultivated in hundreds of years. But it’s highly nutritious – lots of protein, vitamins and minerals – and it grows well in arid areas.
Over the last few years, Heifer and its partners in Oaxaca, Mexico, have helped dozens of families by providing training in amaranth cultivation and soil conservation. Now Heifer International Mexico hopes to continue its work there by focusing on children in the poverty-stricken region.
In this video, you can see what amaranth looks like and hear more about the project from the kids involved. You’ll also see how to make the sweet treat called “alegria,” or “happiness.”
Heifer International projects and families are all reported to be safe following Tuesday’s 7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck between the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, Mexico. Heifer has offices in Oaxaca.
“We are fine after the earthquake,” said Diana Partida Arteaga, administrator. “It was … very rough with aftershocks, so we left the office. No substantial human or material damage has been reported, only minor building damage. Here in the office, everything is fine.”
Alejandro Lopez Musalem, country director, said, “We’re all right. It was a big shock. Fortunately, there was no damage.”
A number of people were injured in the temblor, but thankfully, despite the level of damage, there were no deaths.
Happy Thanksgiving! Sure, it’s the most American of holidays, but the United States doesn’t have the corner on turkeys. In fact, Israelis eat the most turkey per person, usually spit-roasted from a shawarma stand or in schnitzel form. The United States comes in second, followed by Canada. Turkey consumption is ramping up in Brazil and Mexico, and it’s a traditional Christmas dish in El Salvador and other Central American countries.
Turkeys are native to North America, but Heifer International provides these plucky birds to families throughout Eastern Europe and Central America. Heifer turkeys are currently scratching around family farms in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Mexico. And turkeys are incorporated into a large project in the Cahabon River Basin in Guatemala, where indigenous Q’eqchi families living in the cloud forest are raising turkeys, rabbits, worms and fruit trees.
One more fun thing about turkeys: If you see a pack of them, you could be boring and call it a “flock,” but we prefer the more colorful “gobble.”
The story of Dan West is a special one to all of us at Heifer headquarters. Without him, we wouldn’t be here. But West’s vision and his original gift cows mean more to many of our beneficiaries—often more than we comprehend. One example is Humphrey and Mercy Mwananyanda who were so inspired that they named their daughter Hope after one of the first heifers shipped overseas to help struggling families.
The Mwananyandas are just one of the many families Heifer is helping in Zambia, through a partnership with Elanco. That story is the main feature in the Holiday edition of World Ark magazine, coming soon to a mailbox near you.
You can also read about coffee’s long journey farms in Mexico to your morning mug, or the article about two young Heifer donors on a quest to raise enough money to buy a camel this year.
The story of Ryan Bell and his younger sister Meghan is one that I find particularly inspring, and I hope you take a minute to read about the siblings from Connecticut on a quest to raise $5,000 for Heifer no matter how long it takes.
You’ll also find TheMost Important Gift Catalog in the World in this edition, too! Once you’ve picked out the Heifer gifts you’ll be giving this year, please pass it on to friends and neighbors so they can do the same.
Every second Saturday during the month of May, World Fair Trade Day (WFTDay), started by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), is celebrated globally in more than 70 countries. The WFTO is composed of a global network of Fair Trade Organizations.
Since 2002, WTFO has been promoting WFTDay to enable producers of goods to improve their lives and communities through Fair Trade.
Heifer works together with coffee-growing communities in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico, to help address the periods of food insecurity regularly known as “the thin month.” This is when the income from the coffee harvest is depleted and the famers’ food reserves have been diminished.
You can watch a 6-minute clip of the new documentary, ‘After the Harvest’ that shows Heifer’s involvement:
Choosing Fair Trade products helps support farmers around the world and ensures that producers receive the proper type of economic development and respect for the work they do in the international food system.
Can you imagine only eating once every 2 days or telling your child they will only eat once a day but need to work all day in the field? These are the circumstances many coffee growers face during the thin months. This period of time can last between 3 and 8 months and is showcased in the new documentary, “After the Harvest.”
The SCAA brings together the heavy hitters in the coffee and tea industries to discuss issues like climate change, sustainability, and gender equity. These issues are of great importance to Heifer’s work as it relates to countries with coffee-specific projects.
Moreover, this conference will serve as the debut of “After the Harvest,”a documentary sponsored by our partner Green Mountain Coffee that features Heifer’s work in Mexico with smallholder farmers to develop effective, sustainable methods of diversifying their sources of food and income as they survive the lean months.
I’m looking forward to meeting with industry experts and sharing what I learn with you.