In 2008, Francois Jean Renel received a beautiful chocolate brown cow from Heifer International.
“I named her Patience because I have a lot of patience with her,” he said through a translator.
Francois gave his cow good water to drink and pasture to graze and soon she became pregnant and gave him a beautiful calf. Before long he was able to milk Patience. Every 15 days he is paid 1,500 Gourdes ($37.50 U.S.) for the milk, money which he used to complete his secondary education.
Francois lives in the small community of Fort-Royal in the Petit Goave region of Haiti. There is no secondary school in the community, and when he was younger his father did not have funds to pay for him to finish his school in the nearby city. But with the milk Patience provided, Francois was able to return to school and now, at age 30, he has a certificate which will allow him to go to university.
Patience’s first calf was designated for Passing On The Gift, but her second, born just 22 days ago, is his to keep. In time it is his dream that the milk the cows provide will allow him to save up enough money to attend university.
But it is not just his life that Patience has changed. In addition to giving away Patience’s first offspring, every day Francois gives his neighbors a little of the milk he collects.
“If I didn’t have Patience I couldn’t help other people,” he said. “So Patience helps me to help other people.”
A few weeks ago, as a member of a Honduras Study Tour, I had the privilege of visiting the community of Tontolo, La Campa, in the Department of Lempira. Our group was invited to celebrate the Passing on the Gift® of chickens in the community by Nueva Amanecer Tontolo (New Dawn Tontolo), a group of 36 women farmers that formed four years ago and connected to Heifer through project partner Comision de Accion Social Menonita (CASM, Mennonite Social Action Commission).
Our drive took us up into the mountains and through a village with a distinct colonial influence– remnants of its history as a stopping point for the Spanish on their way to Guatemala. Eventually, even our fearless bus driver decided that the bus couldn’t navigate the path ahead, and we walked 15 or 20 minutes to join the POG party. Later we learned that our walk paled in comparison to that of many of the members of Nueva Amanecer, who walked an hour or longer to arrive at the POG ceremony that day, as they do for their meetings every month in the same location.
When we began to near the celebration, we were greeted by the joyous sound of a guitar accompanied by boisterous singing and clapping. After a couple of songs, Nueva Amanecer members and their families introduced themselves and the organization. In addition to training, group members had received cows, rabbits and native chickens, they explained, and their husbands help with the animals.
Some group members received biodigesters and ecostoves to boil milk. When necessary, Nueva Amanecer also functions as a small, rural bank that promotes saving and offers loans, with interest payed back monthly.
“I give thanks to God for the work that Heifer is doing and (for) supporting us as women farmers,” one Nueva Amanecer member said. We are poor, she said, but we have been working together to move our community and our families forward in a very organized way.
Next was the main event: not one, but two Passing on the Gift ceremonies, which marked the first POG for Nueva Amanecer. Each POG recipient would be receiving 20 chickens and one rooster each, and seemingly everyone in the community crowded around the chicken coops to witness the special moment. During the second ceremony, community members (and a Heifer employee or two) gathered together to catch some elusive chickens for the POG:
After the chickens were finally rounded up, the woman giving the chickens (right), beaming with pride and confidence, and the POG recipient (left), with a joyous smile on her face, talked about what the ceremony meant to each of them:
The event was as moving as it was inspiring, and I was honored to be able to share the moment with such an empowered group of women who are finding ways to work their families and community out of poverty.
Nueva Amanecer fits into the larger project picture as a part of “Sustainable Food Systems in Copan and Lempira,” a Heifer umbrella project that involves 2,058 families in 43 communities in western Honduras. In addition to generating livestock products and diversifying family agricultural production, the project promotes the use of agroecological and soil conservation practices as well as the use of animal waste as a source of alternative energy via biodigesters.
Also, “Sustainable Food Systems” is one of the three projects that you can help fund through the Honduras umbrella project match. Any gift you give will be doubled by an anonymous donor and will help thousands of families improve their nutrition and income!
Nueva Amanecer’s president (right) helps prepare one of the organization’s members to pass on 20 chickens and a rooster in the community of Tontolo in Honduras.
From June 24-July 1, 16 professional educators from around the United States traveled Honduras with Heifer International to visit various projects. Check the blog over the next few weeks for more posts from Study Tour participants to hear their perspective on seeing Heifer’s work in the field. Learn more about Heifer’s programs and resources for educators.
I, Too, Have Received a Gift
By Jesse Freedman, The Potomac School
Let me begin with an admission: when I boarded my flight earlier in the summer for Honduras, I would have been hard pressed to fully communicate the meaning of one of Heifer’s core beliefs – the idea of Passing on the Gift.
It is a testament to the power of Heifer’s Study Tours for Educators, however, that by the end of my time in Honduras, I could speak passionately on behalf of the organization’s unique, values-based approach to the alleviation of hunger and poverty.
As a history teacher at large independent school outside of Washington, D.C., my primary motivation for traveling to Honduras was to construct – both for myself and my students – a more nuanced conception of what development ‘looks like.’
Turns out, of course, that development is a complicated thing, and that its implementation differs from one community to the next. But if I were to distill my experience in Honduras to one moment, to one lasting vision of Passing on the Gift, it would focus on our visit to Mejocote, a rural Honduran village west of Tegucigalpa.
It was here that we witnessed the transfer – from one family to the next – of roosters and chickens. The transfer, though, was about so much more than animals.
As the gift changed hands, we, a group of educators drawn from across the United States, observed development at its most local level: these chickens represented for the families involved the promise of improved economic prospects. And yet, in another way, the transfer embodied a number of the important goals to which Heifer, its partners, and its beneficiaries aspire: gender equality, local accountability, and environmental sustainability.
The memory of those families – engaged as they were in such a small, but such a vital, actof self-improvement – has assumed an indelible quality in my mind. To my students in Washington, D.C., I will return in the fall with a renewed sensitivity to the importance of development initiatives built on local needs – and challenges. I will also return with a far better sense for the complexities of Honduran history and identity.
It’s thanks to Heifer and its exhaustive efforts on our behalf that I, too, am the recipient of a gift. This gift comes as a call to action: to develop new curricula; to orient my students, friends, and family to development initiatives in Central American nations like Honduras; and to support the efforts of those committed to a values-based approach to social and economic empowerment.
From June 24-July 1, 16 professional educators from around the United States traveled Honduras with Heifer International to visit various projects. Sarah French, an education coordinator at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, led the tour; and her reflections on witnessing a Passing on the Gift ceremony are included here. Check the blog over the next few weeks for more posts from Study Tour participants to hear their perspective on seeing Heifer’s work in the field. Learn more about Heifer’s programs and resources for educators.
Now I am Free
The bougainvillea grew thick among the simple whitewashed homes topped by clay shingles in Mejocote, a small hillside community in western Honduras. We were there to witness the first Passing on the Gift by a family who had received 20 hens and a rooster 13 months ago.The walk from our van down a hillside was lined with coffee, avocado, mango and banana trees—evidence that the participants here were practicing integrated farming.
The site for the ceremony was Don Jose Garcia’s small, simple rented home, and we were greeted there as honored guests. White plastic chairs set up in a circle awaited us, and it was our group that felt honored to receive the information the Popular Association of Integral Development (ADPI) group gave on how they had used funds and resources they had received from Heifer. Accountability seems to be a paramount Cornerstone in the field, and groups like ADPI are only too proud to show how far they can stretch slight means.
Outside the home of the Garcia family.
Pastor Mejia Vargas, president of ADPI began the ceremony with a reminder that this family was not poor in love, but merely money. “We can respond to what this project asks of us because one of the Cornerstones is sharing. Today we share with a family in need. It is a joy to be present here,” he said.
Jose Gregorio Quintinella then spoke. Quintinella was Passing on the Gift along with his family.He explained that at first, he was not interested in chickens; chickens were “women’s work,” he said. After further education and the support of his family, he eventually decided to apply for chickens after all.He has grown to enjoy the birds, and, “Thanks to God, now I am free, no one else’s responsibility.Free from being subject to others.”
Jose Gregorio Quintinella about to pass on a chicken.
The gift that the Quintinella family passed on to the Garcia family comes with responsibility.All heads of household must sign the contract, agreeing to pass on the gift and care for the animals, among further duties. There are always obstacles, but the families who have received these gifts demonstrate that families are capable; they can benefit and pass on benefits to others in need.
Each member of the Quintinella family passed a hen to each member of the Garcia family.The rooster, “El Macho,” watched from his new home with its still wet mud walls solidifying to protect him from predators.Don Jose Garcia, father of the receiving family, shared his dream with the group to use the income from the chickens to move out of his rented home and into one he plans to build on nearby land.
The Quintinella family (right) passes on the gift to the Garcia family (left).
We celebrated the event with a gift of sweet rice milk provided the community, furthering the idea that “those with least tend to give the most.”
Heifer project participants and community members pass on catfish fingerlings at a ceremony in thevillage ofPematangCengal.
Our colleagues Afrina Sagala and Priska Panggabean wrote this story about a recent Passing on the Gift ceremony in North Sumatra, Indonesia.
It was a sunny dayin thevillage ofPematangCengalandahappydayfor the Tunas Jaya I Self Help Group (SHG).On that daythe group of women had elected to join together in the fish raising enterprise. They share the labor to prepare fishponds with hope they will get additional income from this activity.
They were veryenthusiastic; before, they onlyknew how to sow the fingerlings which theyboughtinthe market. Previously theydid notknowhowto preparethe land and did not know how to select and buy the fingerlings, make ponds, and manage the feed. Theyhavehighenthusiasm that thiseffortwillsucceedbecausetheyhadtrainingon how to cultivate catfish farming.
Those women also took their children and their husbands to witness theevent, pray together, and wish success to the women who received the catfish fingerlings that will increase their family incomes.
Raising the catfish is one of the group’s activities. Others are plastic made flower design and building a daily needs store. The women groups are really excited with these group activities because before Heifer came to their village and implemented the program partnership, they never did useful and valuable activities. They can help their husbands with improved family income. And in two months they expect to have the fingerlings ready to sell.
TunasJaya I groupis aremarkablegroup as well as other SHGs,becausethey areaccompaniedby extraordinarypartners. Srikandi is one of the Heifer Indonesia’s project partners who committed to help the groups and community overcome hunger and poverty. The project partner has all women who have to travel 1 1/2 hour by motorbike just to reach this village.
The group is committed to help one another fulfill their dream of a brighter future for their families and the community. Ibu Farida (one of the group member) said that they wanted to thank Heifer’s supporters from around the world who had showed that they care about the communities and the communities’ children. Now, they have a new hope after Heifer worked there. They will take care of this program with all their heart and they promised they will do pass-on activities for the fingerlings and the goats they had received with happiness.
Afrina Sagala is a program officer for Heifer Indonesia and Priska Panggabean is
Ewaldy Estil started working for Heifer Haiti in June 2000, and he is currently the north regional project coordinator for the country program. His talents don’t end there, though– he also sings and writes songs as a member of a band called Happiness.
One of the band’s songs uses music as a medium to share Ewaldy’s passion for Heifer and Passing on the Gift. The song is titled, appropriately, “Passing on the Gift,” and you can enjoy it below, along with some photos of Passing on the Gift ceremonies in Haiti.
Here’s what Ewaldy said about why he wrote the song:
“I was thinking about putting the 12 Cornerstones in a song, but that was a big project. This song is a testimony of my love for the first cornerstone, Passing on the Gift. Since I started working with Heifer, the POG concept has been a passion of mine. POG creates a chain of solidarity. As the resources multiply, the chain will never break. The project will never end, and we create hope. As a mulatto Haitian said, ‘Espwa Fe Viv (Hope makes life).’”
Project participants hold representative oysters at today’s Passing on the Gift ceremony in Phuket, Thailand
Late last night – while most of us in this hemisphere were sleeping – a delegation from Heifer’s US headquarters attended a Passing on the Gift ceremony in Baan Klang village in Phuket, Thailand. It was already Wednesday there, and the event was well attended with five groups of 25 villagers sharing the offspring of their plants and animals – in this case mangrove trees and oysters – with another five groups of 25.
The Passing on the Gift ceremony is the embodiment of the ever-expanding network of hope, dignity and self-reliance that’s created when our project participants are given the tools to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. This project is focused on rehabilitating areas hit by the 2004 tsunami that devastated thousands of families in Thailand’s southern provinces and in neighboring Asian countries. Heifer Thailand made grants to local government offices and NGO partners to provide families with livestock, mangrove trees, fishing equipment and training to help them rebuild their incomes and move closer to self-sufficiency.
Noel Mace, our Asia and South Pacific program officer, was there to witness the ceremony. He says it was remarkable to see not only recipients being transformed into donors, but disparate groups coming together as they passed on their “love and values.”
“It really stood out that these inclusive groups of Buddhists, Muslims and Christians showed that community development and environmental protection takes everyone working together.”
Photo contributed by Heifer Malawi program development manager Victor Mhango
Heifer Malawi launched the Bua milk cooling centre in Mchinji yesterday and conducted a POG ceremony for 17 new families of the USAID funded Mchinji Small Scale Dairy Project. Our partners report this project has been progressing at a record pace.
It seems like a silly question. It is April, after all. But for hundreds of millions of people around the world–and for quite a few of us here at Heifer–the answer is no.
Today is One Day Without Shoes, a global awareness-raising event put on by TOMS. The idea is to get people talking about what it’s like to be shoeless. For those of us at Heifer headquarters in Little Rock, it was pretty easy. Sure, we’ve got a little gravel in the parking lot, but we’re otherwise on brushed concrete, carpet and bamboo floors (which are nice on the feet, by the way).
Many of our project participants worldwide, however, have to contend with much harsher and more dangerous conditions. Dirt, mud, manure, glass, rocks, parasites. Imagine your children walking barefoot for a mile or two to collect water every day.
I participated in ODWS last year, but there weren’t many other Heifer colleagues in on the action. This year, we had a bit of a fundraising challenge going. Using Team Heifer, we’ve already raised well over our goal of $500 (money is still coming in). While shoelessness isn’t something we directly address with our mission, Heifer’s work helps families increase their income. And improved clothes (including shoes) are near the top of the list of things families buy when that extra money comes in.
By donating one day of bare feet, we stand in solidarity with our project participants and with the millions of other people for whom shoes are a luxury. We wish TOMS all the best and hope you will consider making your next shoe purchase a pair of TOMS, because One for One sounds a lot like Passing on the Gift to me!
CEO Pierre Ferrari reflects on the beauty, pageantry and sustainability of Passing on the Gift as an afternoon ceremony in Shaktikhor, Nepal, continues behind him. In the images from the Shaktikhor ceremony, the women in the green saris are the donors, passing on goats to recipients in red saris. The spirit of the day shines on the women’s faces as they sing, dance and playfully slap the honorary red tikka dust all over each others’ faces to bursts of applause.
The visit featured a Farmer’s Field School or a kind of goat science fair, that showed the community’s results of better feed and care for goats compared with previous methods of raising the animals. The women in the groups now consider themselves not just caretakers of the animals, but also doctors and experts in pen building and feed mixing for optimum results.