Report to the Founder/ Part 1 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
Everything I have learned about you over the years convinces me that you would be proud, pleased, and excited by all that I recently witnessed in the new/old nation of Armenia.
This fall my wife, Barbara, and I were privileged to join 14 other Heifer area volunteer coordinators and three Heifer staff from across the US on a 10-day study tour to learn in person about Armenia and Heifer’s work there. We all came away profoundly moved.
When Barbara and I first discovered you and Heifer Project and became volunteers many years ago, Armenia did not exist as an independent nation. But Armenia, the people, the culture and the proud heritage were already almost 3,000 years old. We, like most Americans, barely knew!
Armenians worldwide celebrated the “new” nation’s 20th anniversary this year. Yet these have been years of incredible hardship due to such factors as separation from the Soviet Union, a devastating earthquake, an unresolved border war, economic isolation, a stagnant economy, and major population shifts away from the countryside and out of the country.
Ironically, these circumstances have become fertile ground for a 10-year partnership between a determined people and the organization you created. A partnership that is bearing life-saving and life changing fruit in amazing abundance.
Over the next couple of days, I’ll share some things that we observed that kept me thinking of you. In the interest of brevity, I’m sharing just the first one today.
As a family dairy farmer, you would have been thrilled by the stories we heard from these small farm families. So many of them talked about the difference in their lives since receiving Heifer livestock and training. The animals have been a catalyst for moving them from subsistence levels of farming to the creation of small, efficient family farm enterprises. Families, after completing their “pass-on” requirement, are reinvesting income from Heifer animals, expanding their holdings, adding new animals, rebuilding their homes, and planning for the future with new-found optimism.
Dan — I’ll share more of my observations from Armenia over the coming days, and I hope this blog’s readers will come back tomorrow to hear more of the exciting things happening with Heifer Armenia.
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.