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Resourceful is a word often used to describe Heifer project participants. But nowhere have I found it more apt a description than for the project participants I've met in Vietnam.

Resourceful looks like Ma Xuan, 33, who, along with her husband worked as a seasonal laborer, and brought in only $20 a month to feed her family of five. But after training from Heifer, the gift of two cows and small microcredit loan, Ma Xuan has increased the family's income to more than $260 a month. It also looks like Hoang Anh Tuan, 50. A savvy businessman before he lost everything in the mid 1980s, Tuan took his microcredit loan of about $100 and invested in growing beans. He made $950 off his initial investment, and is now one of the most successful farmers in his group. He is also sending his son to college, and just bought a new bicycle for his eldest daughter to ride when she starts a school for students gifted in mathematics, physics and chemistry next week.

Hoang Anh Tuan with one of his three cows near his home in Gia Lam Village

While Ma Xuan and Tuan are standouts, each farmer I've met has become an entrepreneur in their own right. Some have opened small stores, others have diversified their farms by raising chicks, ducks, geese, pigs and even pigeons. Some have coffee trees, fish farms or grow peanuts. But however their success has come, for each family I've met, it all started with the gift of a cow.

Author

Annie Bergman

Bergman is a Global Communications Manager for Heifer and helps plan, assign and develop content for the nonprofit’s website, magazine and blog. Bergman has interviewed survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, beekeepers in Honduras, women’s groups in India and war widows in Kosovo in her six years at Heifer. Bergman received her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and a master’s degree in Australian Aboriginal Studies from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Her hobbies include hiking, golfing, cooking, reading and walking her dogs.