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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. 

Author

Jason Woods

Jason Woods is from Stillwater, Oklahoma, and has worked for the Americas Area Program of Heifer International since 2010. He has a master’s in cultural geography and a bachelor’s in news-editorial journalism. His passion for Heifer’s work started as a teenager, when he spent a weekend at Heifer Ranch’s Global Village in Perryville, Arkansas.