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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."

In Honduras, where three out of four people in rural areas live below the poverty line, we have a unique opportunity to bring about lasting change. A generous donor will match your contributions up to $1.5 million, for a total of $3 million to help struggling communities in Honduras. We're close to reaching our goal, but we still need your help.

Author

Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She has a master's in social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is married, a mother of two, and a wannabe urban farmer, raising her own chickens and killing most of her vegetable crops.