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Video by Geoff Oliver Bugbee

A whirlwind two-day trip through Heifer projects near Chengdu, China, took CEO Pierre Ferrari and other staff members to visit successful rabbit and pig projects in Dayi and Beichuan County, China, one of the most damaged areas from a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that killed about 70,000 people in May 2008, and displaced or otherwise affected 15 million people in the area.

Three years after the quake, participants at the Beichuan project site continue to raise Heifer pigs for nutrition and income and live in new homes rebuilt with government help. They say that Heifer's values-based model has helped them maintain the solidarity that came after the quake when everyone shared what little they had and worked together to get through the disaster.

"Other NGOs come after a disaster and soon leave. There's a deeper commitment here," said Li Yong, a regional government representative and Heifer partner. "The Heifer project provides very important income for these families. It's whole community development."

A smattering of welcome fireworks, well-practiced dancing by a women's group and the sharing of food and drink throughout the afternoon illustrated the uniting effect of the project. Heifer China staff members led the community in an animated discussion about the interrelatedness of Heifer's 12 Cornerstones in a self-review and planning meeting.

"When I saw you working with the Cornerstones, I was thinking we should be doing the same back at headquarters," Ferrari said in a speech to the participants. "It reminds me that when a project is over, it's still important for us to stay in touch with the Cornerstones, to keep each other accountable.

"You had a terrible tragedy three years ago. It's you who have rebuilt your community with commitment, sharing and caring, spirituality. You have made your community what it is today."

In the video above, look closely at the faces of those who have a stronger, more connected community because of Heifer International projects. You may even recognize a couple of them, including Ren Xuping, dubbed the "Rabbit King of China" in a 1999 Wall Street Journal article, and his wife, Zhang Xuping.

Ren Xuping put the value of Heifer's work in China well.

"I value most in life my many farmer friends. By Passing on the Gift I'm happy and we are happy together. If I only think for my own wealth then I am a lean tree standing all by myself; I cannot resist a strong wind. That is not good for social harmony for others to have to strain to look up at a lone, tall tree. Heifer helps us develop not just ourselves but also our community. It brings us all up together, a group of trees supporting each other."


Donna Stokes

Donna Stokes is the managing editor of World Ark magazine. She has worked for Heifer International since September 2008 when she leaped over to the nonprofit world from a two-decade career in newspaper journalism.