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When a family receives a heifer, they receive much more than an animal. It's a gift that provides all of what Heifer calls the seven Ms: Milk, Manure, Muscle, Meat, Money, Materials and Motivation. And those seven things turn into health, houses, education and nutrition.

Orphans at the Prison Fellowship
Romania Center share a meal.

Maria Moraru (above) is involved in a project called Farmers Feed the Children in Romania. In return for a heifer, 150 project families agreed to not only Pass on the Gift to another family in need, but to also donate a portion of the milk to feed local children. Milk is distributed among 12 children's hospitals and orphanages. So far, more than 22,000 gallons of milk have been delivered, and more than 5,000 children per year are benefiting from this project. Maria's cow Americana has produced a total of seven offspring and produces eight to nine gallons of milk a day–plenty to drink, sell and donate.

A cow can produce several gallons of milk a day. That milk provides needed protein for undernourished children or adults sick with diseases like HIV/AIDS. Milk also contains vitamins A, C and D, which help eyesight and bone strength.

Families are taught how to use cow manure as a fertilizer for gardens or crops. Cow manure can add significant amounts of organic material to the soil, improving the overall health of the Earth and producing healthy, vigorous plants.

With gallons of milk a day, families have more than enough to drink. Often, the leftover milk is sold at market to provide extra income for the family, which can pay for food, health care, home improvements and school fees so children get an education.

This holiday season, consider giving the gift of a heifer in honor of your childhood babysitter, who always fixed you chocolate milk before bed. And read more blog posts about how cows have changed the lives of our project participants all over the world.

Photos by David Snyder


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.