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Mother's Day is approaching, and I'd like to share some stories with you about women that have shaped my life and my world views.

My mother is an incredible woman who instilled in me to care for others. My mother is a twin, and she and her sister have always been very close.  As very young girls (maybe 4 or 5)  they made a pact that when they grew older they would become nuns in the Catholic church.  When they were older, they kept their promise; but soon after joining the novitiate, my mother decided on a different life path and she left, married and had me and my sister. Her sister stayed a while longer, taking her vows; but ultimately left, married and had four children.

Because of my mother and aunt, my early childhood allowed me to be very close and involved with a convent of nuns whose mission was to help the very poor in Africa (Elizabethville, Katanga, Congo). Most of their work was in a small hospital and as teachers, but they also helped through farming. The convent was very active and productive, always joyous about their work.  While my aunt was still in the convent, my mother visited often, volunteering and supporting them financially as best she and my father could. My sister and I came along and were totally spoiled by this sea of nuns, delighted to be able to be with children, a pleasure they had intentionally forgone to help others with no distraction.

Another woman who was impactful in my life was my paternal grandmother. She was a very traditional Italian matriarch, made of very stern stuff, yet she was as loving toward the poor as the nuns we spent time with at the convent.  She founded a vegetable and fruit wholesale and retail business in Elizabethville (Congo).  She worked with a local village teaching them to farm the vegetables and fruits.  My grandmother would buy the products from the small farmers to then sell to the local hotels, restaurants and the more affluent clientele in the town (mostly European families).

I remember riding with her in her pickup to visit the farmers for their produce. They would lay out the crop of the week, washed and ready. She bought what she felt she could sell, spreading her buying to as many families as possible. She was but one market for the farmers, but she paid the best price and got the best produce. There was always time for some laughs, teasing and gossiping, as all this trading was done by the women.  My grandmother cared so much for these women, and if there was ever a sick woman or child, she would take them to the convent for care and healing.

My mother and grandmother were wonderful women, and I am who I am today in large part due to the ideas and beliefs they instilled in me. It was important for them to help take care of others and provide opportunities to families.

Working with Heifer, I have had the opportunity to travel to our country programs and meet incredible women–many of them mothers. When I see them and their dedication to their families and communities, I feel connected to them. These women are impacting the world around them. I am in awe of their passion and desire to do for others.

I am forever grateful for the love and care that my mother and grandmother gave to me and for the lessons they taught me. My grandmother is no longer living, but my mother is still kicking in high gear and helping take care of others.

Mothers all over the world give so selflessly. And what do they ask in return? For us to be happy and to help others. Brooke wrote a post earlier this week about passing on your mother's generosity. As she mentioned, mothers come in many forms - friends, aunts, sisters, grandmothers. This mother's day, let us honor these women in our lives by helping others.


Pierre Ferrari

Pierre Ferrari is president and CEO of Heifer International. Pierre is very passionate about empowering the families and communities with whom Heifer works: “It took me decades, but I have come to know that the only way to happiness and joy is to be of service to others.” Pierre’s other joys are his wife, Kim, his two sons and two stepdaughters. In his free time he enjoys golf, squash, reading and travel.