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Heifer International staffer in Zambia Heifer International staff member Kenny Clark at a project site in Zambia.

by Kenny Clark, Global Partnerships and Alliances

My oldest child was born early in the morning of June 17th, 1984, so I actually became a father on Father’s Day. I think that’s why it holds a special place in my heart. I believe being a father is the most important obligation a man can ever assume, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I am now the proud father of three adult children, all happy and healthy, and every third Sunday in June I get excited knowing it’s one more time we’ll all be together — nothing spectacular, just a lot of fun.

Recently, I was able to travel with a group of Heifer supporters to visit our project sites in Kenya and Zambia. I wish everyone who knows and supports Heifer could have the opportunity to see our work on the ground, and witness the way it changes people’s lives.  It also affords the opportunity to discover that people all over the world are very much alike.

As this year’s Father’s Day approaches, I’m thinking about the fathers I saw and met on that trip. It became apparent to me that fathers all over the world want the same things.  They want their families to be safe, and healthy, and they want their children to grow up happy and strong...and have more opportunities than they did. Dads around the world are always proud for you to meet their kids, and I’m no exception.

In more developed countries, like the United States, we take so much for granted: things like education, access to quality healthcare, and affordable, nutritious food on the table. But that’s not true everywhere. Heifer’s work not only helps fathers feed their families, but with the extra income they can generate, they’re able to pay for items that might be considered luxuries where they live. Things like school and school supplies, new clothes and medicine. These things shouldn’t be out of reach, but often are.

I’ve thought about the fathers I didn’t meet as well. It wasn’t unusual to visit a family with only mothers and small children at home, because the fathers, and very often the older children, have been forced to move to more urban areas to find work. Reality can force difficult decisions.  During and after the Great Depression, my own grandfather spent long periods away from his family, working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, because farming alone couldn’t support them.

The term “absentee father” elicits such negative thoughts, but it’s not always what it seems. That’s why our work is so important to me. With the assistance of Heifer International and our supporters, these farmers become self-sufficient, enough so that fathers can stay on their farms, and be there to help raise and teach their children so that they can be more successful than themselves, and even continue the farming tradition. Please watch the video below to see more about my recent trip to Heifer projects in Africa.

Heifer International is helping fathers stay on their farms through sustainable agriculture programs that help them overcome hunger and poverty. This Father's Day, you can honor your dad or loved one and give a Father's Day gift through Heifer.


Casey Neese