Editor's note: On behalf of women worldwide who struggle with hunger and poverty, Heifer International is joining the rest of the world once again to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8. As our first post in this series mentioned, the theme this year is “Inspiring Change” for greater awareness of women’s equality. Throughout the month of March we’ll be featuring women farmers in Heifer projects who are “inspiring change” all over the world.
Liang Yuhah is a woman farmer in the Xiuliujing community in rural China, and is inspiring change through the spirit of Heifer's cornerstone of Passing on the Gift. As Heifer staff was visiting the village in December, she stopped them. Liang, who is roughly 60-years old, was wearing a padded red coat. The coat seemed a little odd to us considering the warm sunshine that day, but she called us to come over to her where she pulled out a package wrapped in a handkerchief. She opened the package in front of us—and we found out the reason for her protective coat. “Here is my gift money,” she shared.
Liang was supposed to pass on the gift of a sheep over a year ago at the end of 2012. The project she was part of originally provided her five male and one female sheep which she treasured and nurtured through the project training. Liang lives with her husband who is very ill and too week to do any farm work. All the work of the farm and family is the responsibility of Liang. Life isn’t easy, but through Heifer trainings she learned from her fellow participants that "if there are sheep, there is hope."
Soon after receiving her animals though, they were stolen from her farm. She was shocked and angry. It seemed like all hope was gone. Most of all she was worried that it would keep her from Passing on the Gift when the time came. But being part of the Heifer project, like everywhere in the world, she learned that the hope isn’t always in the animal, but in the community support and social capital built through Heifer projects. The self-help group she was part of, knowing her hard work and commitment to the project, lent her enough money to purchase another three sheep. Although they were younger sheep and less than she had before, it only confirmed her determination and drive to make the best of her good fortune and community’s support.
The animals grew bigger with time, as did her hope. They grew stronger, as did she. And the future grew brighter day by day and she nurtured her animals and continued to help her women’s group reach their goals.
But because of the stolen sheep and delay, she wasn’t able to join in the Passing on the Gift ceremony at the end of 2012. She was disappointed and felt like she owed her group and Heifer International something in return for all she’d received. So Liang saved up all the money she could and day after day tried to help others in need, as she once was. She decided to pass on part of her savings instead. She passed on 2,000 RMB ($325 USD) and then 1,000 RMB ($162 USD) to the Heifer project and to others in her community who needed help.
The day we met Liang, she gave us 900 RMB ($146 USD) for Heifer’s community facilitator. She told us “I can’t disappoint the Heifer donors!” Though it wasn’t a sheep, it was worth more, in cost and in heart. We saw the smile on her face as she handed us the money. It wasn’t just Passing on the Gift for her because of Heifer, it was her feeling a personal responsibility and obligation to share with others when she’d been given a second chance. Through her generosity and determination, she inspired change in the lives of all that know her. But most of all, she tells us, the change was in her own spirit and heart when given the chance to give others a helping hand.
Story by Zhai Wenjiang, PP staff
Photo by Mr. Gao Yi, Beijing Regional Program Officer