By Irina V. Ellison, Women's Lambing participant

Growing up, I learned that there are two forms of travel: vacation, a decadence during which people spend their days sipping fruity drinks and lounging poolside; and trips, an opportunity to challenge oneself, to explore and experience an exotic land. In 1987, my parents, who have a lifelong passion for travel and always wanted to see Mt. Everest, took me and my two older siblings on a trip to Nepal. This wouldn’t be a vacation to Disney World or the Jersey Shore, they told us. This trip would be an adventure! I was sold. 

Irina (left) was seven when she visited Nepal with her older siblings.
Irina (left) was seven when she visited Nepal with her older siblings.

Although I was just seven years old at the time, the warmth, generosity and compassion of the people of Nepal, as well as the extreme poverty, were indefinitely imprinted on me. As we drove along the rural mountain roads, leaving the temples and villages in the dust behind our old taxi, we came across a small group of Nepalese children playing around a peace pole near a mountainside lookout. My parents quickly ushered us out of the car to greet the girls, seizing the opportunity to unite two groups of children in a shared message of building peace and community.

For more than 10 years, I have worked as an educator in the biological sciences, emphasizing the importance of finding meaningful connections in order to gain a greater understanding of basic science. To say that I value education is an understatement; I have built my entire life around it. I came to the Heifer Farm with the idea of developing an interdisciplinary course on hunger and biology for my college students. 

Irina saw the same peace pole again at Heifer Farm in Massachusetts nearly 30 years later.
Irina saw the same peace pole again at Heifer Farm in Massachusetts 27 years later.

You can imagine my feeling of destiny when, 27 years after my trip to Nepal, I came across the same peace pole on the Heifer Farm, a world away in Rutland, Massachusetts! When I found the peace pole again after so many years, I felt the serenity of confirmation. I knew I was supposed to be at the farm, and that my ongoing work on interdisciplinary education and public health is a meaningful and valuable part of my personal journey, my lifelong trip. 

To take part in the Women’s Lambing program at Heifer Farm was more than an enriching experience. Just like my travels to Nepal, my visit to the Heifer Farm was transformative. Although I fully anticipated a wonderful experience, my time on the farm far surpassed my expectations. From the moment I arrived, I felt the passion with which the whole team not only embraced but also lived the mission of Heifer International every day. I left the farm restored and inspired, seeing clearly the connections between hunger, sustainability, education and gender equity. 

The lessons I learned on the farm underscored the interdisciplinary nature of complex global problems and the importance of understanding the shared human experience. I am so grateful to have shared this experience with an amazing group of caring, strong women, and I appreciate how the program modeled Heifer’s mission of empowering women around the world and building a healthy connection with sustainable food.

It is so vital to take the time to see the miracle in the every day. Thank you, Heifer International, for granting me this miracle and for reminding me that whether you live in Nepal or the U.S., building a culture of peace is a key element in realizing our shared trip in finding a sustainable end to hunger.


To learn more about Women's Lambing, visit heifer.org/farm