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On the Road with Heifer
Interview by Donna Stokes, World Ark managing editor
Betty Londergan, a longtime advertising creative director and book author, is several months into an adventure as Heifer International's global blogging ambassador. For Heifer 12 X 12, Londergan is traveling to 12 programs in 12 countries this year to feature Heifer's participant families, country staff and cutting-edge work. Her work with Heifer follows her successful What Gives 365 blog, where she chronicled what happened when she donated $100 each day for a year.
World Ark: What Gives 365 and how it led you to start the Heifer 12 X 12 blog.
Betty Londergan: What Gives 365 was a huge, inspiring, emotional introduction to the incredible number of people around the world doing good work and inventing creative solutions to solve chronic global problems. It got me all fired up and invested in exploring more. But because I was blogging every day—doing all the research, interviews, writing, photo editing, etc.—that also meant that I spent most of the year at my desk. When the year was over, I was dying to get out and actually see some of the projects and people I was writing about in action. So I thought, hey, I'm pretty good at blogging. Why not just try to put that skill in action for an organization I really respect? And that led me
|Blogger Betty Londergan zooms in on donkeys in Haiti. She takes readers along on every trip with her stunning photography of Heifer farm families, landscapes and livestock. Photo by Dave Anderson.|
Really the hardest thing is to let go of the country I'm writing about and still crazy in love with and go on to the next. But luckily, I listened to the song "Love the One You're With" at an impressionable age and oddly, that is exactly what happens.
What is your end goal for donating an entire year of your time and talent to do Heifer 12 X 12?
I hope a lot of the people who read my blog and are touched by my stories will become committed donors to Heifer. I'm fairly obsessed with the idea of "paying back" my travel expenses by raising those additional funds. However, on a deeper level, I feel like my task is to explain—in a fun, accessible and entertaining way—the complexity, breadth and depth of what Heifer is all about. I want to help people truly understand what it means to donate an animal, how great they should feel for making that donation, and how powerful this idea of long-term sustainable change can be to communities that suffer and struggle with poverty and hunger. And of course, I want millions of people to read my blog and love it!
As a donor yourself, what is encouraging to you about the direct results you're seeing from Heifer's training in the field?
What I love about the Heifer model is that it's not just about giving somebody an animal, it's about giving that person the tools, the training and the confidence to be successful. In every country I've been to, I've been astounded at how deeply, personally committed the Heifer field techs and program directors are to the people they work with and to the 12 Cornerstones. These Heifer folks work insanely long hours, travel all the time and know the personal situations and circumstances of the people. The staff's high standards and expectations of the beneficiaries are really powerful motivation. And … it works. With Heifer's help, communities gain the methods and the means to become self-sufficient, to make bigger plans, and to accrue the resources to accomplish some of their goals. I've seen it, and it's really beautiful to behold.
|Londergan's favorite subjects to photograph are the people, "especially children." These kids in Guatemala enjoy the process, too.
Photo by Vivian Martinez.
I've also been blown away by the incredible industry and creativity of small farmers: The clever way they save and use every resource we take for granted, the remarkable diversity of crops they grow on the smallest plots of land and their ferocious desire to give their children an education and a better life, even if they have to sacrifice everything to do that. In circumstances that most of us would find overwhelming, these small farmers are indefatigable and have hope, optimism and faith. I find that profoundly moving.
You take beautiful photos of landscapes, people and animals to help readers travel along with you. What's your favorite subject to photograph?
Always people, especially children. Every country I go to, I fall madly in love with the people and think they are just the most beautiful in the world. And I try to capture that in my photos, to show the dignity, integrity and spirit that I see in those faces.
How can Heifer supporters and donors get involved with your project and learn more about Heifer's work in the field?
Of course I think everybody should read my blog at heifer12X12.com and recommend it to friends and family. I pack a lot into the posts about the history and geography and culture of the countries I'm visiting as well as information about Heifer programs. I answer almost all of the comments on my blog, so comment or ask any questions there; I'd love to hear from you! Also, please visit Team Heifer 12x12, and donate to help even more families out of hunger and poverty.