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Story by Živilė Šeporaitytė | Communication and Fundraising Coordinator | Heifer Baltic Foundation
Photos courtesy of Heifer Baltic Foundation
In mid-December, nine families in Žlibinai village of western Lithuania received their first Heifer gifts: sheep and rabbits. These families are participating in the joint Heifer International and European Social Fund People‘s Skills Restoration Project, co-implemented by Heifer International and the European Social Fund. Through this project, 1,000 families will benefit from livestock gifts over three years.
The pre-Christmas giving event was held at the Cultural Center in Žlibinai, which was decked out in borrowed decorations. Canteen staff prepared delicious pea porridge with ham and hot herbal tea. Holiday music played as families patiently awaited the arrival of sheep and rabbits. One family brought hay so the animals would receive a truly warm welcome. Before long, a truck arrived from a nearby farm with 15 sheep in tow.
Curious children enjoyed answering questions about Christmas, animals and Heifer activities in the "Well of Happiness," a game that proved entertaining for children and parents alike.
Dressed in traditional national costumes, Dangerutė Pakalniškienė, leader of the Žlibinai community, and Heifer Baltic Foundation Director Arunas Svitojus, invited participants to participate in the lottery to determine which animals they would receive. All the sheep were in really good condition, so everyone was very happy.
Lina Venckiene and her family received three sheep and will receive hens in the spring. Venckiene and her husband have eight small children. A couple of years ago, their home burned to the basement, leaving the family with nothing. They are fighting for a better future. Six of the children are in school, and Venckiene takes care of the two youngest at home. Her husband works in the next town, about a mile away, for minimum wage.
“It is not an easy task to feed 10 mouths," Venckiene said. "I am glad that I can participate in the Heifer project. Our group usually gathers twice a week to do different things and learn crafts like wool felting, animal husbandry, psychology, team building, business and entrepreneurship, and even gender equality. Now I feel that there are people to whom I and my family are important. Our group members started caring for each other.”
Venckiene is looking forward to Passing on the Gift®, where she will give her livestock's offspring to other families. “We are very thankful for those who gave us the possibility to participate in the project and to receive animals. I know very well that people are generous and I believe that soon my family and I will be able to support other families who are in a similar situation.”
Also in mid-December, a living gifts ceremony associated with the People‘s Skills Restoration Project was held in Ignalina district's Linkmenys village.