- Our Work
- Get Involved
- Inside Heifer
- Ideas in Action
Diane Lane finds healing and hope on a Heifer study tour to Rwanda
Diane Lane first heard of Heifer International at a party at the Los Angeles home of friends Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, where she mingled with guests, petted a llama and learned how livestock and community development can overcome poverty.
A few months ago Diane Lane started thinking seriously about seeing Heifer's work for herself and giving her daughter a look at a world beyond the Hollywood hills. She downloaded Heifer's study tour forms, filled them out, stuffed them in an envelope and mailed them to Heifer's Little Rock headquarters.
So when she and daughter Eleanor, 15, arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, in August they came as regular study tour members. Though famous for her starring roles in such movies as The Perfect Storm, Under the Tuscan Sun and Unfaithful, Lane wanted her visit to Rwanda to be a non-celebrity undertaking. On this trip, the Oscar-nominated actress focused on exposing her child to a wider worldview.
The trip was both physically and mentally demanding. It included visits to memorials to the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutus lost their lives. The tour group traveled around Rwanda in a van, visiting small farms where Heifer is providing cows to improve livelihoods.
The cow represents a better economic life and the things that improved income can provide, like education and health care. They saw evidence of the impact of the cows everywhere they went.
"Seeing is believing. Experiencing surpasses all language barriers," she said.
Lane and her daughter also got to witness a Heifer passing on the gift ceremony in which project participants passed on 58 cows to neighbors.
"I thought I knew what gratitude was, but it's almost too much to try to put it into a sentence. I didn't know the value of a cow. A cow is, well, it's pretty much me saying the equivalent of my retirement fund."
Lane said she now understands why the government of President Paul Kagame points to the power of passing on the gift, one of Heifer's 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, in mending relations between Hutus and Tutsis.
"When you factor in all that trust and love and hope, the whole reconciliation process is strengthened," Lane said. "When I went to the passing on the gift ceremony, the people passing on have no idea whether they are giving to a friend they have known forever or someone who was a partaker in their greatest family loss; it's tangible evidence of moving forward and sowing the seeds of love."
The impact of those cows shared among former enemies is visible everywhere, Lane said.
"As I said to the people in the field who were so graciously hosting us, having us in their homes, the magnitude of grace in the act of giving the first-born calf....It was just very profound. I don't know what else to say. I was humbled by it and will need time to process the impact it had upon me personally."
Lane also said she could see a difference in the vitality of the children in the villages where Heifer is working.
"You see the kids and their skin is so vibrant and healthy compared to those who have not been able to get the benefits of the cows—protein from the milk and mineral-enriched vegetables from the garden."
Seeing Heifer's work firsthand left Lane with a new understanding of hope amid impoverished conditions.
"To bring the poor out of that kind of poverty is critical. The bottom line is we are all human and we have a basic set of requirements, and the unfairness of deep poverty is hard to witness without acting against it. Witnessing that kind of poverty within the frame of reference of Heifer's work is profoundly inspiring," she said. "For my daughter and me to behold some healing of those wounds made all the difference for me as a mother."