Paula and Camila Rojas just moved to South Africa from Colombia. Although they’re still getting a feel for the South African environment and change in curriculum, the sisters embarked on their own campaign to raise awareness and funds for Heifer South Africa after they heard about Heifer through the Read to Feed program at their school.
Heifer South Africa is a community development organization working with poor, rural smallholder farming families. They help these families use the land, livestock and other assets they have. Through training and ongoing support, and by providing small inputs like veterinary vaccinations and vegetable seedlings, Heifer assists them to become successful small-scale farmers. Heifer also helps farmers for business associations to begin selling their livestock and produce in order to earn income. Read to Feed is a Heifer program that raises awareness and provides opportunities for children to take action to end hunger and poverty through reading.
When the Rojas sisters heard about Heifer through their school, they were so inspired by the Read to Feed principle of children changing the world that they went home the same day and told their parents all about Heifer’s mission. Being new to South Africa, the sisters were worried that they wouldn’t be able to raise as much money as they would like from the few friends and family they had to sponsor their reading efforts.
After brainstorming ways to get more sponsors, Paula, who is in 7th grade, asked her father if she and Camila could visit his new employer and talk about Heifer’s work. One day, during a lunchtime management meeting at their father’s work, the two young girls had the courage to tell total strangers about the cause they are so passionate about. They went from table to table and explained Heifer’s mission to the employees and how Heifer South Africa helps poor, rural communities end hunger and poverty.
Their father’s colleagues were so impressed by Heifer’s work and were keen to be involved in the Read to Feed program. Most of all, they were inspired by Paula and Camila’s determination and commitment to help end hunger and poverty in South Africa, especially since they had only recently moved there.
Some employees committed to sponsor the sisters for every book they read. Paula created a database to provide updates on their progress and inform people about Heifer International. Every Friday after school, Paula would send out an email to inform her sponsors on the recent developments of the program. She would share details such as the number of sheep they have managed to raise funds for, a description of one of Heifer’s projects, new initiatives they were trying to raise funds for, and how their sponsors could get involved.
At the end of the program, the Rojas sisters sent an email to their sponsors, in which they thanked them and provided an account of all the activities.
At such a young age, the Rojas sisters display a true spirit of philanthropy. Not only has their zest inspired their father’s co-workers, but it also has inspired us all and encouraged the belief that young learners like the Rojas sisters have the power to change the world through Heifer’s Read to Feed Program.
Read to Feed encourages a love for reading and promotes a passion to help others create a better world. It has gained recognition among teachers, learners and parents alike. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a supporter of the program said, ‘'Read to Feed is more than a reading program; it is also an opportunity for children to change the world. I strongly support the Read to Feed program.''
Editor's note: Submitted by Sameera Banoo, Resource Development Specialist, Heifer South Africa