Please note, this story was brought to our attention by the donors, Mike and Vicky Becraft. The story was written originally published on December 19, 2015 by "The Observer" in DeWitt, IA and written by staff writer Kate Howes. You can read the original story here: http://www.dewittobserver.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=11276&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&S=1.
In October, as they sat on the front porch of their Calamus farm, Mike Becraft asked his wife, Vicky, what she wanted for Christmas this year.
"He said, 'Do you want diamonds or furs?'" Vicky recalls with a smile. "I said, 'No, I want a cow.' He said, 'That's what I thought.'"
Although they have bought cows as Christmas gifts in the past, what Mike and Vicky are actually buying this year--together with members of their extended family--is a water buffalo.
They are pitching in to purchase the animal through Heifer International, a charity organization that is working to end poverty around the world by providing livestock and the training required to care for the animals to people in impoverished countries.
It began a few years ago, when Mike and Vicky were trying to figure out how to keep the spirit of giving alive and well without making Christmas all about the presents.
"We try to do something different as a family every year," she relates. "I think the gift giving is out of control. We try to find something we can do together."
That's when Vicky came across some information about Heifer International and so far, the Becrafts have bought everything from flocks of chicks to rabbits and heifers.
This year, because their entire extended family has agreed to contribute to the cause, they are able to purchase a pricier animal.
Water buffalos help increase rice production by 100 percent and can be used to transport crops, for nutritious milk, and eventually, meat.
"We picked (a water buffalo) because it can do so much for one family," Vicky says. "The cost is $250, but for our family that will come out to be $25 per person, which is a lot less than we would spend if we were buying each other presents."
The money covers the cost of buying the water buffalo, shelter and food for it, plus education as to how the recipient needs to care for the animal.
The recipient also agrees to donate the animal's first litter to someone in their community or in a surrounding community.
"They are pretty excited about it," Vicky says of her children and grandchildren. "They like that they get to do something special for someone else."
Taking pleasure in doing for others during the holidays and remembering the reason for the season is something the Becrafts endeavor to do each year.
"We've narrowed down the gift giving all of our adults lives with the kids," Vicky shares. "It's not about Santa; we're celebrating a birthday bash for Jesus. With our three girls, we always stuck with the 'five gifts rule'--one they want, one they need, one to share and one to read. The final gift, that we called the 'willy-nilly gift,' was something they just couldn't live without and Mike would grab it right before Christmas."
She and Mike are giving a few gifts to each of their grandchildren this year, one of which is educational--a birdhouse kit.
Vicky also has made Christmas wreath pins to hand out as presents, using puzzle pieces that she painted and glued together.
The family has even done away with wasting wrapping paper. Instead, Vicky, who loves to sew, makes totes that can be reused in any number of ways.
As someone who has faced her shore of hardships--including having undergone two brain surgeries in the past year--Vicky is a firm believer that even in the face of adversity, there is always someone people can turn to for support.
For example, organizations like Heifer International allow her and her family to help people who are suffering thousands of miles away.
There is hope for those who feel lost or disheartened. People just need to believe, and there is no better time of year for a person to restore his or her faith in humanity or a higher power.
"I think it's awful so many people feel sad this time of year just because they don't have the money to buy their kids gifts," Vicky says. "It's not about that. Or, they don't have any family around. Your church can be your family. You can be taken care of and loved."
The end of hunger isn’t a fairy tale
Welcome to the Heifer family. Donors, volunteers, recipients and our teams around the world share a common goal: To end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. It’s a lofty goal, but we know it's achievable. Together we are the family that can create this change.
Together we can make cows fly
See stories of how lives are being transformed around the globe through Heifer's work in more than 20 countries.
See where Heifer is working around the world to end hunger.
Interact Club sponsors a teacher Halloween costume competition each year at Washington High School in Washington, MO. Students bring in change and cash and vote for their favorite costumed teacher. The teachers are working together on small teams to raise money for a project they selected. This year the English teachers won and are sponsoring an irrigation project, and since Social Studies came in 2nd, they are sponsoring a pig. We were able to also purchase bees and chicks! It's a lot of fun for a good cause!
My congregation in Jesup, Iowa hosted our community-wide ecumenical Vacation Bible School this past August. We used a curriculum that taught the kids about Peru, so we decided to learn about South American animals and designate our VBS offering to go to the Heifer Project. To see how many llamas we could buy, we challenged the kids to buy one llama and by the 2nd day, we had enough for 2/3 of a llama. The kids got so excited about buying llamas that they brought more money each day, and by the end of the week, we had raised enough for four llamas!
I donate so all families can enjoy a full table together. Submitted by Marissa | Age 8
Many thanks to Annie, Georgia, Julia, Sophia, Scarlett, Clare, Jade, and Olympia for hosting their annual Art Sale to help end hunger and poverty! Each Spring, Olympia and her friends support a charity with the proceeds they raise from their art sales and this year, they chose Heifer International! With the funds raised, they were able to purchase Honeybees, a Flock of Ducks, a Water Buffalo, Pig and a Sheep for families in need. Please read Olympia's letter to Heifer by clicking on the title of this story!
Third graders at St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hartford, CT host a prayer service to support a local food drive and Heifer International!
"Actually, we brought TWO beautiful 10-day-old calves to Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Endicott, NY, to celebrate the kickoff of the beginning of our 5th year of partnership with Heifer International. They were a HUGE hit with young and old. All of the donations from the kids in our Religious Education classes, Grades 1 -5, are contributed to Heifer International. Over the years, that has added up to a almost $10,000, and 145 animals!" ... Please click the title of the story to read more about their awesome fundraiser!
"I was stuck indoors for a week during Hurricane Harvey and not being able to run (first world problems!) and thinking about how developing nations are devastated by natural disasters..." Please click the title of the story to read what inspires Miss Osuan to make a difference around the world!
During the Summer, our church children collected over $500 in coins for a Cow. They did this by taking up an offering from the congregation by using metal cooking pots and only accepting coins. It was called their "Jingle Pan Offering" This was in keeping with the Hebrew bronze funnel that collected the temple offerings, that noted the jingle of many coins from the wealthy, and often scorns of the few "jingles" from the poor.
In Oct. 1950, Pratt & Julia Byrd traveled to Germany with the Heifer Project to transport heifers to families in need while celebrating their Honeymoon in Europe! Please click this photo to read the article written by Mrs. Byrd.
For the 2017 "Build a Better World" summer reading program at the Verona Public Library in Wisconsin, kids who finished their reading log earned a brown sticker, which they placed on either a paper cow or two paper goats to vote for what they thought the library should choose. The Friends of the Verona Public Library donated the funds to purchase the winning animal, a cow!
"On Saturday, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet donated $5,000 to Heifer International. Heifer, in turn, will give animals to families in need to ease hunger and poverty. Heifer provides tools, training, livestock and partnerships that help families live with dignity and opportunity. Here, Sister Mary Anne Rodgers, left, and Sister Diane Zigo, center, present the check to Kate Sheehan, community engagement manager for Heifer Northeast." -Article and photo shared by timesunion.com
Cornerstone Community Church's first Annual Heifer International Mission Project was a success! The children of Cornerstone collected donations for the project for the whole month of June and received a wonderful $1,100. Last year, as part of the East Avenue UMC, the children collected over $5,000 which included a matching donation from a long-time church member. The children were excited to choose the items we were able to send to countries in need, which included a heifer, pigs, and chicks. Cornerstone hopes to collect even more in the years to come.
Each quarter students at Westminster Christian Elementary and Preschool in Miami Florida give money to a "noisy offering" collection to help other in our community and around the world. This collection takes place during our weekly chapel time where students are learning to love God and serve others. The last quarter of the 2016-2017 school year, the students were inspired by the work of Heifer International and how an animal can change a family's life. Each week we collected coins and dollars towards our effort to purchase animals for families in poverty. By the end of the 9 weeks we had raised $5,411.66!!! We are praying for the many families that will be changed by our donation. Thank you Heifer International!
"Dear Read to Feed, I love how you encourage kids to read by bringing money to school and your teacher sends it to you to buy and animal or something else. I think it is like the best idea EVER!! Thank you again!" -Jakey
Decked out in Heifer gear, Kim completed both a 5k & 10k at the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll series earlier this month! After the race Kim shared, "At the expo, Toyota was customizing race shirts by adding a 'I run for...' logo on the sleeves. When I asked for 'I run for Team Heifer,' the person asked what that was. With a line full of people, I got to explain in great detail what Heifer does! All were impressed by the sustainability aspect of it. They loved it wasn't a one-time consumable gift, but rather a lasting one." We congratulate Kim for all of the time she spent training, raising donations to help families overcome poverty, and for sharing Heifer's mission wherever her feet take her! We invite you to click the title of the story to see more photos of Kim in her gear!
Submitted by Sami | Shakopee, MN
Dr. Roger Natzke, former Chairman of the Heifer International Board, recently contacted us regarding his love for the Heifer Project. Over the years, Natzke has had the opportunity to visit Heifer projects in various countries including Rwanda and Nicaragua; to not only share his expertise in Dairy Science, but also to witness how families have lifted themselves out of poverty with the help of Heifer's Hub model. Natzke shares, "I am intimately familiar with the Heifer model designed to alleviate hunger and poverty. Providing poor people, especially women, with an animal gives them a sense of self worth, a means to provide for their family, and finally, a means to support another needy neighbor by passing on the gift." To continue reading about Dr. Natzke's letter and to see more photos, please click the title of the story!
Hallie wants to make a difference in the lives of school-aged girls around the world! To celebrate her Bat Mitvah earlier this year, Hallie decided to Send Girls to School through the Heifer Project. Hallie shared on her Fundraise for Heifer page, "How will I raise all this money, you ask? By dancing, of course! I have been dancing for ten years, give or take a few. So, channeling my talent into giving, I will dance for four consecutive hours. But, obviously just dancing all day won’t raise any money. This is where YOU come into the project. If you sponsor me to dance for four hours, multiple girls in unfortunate circumstances could go to school." With the help of her generous family and friends, she more than doubled her goal of $1,100, with $2,929 as the total! With these gifts, more than 10 girls were given the gift of an education! We invite you to read more about Hallie's project by clicking on the title of this story!
Submitted by Alex | Age 10 | Prescott, AZ