By Mel West
Fifty years ago Heifer introduced me to the exciting and satisfying arena of world missions. With a farm background and degrees in dairy husbandry and church administration I was eager to put those skills and my passion for helping the less fortunate to work. I visited the Heifer offices and asked them what I could do. They told me that if I would raise the money for 25 quality pregnant dairy heifers (or get them donated) I could fly with them to Costa Rica and deliver them to the project. I did that and was hooked on Heifer and its common sense approach to tackling the problems of hunger and poverty.
Here are a few of the reasons why I am celebrating Heifer’s 70th, and ask you to join me: Heifer’s approach is to empower the poor to go from poverty to self-reliance. The poor enter into a partnership with Heifer to enhance their own lives and those of their community.
The dignity of the poor is maintained by their “passing-on-the-gift.” For each animal they receive they agree to pass on an offspring to another family in need. Heifer focuses heavily on working with women because they are usually the food producers and money managers in the poor community. Shared decision making between husband and wife is encouraged.
Improved animal management is at the core of Heifer’s program. The species and breed chosen must be appropriate for the area. Animals are managed so that they do not roam free and become a negative factor in the community.
Heifer’s program provides, in general, milk, meat, muscle (draft animals), manure and money. Milk is vital for children, meat provides needed protein, water buffalo are crucial in some areas, and manure is captured to create bio-gas for the home and also for fertilizer. Heifer provides a very wide variety of animals, including milking camels, bees, etc.
Education is a major part of Heifer, including budget management, family planning, community development and leadership skills.
Sustainability, earth care and self-reliance are important. Heifer only works in a community for a limited time. It is important that the project continues under local leadership.
Heifer has projects in the continental US as well as overseas. I have worked on projects with the Native Americans and in the poverty areas of the Mississippi Delta.
Heifer lends itself well to fundraising. Increasing numbers of families use the alternative gift program for special occasion gift giving. Children often have their first experience at mission giving by either receiving or giving an animal, a hive of bees, or a flock of chickens. The giving of an Ark of animals ($5,000) is popular.
Heifer has made a significant impact, serving in its 70 years more than 105 million people.
Heifer offers go-and-see possibilities. You can visit their headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, and their educational ranch at Perryville, Arkansas.
Donations to Heifer International is one of the three opportunities offered to United Methodist Churches in Missouri at Annual Conference Session, June 6 – 9 in Springfield. You can send a big thank you to Heifer, and at the same time give help and hope to some of those who are less fortunate.