There are many charities that are working to end poverty and hunger in the world. Each charity has a different strategy in how to do that, from wealth redistribution to long term aid, from teaching literacy to job training. However, there is one charity that stands out among the rest and is truly making a long term difference in people’s lives all over the world.
Heifer International began after a Midwestern farmer, named Dan West, was passing out milk rations to hungry children during the Spanish Civil War. He realized these limited rations would not sustain the hungry people, and he was forced to decide who received help and who didn’t, ultimately who lived and who died.Â
West returned home with a desire to end hunger by providing families with livestock and training so that they “could be spared the indignity of depending on others to feed their children.” And in 1944, the first shipment of heifers left York, Pennsylvania for Puerto Rico. Thus, Heifer International was born.Â
Heifer International’s mission statement is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. Their approach is simple. They give families in need a source of food rather than short-term relief. That source of food comes in the way of livestock, which can then be turned into income. However, the one thing that makes Heifer International different from many other charities is their “Pass on the Gift” principle. Each recipient agrees to give the first offspring of their animal to someone in their community. They also pass on the knowledge and skills they have gained to help that person care for their animal.Â
This idea of Passing on the Gift creates cycles of sustainability and deep community relationships, fostering cooperation and unity. It also restores dignity as recipients become donors. This story shows the power of Passing on the Gift.Â
In Rwanda, Christine Makahumure showed the true meaning of passing on the gift.
In 1994 genocidal war that raked Rwanda destroyed everything Christine had. She saw her son and husband shot to death when they were caught in a crossfire. When the fighting ended, Christine was barely able to feed her daughter and parents.
But then she received a Heifer cow. The milk supplemented the family’s meager diet, and she was able to buy a small home with income from selling milk.
Christine gave her first calf to a neighbor â but she didn’t stop there. She provided money so her neighbors could build and apply for their own Heifer cow. And she adopted four war orphans and became a living example of passing on the gift.
The foundation of success that the recipients experience comes from Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones, which build into each life. They are Passing on the Gift, Accountability, Sharing and Caring, Sustainability and Self-Reliance, Improved Animal Management, Nutrition and Income, Genuine Need and Justice, Improving the Environment, Full Participation, Training and Education, Spirituality, and Gender and Family Focus.
Heifer is also committed to caring for the Earth. They realize that hunger and poor stewardship of the land go hand in hand. Wherever they work, they teach farmers about sustainable farming methods, including organic gardening, biogas, urban agriculture, and rebuilding soil.
Won’t you consider passing on the gifts you have been given, and changing someone’s life today?
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