A Heifer for the Holidays | TheFencePost.com

A Heifer for the Holidays

Pat Martin
Grand Junction, Colo.

If you’re looking for an unusual Christmas gift for the person who has everything, you might consider this: Through Heifer International, livestock purchased in honor of your special someone can supply meat, wool, milk, eggs, and transportation for needy families in 125 countries around the world, bringing them improved health and hope. Better still, your gift multiplies, as the animal’s offspring is passed on to another family in need. The families continually give to others, ensuring self-sufficiency, one family at a time. This concept, which is the cornerstone of the organization, helps build community and enhances dignity and participation in each project. The organization has aided over 4 million struggling families since its inception 60 years ago.

Cows are a great gift. A good dairy cow, for example, can produce four gallons of milk per day—enough for a family to drink and share with neighbors, and still have enough left over to sell. The protein in milk can transform sick, malnourished children into healthy boys and girls. The sale of surplus milk earns money for school fees, medicine, clothing and home improvements. And because a healthy cow can have a calf every year, your gift of $50, combined with others, could eventually help an entire community move from poverty to self-reliance.

To help hungry, undernourished families put protein back in their diets at little cost, Heifer International teaches farmers how to raise healthy pigs in countries where waste products are the only available feed. In Honduras, pigs eat rejected bananas, and in the Dominican Republic, they thrive on damaged yams. Using resources once considered worthless, impoverished families worldwide supply themselves with the protein and income they need to improve their lives. A pig costs $120, which includes transportation and training of the recipient, or you can share in the purchase of a pig for as little as $10.

Sheep and goats are other valuable animals provided by Heifer International. Entire communities sometimes depend on the wool, meat, and milk for their livelihoods. Ewes and nannies are prolific, often giving birth to twins or triplets, and these animals can graze even the hilliest, rockiest pastures unsuitable for other livestock. Some families use managed grazing techniques or keep their animals in grazing pens, to protect the environment and permit efficient collection of manure for fertilizer that improves soil and pasture land. A gift of $10 helps buy a goat to supply meat and milk, or a high-quality breed of sheep whose wool is used to make clothes, or to sell for extra income.

Besides these productive animals, Heifer International also provides needy families worldwide with llamas and water buffalo, as well as smaller animals such as rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, and yes, BEES. From India to the Dominican Republic, honey bees from the organization help impoverished families earn income through the sale of honey, beeswax and pollen. Beehives require little space, and once established, are inexpensive to maintain. As bees search for nectar, they pollinate plants. Placed strategically, beehives can double some fruit and vegetable yields, producing a positive impact on a whole village. Although most Heifer partners keep bees as a supplement to family income, beekeeping can become a family’s livelihood. A gift of only $30 provides a family with a colony of bees, the box and hive, and training in beekeeping. And you can download a cool gift card to mail to your recipient.

Fast-growing trees are also provided by Heifer International, to reclaim eroded hillsides and prevent pollution of streams and rivers. Not only do they put oxygen back into the air we breathe, trees hold water in the soil and moisture in the air. They also provide food and medicines for people, animals and birds, as well as fencing and firewood. What a great way to honor friends or relatives who love the outdoors, with a $60 gift of trees sent in their name to people who will truly treasure the difference they make.

One of the many additional benefits of the programs of Heifer International is the empowerment of women, which takes root when they are equal partners with men in the planning, work and rewards of a project. When women are able to receive animals and training, family nutrition improves, and women gain new respect in their communities. Projects with women’s groups are called “WiLD,” or Women in Livestock Development, providing them with the resources and skills they need to overcome hunger, poverty and prejudice and achieve greater self-reliance and self-respect. Empowering women in third-world countries is our greatest weapon against terrorism.

If you would like to participate in any of these worthwhile humanitarian projects, please call Heifer International at 1-800-696-1918 or log on to their website at http://www.heifer.org.