Heifer International

After Hiroshima, it was said: “The world now accepts the miracle of the chain reaction that creates an atomic explosion; but we still refuse to accept the miracles of the human heart - and the chain reactions that are made possible by using that power.”

I believe this is still true. We greatly underestimate the power of GOOD. But nowhere is the evidence more undeniable than the 75-year legacy of Heifer International. How did it begin?

In 1938, at the end of the Spanish Civil War, a relief worker, Dan West, started his movement “Not a cup – but a cow!” His real success came from the understanding that hope is not a strategy, and people must unify to create abundance instead of competing for limited resources. Once individuals achieve success, they never choose the insecurity of the past. This creates a common language of change that permeates a region and stabilizes it. 

In South Korea, for example, the Korean Ministry of Agriculture estimates that 50 percent of all poultry in South Korea today are descended from 70,000 hatchlings supplied by Heifer after the Korean War. 

In Cambodia, Heifer has spread to half of the country, partnering not just to provide livestock but guidance and encouragement through their “cornerstones.” This new doctrine empowers women greatly. The farm-to-market project has found that alcoholism, domestic violence and disability can no longer hold back the women there. Given a few seeds, a piglet or some business training, a powerhouse network of matriarchs is building a decidedly better future for their families as well as creating a healthy local food system. 

The majority of my own philanthropic efforts are intentionally domestic; intended to alter the opportunities of the less fortunate in America. 

But, I believe that the most enduring way to influence peace in the world is by fostering true Independence here — and abroad. Heifer has a unique pay-it-forward “contract” that puts all local participants in the position of bringing their own neighbors out of poverty. If the local program is to raise say....chickens, the first hatchlings born to a member are given to a neighbor, then his first to a neighbor, and so on. This is done in a very public ceremony. All recipients then enter into training together which fosters real friendships as well as the unanimous application of best veterinary practices. This new interdependence continues without any U.S. involvement stabilizing locations experiencing desperate circumstances that could otherwise grow into social chaos and the need for people to migrate to survive. 

When the llama population in Peru was declining seriously due to overbreeding, Heifer helped introduce a new breeding stock able to thrive on indigenous vegetation. This practice completely revitalized herds to full vigor in less than 5 years. Without llamas, life in Peru is not sustainable for at least 40 percent of the population. 

It has been proven that a rapidly expanding prosperity model eventually yields local funding for schools, homes, medical care and expanded sustainable feeding projects. What has quietly been accomplished in the 75 years Heifer has operated is nothing short of spectacular! Starting with community groups of 25, the work now reaches into the many thousands. 

My favorite example is of a Kenyan community where Heifer came in to help boost milk yields to the dairy farmers. This community ended up creating a co-op producing butter to sell to local markets and hotels. As a result of that success, education has really taken off, and the first medical doctor has risen from a community where 25 years ago no one could read. 

Ranjana Shrestha, another project participant, has risen to become an officially elected member of the parliament in Nepal. 

In 2002, Heifer celebrated the “passing on the gift” ceremony of their 3 millionth animal. When people anywhere are given an opportunity to learn and put that education into practice, transformation takes place. Small scale farmers can feed the world and build stronger communities in a way that is permanent. Heifer’s value-based leadership mentors and inspires to dramatically impact every area of life when they enter a region. My interest in their work has continued to grow through my life and has affected my understanding of what is truly possible in the future of our small planet.

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