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Thursday, June 25

Snapshots from Malawi: Why I Love Heifer International

Over the last six weeks as I have talked non-stop to anyone who will listen about my trip to Malawi (seriously, don’t ask me about the trip unless you have some time on your hands), I am discovering that not many people have heard of Heifer International. One of my biggest takeaways from the Malawi trip was that HEIFER IS AMAZING, so I wanted to take a moment today to share what exactly it is they do!

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

Years ago at Christmastime our aunt gave us a gift from Heifer, which meant a donation was made in our name to a family in need. It was the first time I had ever received a gift of this type, so the name “Heifer” has stayed with me. It hasn’t been until fairly recently, however, that I’ve really began to have a lot of experience with Heifer International. The more I get involved the more impressed I am with this non-profit organization.

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

In a nutshell, Heifer International places livestock with families in over 30 countries (including the U.S.) and has been doing so for over 70 years. Heifer’s goal is to end hunger and poverty through the “teach a man to fish” philosophy, and it works. The core of their model is “Passing on the Gift.” Families who receive a gift from Heifer are expected to pass it on, both by sharing their training as well as giving away the first female offspring from the livestock they receive. This not only extends the original gift but gives families the opportunity to invest in their own communities in a meaningful and sustainable way. And, as I discovered in Malawi, many of these families pass on livestock to others in their community more than just once!

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferI know I’ve already shared Luiza with you, but here are a few more pictures to give you further insight into her life

Economic independence is the key to meaningful development and reducing extreme poverty, but it is one of the hardest things to accomplish. Heifer has found ways to do just that and we saw firsthand on our trip to Malawi how communities are being transformed in sustainable and long-term ways.

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferLeft: Josephine, who has started more than 15 savings and loan groups, thanks to training from Heifer; Right: Petronella Halwiindi, Country Director for Heifer Malawi, who is one of my favorite people EVER

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferThe chief of Gomani village (in the brightly colored shirt) addresses our delegation, explaining the impact of Heifer’s work on the village at large. I kid you not, “We Are the World” was playing on a radio in the background while he spoke. Coincidence? I think not. This is the same village where people were singing and dancing the WHOLE TIME we were there, at least an hour. Gomani wins the Most Village Spirit superlative!

One of the biggest reasons I think Heifer is so successful is because they work within the communities they serve. Heifer employees on the ground are locals, so they understand the culture and politics of the communities where they are working. For example, in Malawi the Heifer team works with tribal chiefs to identify families that would be the best recipients of livestock. Families that are chosen are vetted thoroughly and often go on to become lead farmers in their villages, like Mr. Mtika, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago.

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferHeifer lead farmer Mr. Mtika

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferMrs. Mtika and daughter Dorothy bid our group farewell. (Take note of Mrs. Mtika’s skirt.)

I also love that Heifer isn’t just about giving away cows and goats and calling it a day. Heifer employs many different “interventions” in the countries where they work, including disaster risk reduction, low carbon technology, village savings & loan groups, agroforestry, irrigation, livestock (which I already described), seed systems, conservation & agriculture, post harvest management, gender & family, and more. As Heifer works within communities, they identify the best interventions for each situation. For example, in Malawi they have assisted in creating milk bulking co-ops where farmers can sell their milk. We visited two of these co-ops, which were impressive facilities that were led and run by Malawians.

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferPhotos of milk bulking co-op in Mchinji district. (Check out the skirt!)

On the last day in Malawi we visited three farmer families in the Thoylo district. The first farmer had been working with Heifer for 6 months, the second was in the process of building a pen for livestock she would soon be receiving from Heifer, and the third farmer had not yet begun working with Heifer. I keep using the word amazing, but it was amazing to see the transformation these families go through when working with Heifer. The differences in quality of life between the first and third families was striking and it made me excited for the woman who would soon be working with Heifer and needed the help so desperately.

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferJanuary, began working with Heifer 6 months ago to gain additional support for the cow she received through FDIP, a government project

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferRhoda, who is currently preparing her pen to receive a dairy cow distributed by Heifer International under the MDIP project 

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferGertrude, a widowed mother of six who lost half of her home to catastrophic rains earlier this year; her cow produces significantly less milk than the cows owned by Heifer farmers; Gertrude will soon begin working with Heifer for additional training and support (Photo credit: Jeannine Harvey, ONE)

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferRomani, a Heifer farmer, and his wife; His initial gift of livestock was a “pass on”

Lastly, the Malawians we met who have worked with Heifer International really love Heifer. A lot. You can see it in their faces, in their songs, in their embraces. You can see the personal connections the Heifer employees have with the villagers. Farmers at all our stops were wearing Heifer fabric, fabric they bought at cost from Heifer. You could tell that Heifer farmers were incredibly proud to be Heifer farmers.

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferWe saw Heifer fabric everywhere we went!

I could go on and on, but I’m going to resist the urge to write a book and just keep this to a really long blog post. 😉 I’ll end with this: If you’re ever looking for an organization to donate to, Heifer is an excellent choice. Donor money is used responsibly and effectively and it is truly changing people’s lives.

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferLucia, one of Mr. Mtika’s neighbors and recipient of a “pass on” gift

Plus, it’s fun to go “shopping” with Heifer! My kids gave Nate and their grandpas animals for Father’s Day this year. The dads had a choice between flocks of chicks, ducks, geese or honeybees. We ended up gifting chicks and ducks and the kids loved it! There are many ways to support Heifer – click here to see more!

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheifer

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferThe Mtika’s goat pen…and goats!

I am now a Heifer Lifer, just like the people I met in Malawi. If I wore headscarves, you’d better believe I’d have one made from Heifer fabric! I’ll just have to wear my Heifer t-shirt instead. Not quite as festive but still gets the message across!

snapshots from malawi: the work of heifer international #oneheiferGomani village (Photo credit: Allison Stephens, Heifer International)

In case you were wondering, a “heifer” is a young, female cow that has not yet borne a calf. Now you’re smarter. You’re welcome.

I traveled to Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We visited to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by U.S.-funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.

ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.

Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.


8 Comments »

  1. 1
    Nikki CB

    What a fantastic post, Jane. I’ve heard a bit about Heifer Intl for a long time, but never really looked into the organization. It’s great to hear more about it. And, I love hearing about the individuals who are involved.

  2. I love this! What an amazing trip and a fantastic organization. I love seeing the photos from your trip–and being convicted for taking so much for granted!

  3. Heifer has long been one of my favorite charities to donate too. Thanks for sharing your experience. I love it even more now.

  4. I love everything about this. So glad you had the experience of seeing this firsthand, and I love even more that something so simple is so life changing for so many. Hooray, hooray, HOORAY!

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