Friday, December 03, 2010

Starting the Giving Tradition

Photo by Dave Anderson for World Ark magazine

I was browsing through the Heifer International magazine (World Ark) recently and came upon the photo above. It just grabbed me.  The woman, Nai Paulo, is making tea.  I was drawn to the bright colors and the elaborate ornamentation as it stands in contrast with the sandy, bare soil and the preparation of tea.  The story tells that the tea is made from tea leaves, a spoonful of raw sugar, water and camel mik.  After the tea, she will make porridge for the village children's breakfast.  The story is how camels (initially provided by Heifer International) have improved the lives of the Maasai people in Tanzania.

Heifer International is an organization I admire.  It gives families in impoverished ares (in the US as well as internationally) livestock or seedlings, along with training, to help them improve nutrition and earn an income.  For example, a family can use camels for milk, chickens for eggs and bees for honey.  Heifer asks that the family pass along offspring from their gift to others in the community.  From the website, "Heifer's mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.  By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.  With gifts of livestock and training, we help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways."

This Christmas, I will begin a new tradition with my niece.  I'll talk to her about how some children don't have food or toys, and that she can help.  I'll let her pick rabbits, chickens, bees, etc., that we will contribute.  I think, even at three, she can learn the joy in sharing.


Angela McRae said...

What an amazing photo and backstory about all she is doing to make tea! And I love your idea about your niece. Several years ago, a friend gave me a donation to Samaritan's Purse in my honor at Christmas, and I thought that was a wonderful and unique idea -- it's like double the giving! Locally, I know a family who decided that instead of giving each other Christmas gifts, they'd instead use that money to go serve at an orphanage in Kenya for a week, and they had a blast!

Anonymous said...

Heifer International (HI) is an organization that claims to work against world hunger by donating animals to families in developing countries. Its catalog deceptively portrays beautiful children holding cute animals in seemingly humane circumstances. The marketing brochure for HI does not show the animals being transported, their living and slaughter conditions, or the erosion, pollution and water use caused by the introduction of these animals and their offspring.

By definition, animals raised for food are exploited in a variety of ways. The animals shipped to developing countries are often subject to; water and food shortages, cruel procedures without painkillers, lack of veterinary care resulting in extended suffering as a result of illness or injury.

A large percentage of the families receiving animals from HI are struggling to provide for themselves and cannot ensure adequate living conditions, nutrition, and medical care for animals they have been given. HI provides some initial veterinary training to individuals and the initial vaccines. But, long term care for these animals and their offspring is up to the individuals.

To make matters worse, animal agriculture causes much more harm to the environment than plant-based agriculture. The fragile land in many of the regions HI is sending the animals cannot support animal agriculture. Although they say they encourage cut and carry feeding of the animals to avoid erosion, the reality is often quite different.

The consumption of animal products has been shown in reputable studies to contribute significantly to life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a variety of cancers. Regions that have adopted a diet with more animal products see an increase in these diseases. The remote communities supposedly served by HI have no way of dealing with the health consequences of joining the high-cholesterol world.

While it may seem humane and sustainable to provide just one or two dairy cows here or there, the long term consequences are an increased desire for animal products in local cultures leading to an increase in production. These communities may be able to absorb the additional water use of one or two cows, what happens when there are hundreds or thousands of dairy cows, each consuming 27 to 50 gallons of fresh water and producing tons of excrement? The heavy cost to animals, the environment and local economies is not figured into HI's business practices.

Steph said...

Dear Anonymous, thanks for expressing your opnion. I tend to disagree, but that's OK. Next time I hope you'll leave your name so we can have a polite exchange about it.

Steph said...

I'd also like to say that I agree with many of the concerns that Anonymous raise, and that's why I'm a mostly vegetarian. The main difference is that I don't believe in forcing my US-based expectations onto a developing country, and especially its people trying to survive.

keridawn05 said...

Well, I personally think this will be a wonderful thing for your niece! ;) I also want to say that life is about balance...nothing will ever be perfect because it is not possible. I personally think concentrating on the well-being of people should be a priority over other things.

Ann said...

Steph, I stumbled upon your blog this morning, and on this wonderful post. I'm on my phone or this post would be longer. Just know you and I share the same feelings about this view given us by the wonders of technology and Heifer international.

Marilyn said...

Such a wonderful organization. For quite a few years I have added a donation in each of my families names and put the card in their stockings.

sweetcakes said...

You are giving Lola such a great gift and it will be a wonderful experience for her to learn how to help others. Heifer is an important organization and one that I deeply respect.

The boys use to do read-a-thons at church to raise money for Heifer International.

What a great tradition to start with Lola!!

Marlena said...

I can agree a little with some of anonymous's comments, BUT on the whole, I think HI is doing a wonderful work. I have friends who were missionaries in an area where HI was active and animals there were loved and cared for. Animals raised in small quantities simply do not suffer from the maladies that our factory-raised ones do. They are given very personal care and treated as royalty because the families know how dependent they are on them. They also use native medicines that have worked for thousands of years. I grew up on a small family dairy and our animals were rarely ill. Our barns were clean, the animals were clean, they were loved and petted and when it was warm enough they were out in a real pasture. Heifer also has a seeds and trees and bees program if you have qualms about animals. There are many many project, such as Angela mentioned that bring aid directly to people in a way that helps them help themselves. There are programs for small business loans, gifts of tools, trainging, all sorts of things. There is one that helps drill wells in rural India and provides training for villagers to run the pumps and sanitation so people have potable water, thereby not only giving them water but several people a job. American standards simply cannot be applied to societies that are so so different from us. A small step is better than no step. And often has huge rewards

Get Natured said...

Steph- I really, really like this post and your idea. My kids are very excited about the holidays but are very focused on getting gifts. We have talks about the bigger picture and how some children don't have homes let alone gifts under a tree but I know they struggle to understand because they are little and, at this age (2 and 4), very literal. When they get a little older I plan to get them involved with helping others as well. Great idea for little Lola!

La Tea Dah said...

The joy of sharing is so important! Our family has two darling little girls in Bangladesh ---- little tots that we sponsor. A close friend visited them last year and gave them hugs from me. I was thrilled!