For $5,000, Heifer International will send a menagerie that includes goats, llamas, cows, rabbits and chickens to an impoverished country.
Short on cash? For $250, they’ll send a water buffalo.
Jo Luck, president and CEO of the non-profit organization, spoke to a large audience yesterday in the Michigan League about the challenges of global poverty.
Since Heifer International was founded in 1944, the group has sent aid in the form of animals to more than 7 million people in 125 countries.
The group was founded by Dan West, an American farmer who provided humanitarian aid during the Spanish Civil War. While handing out cups of milk, West realized there was a more effective way to fight poverty.
“These children don’t need a cup, they need a cow,” West would say.
The group’s aim is to encourage long-term development by supplying third-world countries with livestock and agricultural skills.
Luck, an 18-year veteran of the organization, said the organization plays a role in giving rights to women. The organization refuses to send assistance to villages that restrict women from education or decisionmaking.
One Masai chief in Kenya was reluctant to accept help from Heifer International because he didn’t want to educate his wives in agriculture, Luck said. After Luck explained the economic benefits of agricultural education for women, the chief accepted.
Luck showed a traditional Thai headdress and bamboo flute she received as tokens of appreciation from women who had received aid from Heifer International.
“We are there when the camera leaves,” Luck said. “We are there for the long term.”
Luck said there are misconceptions about motivations of people in impoverished nations. They need things other than material goods to develop, she said.
“Like the first Americans, these people want leadership roles but they need opportunity, resources, and training,” Luck said.
In an emotional moment, Luck introduced a one-time aid recipient and current deputy director of Heifer International, Tererai Trent.
Trent said she grew up in a village in Zimbabwe where males were considered more important than females.
“The breadwinners of tomorrow were boys,” she said. “We needed to nurture and educate them.”
Trent first met Luck while sitting in a circle with nine other women. Luck asked the women where they hoped to be in five years. Trent said she wanted to go to a university and get an education.
“I cannot talk about the education of my children,” Trent told Luck at the time. “I want to talk about my education because if I am educated, I will teach my children.”
Trent said the group has helped women by giving them educational opportunities. She said she had endured emotional and physical abuse as a wife and mother before Heifer International came to her village.
In her closing remarks, Trent said Heifer International has also played a key role in giving African women an alternative to the sex trade. She said she once asked a former prostitute whether she made more money as a farmer or as a prostitute.
“I’m going to measure it in dignity, not in money,” the woman replied.