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Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

White Nose Syndrome

Bats often struggle to survive because of human ignorance or indifference.  Sometimes people exterminate colonies of bats, mistakenly believing that the bats pose a threat or portend evil.  In some countries people even eat bats and overhunt threatened species.  Here in the United States, mines have been closed improperly, trapping thousands of bats inside or eliminating significant winter roosting sites.  (Thankfully, BCI has mitigated such mine disasters in recent years by working with appropriate agencies to install special bat-friendly gates over closed mine entrances.  These gates safely keep people out but allow bats to pass in and out freely.)  Even if a bat gets into your house, there is no need to kill it.  Just carefully place it in a closed container and release it in a safe place outside.  Make sure to never touch a bat directly; put on some gloves and gently scoop the bat into the container with a newspaper or something similar.

A particularly alarming threat to bats was discovered in 2006: White Nose Syndrome (WNS).  WNS has caused “the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century in North America,” according to biologists.  It has killed more than 5.7 million bats, spreading to 22 U.S. states (including Georgia) and 5 Canadian provinces.  WNS continues to spread to new areas.

WNS is caused by a cold-loving white fungus typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats.  It makes bats awaken more often during hibernation and use up their stored fat reserves that they need to get through the winter.  The bats emerge from hibernation too soon, usually freezing or starving to death.  Bat mortality rates from WNS have approached close to 100% at some hibernation caves.  A few of the hardest hit species include the endangered Indiana myotis, gray myotis, and Virginia big-eared bats.  Many more bats across North America are at imminent risk.  Because bats are crucial in maintaining the health of nearly all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, WNS indirectly jeopardizes many more living creatures (like…people).

Scientists believe that the fungus was brought to North America from Europe by people, probably cave visitors who transported it on their gear or clothing.  European bats have adapted to the fungus, but North American bats do not have immunity to it.  This is reminiscent of diseases like smallpox that ravaged Native Americans when Europeans first colonized.

BCI and partner organizations have been working tirelessly since WNS was discovered to understand and stop the disease and to begin restoring decimated bat populations.  Only last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced grant awards of $950,000 to 28 states to fight WNS.  You can help by never bringing caving gear from a WNS-positive state to a WNS-negative state.  Also, your donation to BCI will help fund its work to combat WNS.

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