Charity Logo

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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


In March of last year, I began a job that requires about a 35-mile commute each way.  My job is great, but my home schedule is different now that I’m not in town as much.  In particular, much of my reading is now via audio books, which I listen to while I’m driving.  (Audio books also help keep me motivated for such household tasks as ironing and mopping.)  I’m constantly checking out audio books from my local public library.  Then, I found another great resource: an iPhone app called Free Audiobooks, published by Digital Press Publishing.  You do have to spend a whopping $2.99 for the app, but once you purchase that, you have over 4,728 classic book titles, ready and waiting to be downloaded.  I was already trying to read a classic every few books anyway, and so Free Audiobooks fit the bill perfectly.

These audio books are available thanks to a volunteer organization called LibriVox.  The mission of LibriVox is to create audio versions of all books in the public domain.  Books in the public domain, generally written before 1920, are no longer subject to copyright laws.  Lots of excellent books are 100 or more years old.  A few of my favorites include Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, Silas Marner by George Eliot, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  They don’t call them classics for nothing.

LibriVox volunteers read the books.  Overall, it’s a good system, but some readings are better than others.  The first audio book I listened to, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, had a particularly good reader who read all of the chapters.  Having a single reader for an entire book is not typical, however.  Usually, there is one reader for a few chapters and then a different reader.  Also, sometimes a reader has a fairly thick accent, but how interesting it is to have volunteers from different countries.  Furthermore, it’s kind of funny to note the occasional background noise, like traffic!

At the beginning of each chapter, the volunteer reader states, “This is a LibriVox recording,” and goes on to give the web address for more information or to volunteer,  Maybe it’s simply the power of suggestion after hearing this so many times, but I finally decided that it would be a good thing to volunteer myself.  This is another hands-on way that I can promote literacy through A Year of Centuries, and it’s a way to give something back after deriving so much enjoyment from audio books.

Originally, I thought I would do some reading myself, going as far as investigating what kind of recording equipment might be needed.  However, after I signed up with LibriVox, I learned that volunteers are needed for a number of tasks.  I think I might do some proof-listening instead of reading.  With the combined efforts of readers, proof-listeners, and the coordinator, hopefully we can add another audio book to the public domain in the near future.

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