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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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Heifer Cornerstones

Heifer International has 12 essential principles that guide its work.  These principles are called the Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, or simply the Cornerstones.

Passing on the Gift – Passing on the Gift is at the heart of Heifer International’s sustainable community development philosophy.  Every family who receives an animal signs a contract to pass on one or more of their animal’s offspring to another family in need, along with the training and skills that they have acquired.  This unique approach creates a ripple effect that transforms lives and communities.

Accountability – Heifer provides guidelines for planning projects, screening recipients, monitoring progress, and conducting self-evaluations.  The groups define their own needs, set goals, and plan appropriate strategies to achieve them.  They are also responsible for submitting semi-annual monitoring reports to Heifer International.

Sharing & Caring – We can solve the world’s problems if everyone commits to sharing what they have and caring about others.  One of Heifer’s most important Cornerstones, sharing and caring is an integral part of its vision for a just world.

Sustainability & Self-Reliance – Because Heifer funds projects for a limited time, project groups must devise strategies for their continuity.  In Heifer’s experience, self-reliance is most easily achieved when a group has varied activities and generates support from several sources.

Improved Animal Management – Feed, water, shelter, reproductive efficiency, and health are the essential ingredients in successful livestock management.  The animal must be an appropriate breed for the area and should be a vital part of the farm activities without placing an extra burden on the family or resources.

Nutrition & Income – Livestock contribute directly to human nutrition by providing high-quality protein.  Indirectly, the provide draft power for cultivation and transportation, as well as manure for soil fertility.  Livestock provide income for education, healthcare, and housing, and as living savings accounts, they provide long-term economic stability.

Gender & Family Focus – In Heifer’s work, gender equity is central to success.  Men and women must work side by side in equally respected roles and responsibilities for a family to create a better future.  This is why Heifer confronts issues of patriarchy and inequality head on.

Genuine Need & Justice – Heifer is a partner to people in need who can improve their quality of life with modest support.  Priority is given to marginalized groups.  The poorest in the community should be included and receive priority for assistance.  Families are eligible regardless of creed or ethnic heritage.

Improving the Environment – Caring for the Earth is a huge part of Heifer’s mission and is present in every project.  Projects are designed to have a positive impact on one or more of the following: soil erosion, soil fertility, sanitation, forestation, biodiversity, pollution, wildlife, and watershed conditions.

Full Participation – Virtually everyone in communities where Heifer works has something to contribute.  Heifer calls everyone to the table, especially women living in cultures where they have traditionally been excluded or undervalued.  Our actions create big change and, therefore, must take everyone’s opinions into account.

Training & Education – Groups determine their own training needs, and local people are involved as trainers.  Training includes formal sessions as well as informal farm visits and demonstrations.  Participants learn nuts-and-bolts skills such as how to build sturdy pens and grow fodder.  They also receive in-depth training in all 12 Cornerstones.  Additionally, groups have requested training in food processing, marketing, and human nutrition.

Spirituality – Our common belief lies in the value of all life, a sense of connectedness to the Earth, and a shared vision of the future.  While Heifer International has its roots in the Church of the Brethren, the mission embraces people of all faiths, both as contributors and recipients.

Notice anything about the first letter of each of the Cornerstones?  Together, they form the acronym PASSING on the GIFTS.  Pretty neat, huh?

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