Justice

forgiveness • peacemaking • reconciliation
equality • poverty • missions

Justice

Not a Hand-out, but a Hand Up

April 23, 2014 by

So there I was telling 60 tenth grade kids from Memphis about global hunger and poverty. They had just spent the night on dirt floors in our “Global Village,” after a small and simple supper. Within the previous week I had done similarly for 90 sixth grade students, spent a day with 120 kindergarteners on “the Ranch,” and had facilitated a group experience for 12 college students on an “alternative spring break.”

I’m 22, and not a teacher, but I’m volunteering for a year in the education department at Heifer International’s Ranch in Arkansas. A friend of mine, Spencer, is working in the livestock department. Heifer founder Dan West’s vision to provide gifts of livestock to impoverished villagers in Europe after World War II began as “Heifers for Relief.” His idea was “a cow, not a cup,” and with that approach, cows, calves, and milk would be a continuing source of nutrition and income for villagers.

That first year (1944) my grandmother raised a calf for Heifer; she was 14, and we still have a photo of her posing with her calf. So when a friend asked me earlier this year if I’d be willing to volunteer at Heifer Ranch just outside Little Rock, I knew what Heifer was all about. I grew up in the Bruderhof, and have become a member. We have always been involved with non-profit organizations, both through financial contributions and through volunteer support. We have worked for many years with the Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children, and UNICEF, but we hadn’t partnered with Heifer before. I was keen to get involved because, as a follower of Christ, I firmly believe in his words, “What ye have done for the least of these, ye have done for me.” It seemed to me that this was a great opportunity for “gospel action.”

Knowing that there really is enough food raised on our planet to feed all seven billion people, Heifer asks, “If there is enough for all, why don’t all have enough?” Over the past 70 years, Heifer has grown to providing every sort of livestock, from rabbits, goats, and hogs to cows, llamas, and camels, always tailoring the gift to the specific village, its climate and culture. But part of the deal is “passing on the gift,” which refers to Heifer’s long-standing policy of having recipients give away offspring. Milk, wool, and meat though, still provide an income with which the family can send a child to school or repair their house.  

In its mission to relieve hunger and poverty, Heifer has served more than 20 million families in 125 countries. They teach sustainable development through accountability, “sharing and caring,” and improved animal management, along with training and education.  They also pass on knowledge, resources, and skills and can “expand the network of hope and dignity and self-reliance.” All this strengthens families and communities as people share the gift of their animals’ offspring. This fulfills Heifer’s vision that the world is really a network of communities that can and should live together in peace, sharing equitably all the resources of the earth.

Of course, it comes down to you and me. You can volunteer in various capacities. Or send a financial contribution that will support one more family. It will not be a hand-out, but a hand up, as it lifts people out of poverty, and contributes to making the world a better place. Get involved with Heifer this year!

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