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Heifer International for One Stop Holiday Shopping


by Jerry Kolber. Follow Jerry on Twitter.

Ethan mentioned Heifer International here on the blog a few days ago and I’ve been reading more about this fantastic organization. I wanted to offer a little more insight as to why Heifer offers what seems to me the perfect Christmas (or other holiday) gift shopping experience. 

Briefly, when you buy a gift from Heifer International, you are gifting either a full animal or share of an animal to a family in need somewhere in the world – anywhere from the US to the other side of the planet. Your gift recipient (Aunt Sally, your friend, or parents) receives a card saying that, in their name, an animal has been given to a family that just needs a little help on the road to self-sufficiency. The recipient family is given a goat, or rabbits, or pig, or trio of chicks, or oxen or whichever animal is most appropriate based on consultation with the recipient community, and they then use the animal to help feed the family and generate income.


They might receive a goat, which provides milk, and more goats. More
goats means more protein and meat to sell.  With food for their own table and excess to sell, the family is moving
out of hunger and poverty through their own discipline and effort, in
cooperation with a small resource  you (and your giftee) provided to
kick start their independence and self-reliance.

The even more beautiful part is the Heifer asks that each recipient family then
give one of their animal’s offspring to another family in need in the
community; the second family also agree to pass on offspring to a third
family who also agree to “Pass on the Gift” – so Heifer offers the
opportunity through a gift of $10, $30, $120 or more to allow you to combine your resources with the time and energy of people who
badly want to be self-reliant, to eventually change an entire community.


This is not theory – it works.  Kids have been able to go to school,
parents have been able to build houses with real roofs instead of
grass, communities have learned how to cultivate feed grasses and renew
the soil, health has improved, gender relationships are improved, all because of a few animals and training from Heifer International.

Perhaps most importantly, Heifer offers a chance to participate in the
“rising tide” of helping others learn self-sufficiency and individual
responsibility.  Rather then encouraging dependence in the form of
monetary or food aid, Heifer International encourages a combining of
resources to help people become self-sufficient and to experience the
deep satisfaction of providing for themselves, their families, and
their communities. 


Just like those of us fortunate enough to have grown up in America have had training and resources provided to us our whole lives through schooling and generally more than adequate living conditions, Heifer offers us the opportunity to pass on the same gift of teaching and confidence building without the middleman of government aid or political negotiations – you give what you can, and Heifer does the rest.

Creating conditions for nutrition, safety, self-reliance, shelter,
environmental protection, and self-reliance is not only good for the
recipient of the gift, it also fosters conditions that will naturally
lead to a more peaceful and compassionate world for the giver as well.  I don’t need to make any obvious Buddhist points here – this is plastic-free, anxiety-free, “did I buy the right thing”-free gift giving that’s good for everybody no matter your faith or spiritual beliefs.

For more about Heifer International visit Heifer International.

Follow Jerry on Twitter.

Comments read comments(8)
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posted December 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm

nixta and I are donating to this charity this year, and I have asked friends and family to donate in my name in lieu of gifts.
we recently went to the wedding of a couple works on their own ‘urban farm’ in philly (wedding was actually on the farm, and was lovely!). We gave a gift that would be useful on their farm, and donated a cow in their name at heifer intl. They loved it, and plan on donating more themselves.
Its a great alternative to mindlessly giving ‘stuff’.

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posted December 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm

My school supports this organization. It’s a very tangible way for kids to think about global interdependence. I hadn’t thought of it as a gift idea; thanks! This is a great idea.

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no gift no giver no receiver

posted December 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

I also really like Seva Foundation
and sells stuff that helps women in developing countries become self-supporting. yeah, it';s stuff, but if my buying a canvas bag helps someone in Thailand avoid being a prostitute … well, who doesn’t need another canvas bag?
also, doctorswithoutborders

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Anan E. Maus

posted December 3, 2009 at 11:59 pm

thx for this blog!
wonderful gifts of charity just open the heart into a dream-world of spiritual beauty….
so inspiring!

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Your Name

posted December 4, 2009 at 9:40 am

oxfam also offers goats, sheep, trees, school books, mosquito nets

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posted December 6, 2009 at 2:01 am

Just offering another perspective-
It’s a good practice to look at all aspects of this type of large-scale aid organization. What percentage of your donation in the name of your friends and family members is actually going to the family in the form of a tangible gift compared to overhead costs?

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bernard pollack

posted December 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Just as an FYI wanted to flag you to three posts that resulted from our field visits with Heifer International in Rwanda. They are doing terrific work on the ground…
Here are the write-ups for the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet []:
Healing with livestock in Rwanda
Teacher Turned Farmer…Turned Teacher
Got Biogas?
We are travel blogging from Africa at a site called Border Jumpers which can be viewed at
Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack

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posted January 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Another great one stop site is THey have loads of Fair Trade gift selections for any holiday! Support the Fair Trade movement and visit them!

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