Heifer International Offers a Hand-up
Laurie Heller considers herself a professional “grant maker” – having worked for a variety of public sector agency grant programs.Currently, she works for the California Natural Resources Agency administering grants to improve the environment and help communities prepare for the effects of climate change. A natural extension of her work is an interest in micro-financing.While researching micro-grants as an international development tool, she learned about Heifer International (Heifer) and their innovative approach to sustainable development, which includes taking care of the earth.
Heifer stands out among non-governmental organizations because instead of donating food, Heifer makes gifts of livestock along with training to impoverished families to improve their nutrition immediately and help them grow a business for long-term income; turning lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope.
Heifer International has practiced and refined this development model since 1944. The livestock gifts are like a micro-loan with a twist. Recipients do not repay Heifer. Instead Heifer requires recipients to ‘pay it forward’ in a unique way by Passing on the Gift©, meaning that offspring of the original animals are given to other needy families in the community. This model makes gifts self-sustaining and as a result lifts entire communities out of poverty and hunger from one original gift.
Laurie was impressed with Heifer’s emphasis on sustainable agriculture in their projects. Recipients are trained in ecologically considerate agricultural practices that protect the soil and water, incorporate regional practices, and require full participation by all members of the family/community. Respecting regional practices means that Heifer’s country staffs are locals culturally familiar with the populations they work with, recipients decide the type of project they want to pursue, and gift animals come from locally bred sources to the extent possible.
On learning that Heifer International had a local volunteer chapter, Laurie joined “Heifer Sacramento” and has made several substantial contributions. She initiated a more active connection with Global Impact during the annual Our Promise campaign (formerly CSECC), brought many other local Heifer volunteers to participate at campaign events, and promoted awareness and encouraged donations to Heifer and the campaign as a whole. Laurie presents Heifer’s approach as a prime example of sustainable development to her history class at Woodland Community College. At the national level, Laurie served on the selection committee for Heifer Foundation’s annual Golden Talent Awards, which recognizes individuals and families in Heifer’s programs, that have taken “a minimum of resources and converted it into a sustaining source of income and other resources, while also helping other families and the community at large.”
Heifer International is a member charity of Global Impact. Established in 1956, Global Impact provides organizations and donors with effective ways to give to causes, regions and crises throughout the world. Global Impact delivers a wide range of giving solutions through an alliance of globally focused charities, management of one of the world’s largest workplace giving campaigns and partnerships to meet the needs of organizations and donors. Since its founding Global Impact has generated more than $1.5 billion for people in need.