“Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for life.”
Heifer International is focused on long-term solutions and paving a path of opportunity for all to feel empowered and thrive on their own volition rather than temporary relief.
Their ultimate goal to end world hunger is no easy feat. However, the way they approach the challenge means they can “transform lives, [once and for all],” and may just be the key that achieves what seems to be impossible.
How well do you know Heifer and the mission that has been at the forefront of international sustainable development for 75 years? Get to know one of the most impactful organizations during their milestone anniversary year that transformed philanthropy and how your support of their work could mean the sustainment of humanity and our planet.
A personal experience in feeding refugees created a hunger for real change.
The founder of Heifer, Dan West, served as a volunteer during the Spanish Civil War. Hailing from a Midwest farming family, he had vehemently protested World War I, and worked alongside organizations that vouched for peace worldwide.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he agreed to make the journey to provide relief to refugees and victims of war. The rations for the hungry were a cup of milk a day. By the end of the experience, he saw futility in refilling cups day after day. It would be far more beneficial to give families a milk-producing animal as a permanent fixture in the war-torn area instead of relying on volunteers and a program that provided only short-term relief.
The true power of volunteerism is in how it inspires great leadership to flourish and find their footing. These impactful experiences resonated so deeply in West that he vowed to continue the work and serve others in need for the rest of his life.
The name, Heifer International, comes from the animal first donated.
When he returned to the Midwest from his volunteer efforts abroad West called upon his farming relatives and friends to donate heifers – young female cows – to the devastated regions, rationalizing the need for sustainable resources around which these families could build a life and become self-sufficient.
His “not a cup, but a cow” mantra inspired farming families to give heifers from their herds to areas that lacked the milk-producing animals. Upon induction in 1944, the first iteration of the organization’s name was “Heifers for Relief,” during World War II, when there was a greater need internationally for nourishment and food sources due to the outbreak of global war. West was backed by the Department of Agriculture and the United Nations, thereby approving his project as a nationally incorporated charity and allowing donated animals to cross state lines.
The first shipment of cows went to Puerto Rico 75 years ago.
A cargo ship carried 17 pregnant heifers to identified poor families; recipients were asked to pass on the gift of all female-born calves to other poor neighbors and families in need. Choosing to send pregnant cattle reduced the urgency and stress in breeding cows for the first few years. The shipment set sail from Alabama in 1944. Puerto Rico was chosen as the war had not touched the island.
Passing on the Gift® is of Heifer International’s hallmark.
The nonprofit abides by their own 12 cornerstones,” which all projects and endeavors incorporate. The 12 Cornerstones of Just and Sustainable Development were laid out as a model for all project families to follow when helping others through Heifer. These principles are adopted and implemented through every partners organization and found in every Heifer project.
- Passing on the Gift
- Sharing and Caring
- Sustainability and Self-Reliance
- Improved Animal Management
- Nutrition and Income
- Gender and Family Focus
- Genuine Need and Justice
- Improving the Environment
- Full Participation
- Training and Education
Explore the deeper meaning of these principles and the programs that fall under each one. Then pass on your own gift to Heifer International through your employee giving campaign. Ask your human resource manager about ways you can give back to organizations like Heifer or if your company matches donations to Heifer! Your gifts can be matched dollar-for-dollar in most instances at no cost to you.
It isn’t just cows that are provided to the hungry.
Heifer now places livestock of all kinds including: chickens, goats, oxen, buffaloes, alpacas, pigs, sheep – and smaller ones, such as rabbits, and even bees. For 75 years, the types of livestock placed by Heifer have been determined by the needs of the community.
What do these animals have in common? They all provided self-sustaining nutrition and other farmable resources such as excess milk, eggs and manure that families need to survive, transforming their lives and increasing their independence. Parents that were once hungry can now work as farmers to produce products such as honey, wax, wool, milk and eggs for themselves- feeding their children and selling the excess to create small businesses.
This movement does more than put food on the table of one hungry family for an evening. It allows Heifer project families to experience the dignity of helping others in their communities. Once they have benefitted from Heifer’s gifts and training, they become donors to another farming family when they “Pass on the gift” in their community. This starts a circle of giving and communities are lifted up as families start to earn a living wage.
This is the kind of sustainable impact that philanthropists and volunteers find key to implementing real, effective, long-term change. When investing in any program, quick relief is expensive and ineffectual for abating critical and long-standing issues. Look to programs addressing hunger by delivering consistent sources of nutrients – such as animals for breeding and producing milk or eggs – and bolstering independent economic development to prevent dependence on relief efforts.
Heifer International provides resources to the hungry in 20 countries.
Four Continents. A world of difference.
Heifer is making impactful, life-changing transformations in distressed regions that are in need of long term solutions to their constant deprivation of resources, nourishment, and community support. At one point, they were even actively providing aid to over 47 countries. Currently, there are over 75 active programs under the organization, spanning the globe.
In Africa, 10 countries receive support through their initiatives. In Ghana, Heifer is supporting health and livelihood through linking private and public sectors to sufficient funds. They are supporting clean water exploration and installation in Senegal, supplying goats to families in Zambia, while increasing women’s status and decreasing their economic disparity by making them stakeholders in their own farms. They are delivering tools and education on agriculture to enhance the community’s efforts in growing their own food in a sustainable, healthy manner – for themselves and the planet – throughout Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and more.
Across Southeast Asia, Heifer is helping rebalance and develop socioeconomic structures in vulnerable communities. They distribute seeds and livestock to regions in great need and improve disaster relief response by reducing the effects of natural disasters in the continent. Through these efforts, they empower women to help men make decisions in the household and community and increase opportunity for income through transfer programs and selling of goods produced by the donated livestock and agricultural resources.
Throughout Central and South America, Heifer is a leader in providing food security through economic building and improving biodiversity, beekeeping, forest restoration. These programs ultimately increase sustainable living, reduce waste, protect the environment, and implement innovative methods for regional farmers to increase income with modern technology, becoming more confident and independent in supporting their community.
Heifer even works in the United States, building relationships between farmers and markets to create stronger agricultural communities and revive rural economies in Arkansas and the South.
Heifer International has an incredible toolbox to share their work with donors.
You may hear of Heifer’s work in the news or highlighted in philanthropy magazines, but have you ever read the narratives and editorials published on their site? Connect directly to those that help Heifer save the world. Staff post blogs every week about the various projects, triumphs, and ever-evolving goals of the organization. You can also read some amazing tips on how to live sustainably in your own home, from recycling ideas to great recipes! It’s not just how to make a difference globally – real change starts in your own backyard.
Want to inspire your colleagues or corporate office to get involved in a big way? Heifer even offers interactive ways to experience their work. Test your knowledge about Heifer animals with this online quiz. Plan an in-person visit to the Heifer Ranch, the Urban Farm, or the Heifer Village for a hands-on experience and chance to see how their work benefits others around the world.
Heifer opens the door for donors to engage in numerous ways, and you can follow along as they make a real difference in the world.
Heifer is making strides to support a global movement.
In 2015, the United Nations created an agenda to help our planet and its citizens prosper by reaching for goals such as ending poverty and hunger. The Sustainable Development Goals serve as a set of fundamental values meant to guide charities and world leaders toward a safer, peaceful, better world for all to live contentedly.
Heifer’s programs directly support a number of the SDGs, including the first, second and fifth Global Goals of No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Gender Equity, as well as the others that include protecting the environment. Their approach begins with partnering with farming communities as the foundation for success and truly transforming lives to have a lasting impact, lifting up the small-scale farmers and empowering them to sustain themselves, ultimately creating economic stability within their communities.
A New Breed of Success: 34 million families (and counting) have been supported by Heifer International.
The true number of lives that have been positively changed by Heifer may be unknown. But in counting family units, they are proud to report over 34 million families — about 188 million people — have been affected by the programs Heifer International has implemented over the last 75 years.
More than 85% of those families rely on farming as a way of life and source of income (both in terms of local commerce and international trading), self-sustainment, community support, and personal legacy – creating generations of family business. But natural disasters, war, vulnerability to the elements and fragile community structure, can upheave a small community or family in the blink of an eye.
That’s when Heifer comes in. They don’t just provide a family a goat and call it a day. The key to providing a sustainable solution for farmers is to bring all the families they work with to a living income – which Heifer define as “all the income of a household earned/generated or transferred whether cash or in‐kind, sufficient to enable all members of the household to afford a decent standard of living.” Livestock is one method of support for individuals and entire villages, and then they teach them about animal husbandry to increase population and how to use wool from animals for clothes and other resources; send seeds to improve quality of agricultural development; link communities to private and public sectors looking to invest in projects and local industry; install disaster response programs; bridge communication channels so communities can ask for help in times of need; and empower women to help men make decisions, increasing the community’s chance of survival while balancing the equality between genders.