Inspiration

If it’s good enough for Bill Gates….

3023877-inline-spoiler-alert-bill-gates-did-not-get-you-because-he-got-me-1387410864Super adorable story about Bill Gates donating … you guessed it! … a heifer from HEIFER to an unsuspecting Reddit reader.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3023877/reddit-user-discovers-her-secret-santa-is-bill-gates

Now that’s what you call a Super Secret Santa!!!

(And if you need some further encouragement to give Heifer gifts to people you love this holiday season, wait til you read my LAST look-back at my 12 x 12 journey to Ecuador  — coming as soon as I can use my computer again… maybe in Myanmar/Burma??)

 

Categories: Heifer International, Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Remembering Rwanda.

boy me & Lu Rwanda was one of my favorite trips last year — not least because it was the one time my daughter Lulu accompanied me. She’d turned 21 in May, and I decided the best birthday present I could give her would be to share some of what I’d seen on my trips around the world with Heifer International.

Well, eye-opening doesn’t begin to describe it.

memoryRwanda is a fascinating, haunting country – tiny (about the size of Maryland), one of the most densely populated in Africa (with 11 million folks), and scorched with a past marked by holocaust, horror and hatred. But Rwanda today, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, has moved along the hopey-changey spectrum at a clip no one could have anticipated or imagined. lovelyChild mortality is down 70%. Malarial deaths have plummeted 85%. Kigali, the capital, has become one of the cleanest, safest cities in Africa. Literacy of the population is almost 75%. The infrastructure is efficient and new. And the economy, unburdened by corruption, is one of the fastest-growing on the African continent, despite Rwanda having no ports, virtually no natural resources, and 90% of its population raising crops on an acre or less of land.

Everywhere you look, tidy little plots of land are cultivated, mile after mile.

Everywhere you look, families are eking out a living on tiny plots of land.

Rwanda is a remarkably neat, tidy country – with the brilliant insight to ban plastic bags almost ten years ago (makes me feel like we’re the developing ones). There has been a lot of criticism of Kagame’s strongman rule http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/magazine/paul-kagame-rwanda.html?pagewanted=all  but it’s difficult to imagine any scenario after the genocide of 1994 that could have predicted a resolution as peaceful and progressive as this.boysHeifer’s role in the country has been consistently progressive, inspirational and positive – working with AIDS families to provide income, creating a model for enabling poor families to use a cow to fuel economic prosperity, and of course, always, Passing on the Gift.

A hug after Passing on the Gift -- a Heifer tradition.

A hug after Passing on the Gift — a Heifer tradition.

To see communities which two decades ago erupted in genocidal atrocity now be focused on giving to the least blessed a huge asset like a cow is nothing short of inspirational.proud

I’m so happy I got to see it. I’m beyond grateful that my daughter did, too.serious girl

And just because I’m good at sharing, here are my blogs from the journey:

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/08/16/a-country-with-a-past-and-a-future/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/08/20/what-it-means-to-give/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/08/23/goats-an-anti-viral-agent/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/08/27/stop-making-me-cry/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/08/30/cows-r-us/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/09/03/a-woman-named-constance/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/09/07/wild-rwanda/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/09/11/lulus-view/

zebra

Categories: Heifer International, Inspiration, Photography, Rwanda, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Haiti Re-Mix.

family (As a graduate of UMass and with two sisters still living there, my heart goes out to Boston and to ALL those whose family members were hurt.) Okay, I know it’s April– which means I’m a tiny bit behind in my Remix intention to go back and feature some of my favorite (never-seen-before!) photos from each of the countries I visited for Heifer International last year.old & new

But whenever I start going through my photos, I get completely lost in the glorious faces whose stories I remember so well.woman in red

I remember being scared to go to Haiti — afraid the poverty and desperation in the aftermath of the 2010 hurricane would still be overwhelming.PAP

Well, there were still tents up and houses in ruins (although most are gone now). But instead of buying the heartless line you hear so often: “Oh, Haiti is always recovering from one disaster or another,”  I found myself head-over-heels in love with the people of Haiti.Ivoire child

The way they walk with such pride and grace. carrying

The way they will do anything to get their children an education. schoolboys!

The way the children walk out of murky, dirt-caked slums looking as clean and tidy as little angels…sweet girl

… and people work & work & work, with a determination and optimism that is remarkable to behold. Commute

To say the people of Haiti embody resilience, dignity, strength and perseverance is an understatement.dapper

Even the land, which is admittedly largely deforested, is still beautiful.

On the road to Saint RaphaelI can’t wait to go back and see what Heifer has been doing there! Pierre Ferrari, Heifer’s CEO, just visited some projects with President Bill Clinton and he reports the big goat-breeding operations are really going strong (and god knows, Bill loves to talk about breeding). good goat

I miss Haiti. boyBut if you missed the whole shebang last February, you can still read all my blogs on Haiti by clicking on the links below.old man

I’ll leave you with a Haitian saying which, oddly, was one of my Mom’s favorites, too.firebrigade

Men anpil chay pa lou. (Many hands make the load lighter.) two boys

Let’s hope so!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The Paradox of Haiti”  http://heifer12x12.com/2012/02/23

“Staring at Goats”  http://heifer12x12.com/2012/02/27

“This is SO not a road” http://heifer12x12.com/2012/02/29

“What I Ate in Haiti” http://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/03

“Cows, Fudge & Women in Haiti” http://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/05

“The Price of a Chair” http://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/08

“A Mother in Haiti”  http://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/09

“A Fish Full of Dollars” http://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/14

“A Rough Draft of My Last Day in Haiti” http://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/18

“My admittedly tardy International Women’s Day Post” http://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/18

Categories: Haiti, Heifer International, Inspiration, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A bittersweet goodbye.

DAWN

My year as the volunteer Global Blogging Ambassador for Heifer International is officially over (that’s the sound of me sobbing).

schedule  A look back at the numbers makes me feel simultaneously exhilarated and a tiny bit exhausted. I traveled to 14 countries (15 if you count my test run to Uganda in October, 2011), and spent at least 280 hours on airplanes and another 390 hours (but who’s counting??) bouncing around in trucks.

It’s been an unbelievable year … and I’ve got more than 10,000 photos to prove it.listening pig

I’ve written 113 posts and my blog was viewed about 84,000 times by people from 164 countries. Thuli Maya Lama

Along the way I was also voted Volunteer of the Year from the South by the Classy Awards (thanks for voting for me, y’all!!). But my biggest joy was meeting people (and Heifer staffers!) in these developing countries and getting to see their homes, their children, and their farms & animals — and how incredibly hard they work every day.family Ecuador

oh mama

llama roundup

What I’ve learned along the way is that our Earth is a staggeringly beautiful place… landscape Ecuador

cactus

island

cosmos

That people everywhere have a lot more that unites us than separates us….

rwanda

Leidy

cambodia girlsThat when we reach out to help others, we gain more than we give…woman & cow

POG…and we invest in our own happiness.Laughing girl

Thanks a million to Heifer (and especially CEO Pierre Ferrari) for trusting me to convey these incredible stories of inspiration and vision.

Thanks to my husband and family for their unwavering support, and to Michelle B. for her stupendous travel counsel.

And thanks to YOU for coming along on the journey!NEPAL GIRL

Feel free to come back and troll through the archives anytime! (If you click on “The Countries” navigation button, you can pull down all posts from whichever country you’d like.)sunset

Happy 2013!!

(And if you miss me, please subscribe to my new/old blog What Gives 365 where I’ll be freshly posting!

Categories: Heifer International, Inspiration, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 89 Comments

Two Gorgeous Farms & One Heavenly Market

bee on blossomIn my last two days in my last country in this incredible year of travel with Heifer, (sob!) we visited Ambato, a market town south of Cotopaxi, about 2 hours from Quito, Ecuador. After the bone-dry forest of Vega Alta, it was like dipping my eyeballs into a green misty pool — how delicious! land

It made me remember why I’m going to miss these countries so achingly much – and introduced me to yet another awesome Heifer partner: PACAT, an agro-ecological association that’s been working with indigenous farmers here for over 12 years to help  them increase their production, income, and food sovereignty.

Gloria & Lizbeth Pomaquiasa on their land.

Gloria & Lizbeth Pomaquiasa on their land.

PACAT is boots on the ground – running 34 different community groups in 9 counties with 508 families to help them commercialize their agriculture, livestock, fish and cuy ventures. These are small farmers growing on plots of just 1 to 2 acres… but PACAT is no small-thinking organization. pacat market

With Heifer’s help (financial and advisory),PACAT has hired a doctoral student to analyze the market to determine what sells best (they’ve narrowed it to 70 items), what people want that they’re not getting, as well as consumer buying patterns and preferences. They encourage farmers to use their ancestral traditions and to farm organically – for the health of the producer and the consumer.

Yes, they're organic!

Yep, they’re organic!

And when you see agro-ecology in action, it’s simply fantastic. We visited Jorge and Sonja Chonato’s farm in the Low Sierra (at 2000 meters), where temperatures are moderate and lots of crops flourish –citrus

…and Gloria & Francisco Pomaquiasa’s farm in the Alta Sierra (at 4000 meters) where it’s cold, windy and challenging to grow much besides cabbage, potatoes and root crops.Patas

Jorge and Sonja’s farm, at a lower altitude, had about 80 products in full flourish – and because agro-ecological farmers are “very curious always trying new things, grafting, experimenting, seeing what works,” the creativity was amazing!

Jorge's growing 4 different varieties of babaco - and I'd never even heard of babaco!

Jorge’s growing 4 different varieties of babaco fruit – and I’ve never even heard of babaco!

I saw produce and trees I recognized, and dozens of fruits and vegetables I’d never seen before. Jorge just got 2 new milk cows from Heifer, and he was ecstatic… more manure to grow things! His children were healthy and engaged in their farming, his wife was unbelievably organized and capable, and their spirits were so buoyant, they couldn’t wait to show us all the success they’d had.

Jorge Chonato - one happy farmer!

Jorge Chonato – one talented, happy farmer!

By the time we got up to Gloria & Francisco’s farm, it was almost dusk but the family was still working in the fields, hurrying to harvest the crops they’d take to market the next day.

Francisco Pomaquiasa. 20- year PACAT member.

Francisco Pomaquiasa, a 20- year PACAT member.

Francisco has been part of the Atahulpa Association of PACAT farmers here for 20 years  (since he was 20) and like most farmers who’ve had Heifer trainings, his crops are now diversified and chemical-free.Gloria's farmDespite the biting wind, the heads of cabbage, peas, radishes and turnips were gorgeous – and the family was equally proud of the 100 cuy (guinea pigs) they’d raised from Heifer’s gift of 60 cuy last year (they’ve already sold 60 males at $10 each and passed along the original gift).

cuy

Almost too cute to eat … almost!

Five year-old Lizbeth was an expert packer of lettuce, carefully wedging the last head in the yellow market box, her little hands red with the cold, but her eyes dancing with excitement. Market Day was almost here!

What a good helper!!

What a good helper!!

We arrived at Ambato Market the next day at 5 am, in time to see the farmers come in with their wares (some live 2-3 hours away)…truck loaded

… and to watch the first shoppers trickle in at 6 am.

The frenzy begins..

The frenzy begins..

Heifer/PACAT farmers all work under the same banner and wear distinctive aqua jackets so people can recognize the farmers whose meat, produce and fruit are known to be chemical-free and luscious … the bee’s knees!

So beautiful! And GREEN.

carrots

Maize

radishes

Inkaberries

Last call for berries!

Last call for berries!

By 8:30 am, all the good stuff was all gone and the farmers were packing up their wares.But first, Lizbeth would get a sweet reward  – Lizbeth with treat

…and then her family would pocket their $80 of income and go back home and start farming again.family at work

That’s the way it goes all over the developing world — and at this time of year when we’re swimming in abundance & relaxing, it’s good to remember that for a billion people around the planet, it’s hard work just to eat every day. farmer's daughter

And they are so grateful for the little help they receive…Gloria

– so THANK YOU!

Categories: Agriculture, Ecuador, Farming, Heifer International, Inspiration, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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