The Journey

Basically, it works like this:

In 2012, I’m going to visit 12 countries in 12 months for Heifer International, in my new position as a Global Blogging Ambassador . (And yes, I did completely invent that fancy-pants title, thanks for asking.)

What I'm shooting for...

My responsibilities in this voluntary position are to meet the people who are benefiting from the animals Heifer gives to those in need, learn about the Heifer programs and trainings that go on for months before an animal is given away, and experience first-hand why Heifer has been so successful in its 67 years of transforming communities through the mere gift of an animal. Then, of course, I’ll pass it all along in grand style to you.

Along with praise and admiration for what I like/love about Heifer, I’m also going to be writing about what I think is not going right, and I can assure you that this is a 100% independent blog. Heifer wants it that way, and I want it that way– because truth-telling is both my strength and something that makes me really difficult to live with.

In these 12 trips to 12 very different countries, I’m also going to do my best to convey the culture, history, beauty and challenges of each country I’m visiting, because as a proud history major, that’s just the way I roll. Finally, I’m all about the people, so you’ll see a lot of portraits in my posts. I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I’ll be taking a billion photos (and hopefully videos if that’s not beyond my feeble technological grasp) to try to bring you right along with me, and make you fall in love with the people and places as I do. (Or to make you feel as weird and disoriented as I do.)

I’m both elated and a bit intimidated to be taking on this journey, with all the responsibility I feel for doing it with truth and respect, so I hope you’ll hang in there with me, and let me know what you’re thinking and feeling as you read along.

70 Comments

70 thoughts on “The Journey

  1. Meredith

    I’m excited to tag along with you!

  2. Patti Ross

    I hope to share your journey with my grandchildren who have been the proud donors to Heifer International for three years: first a cow, then a goat and this year a pig. They are early readers, but let’s see if I can get them hooked! Patti R.

    • Patti — One of the great strengths of Heifer is that it’s such a wonderful way to teach philanthropy to children .. cause who doesn’t love goats & pigs?? … but when those children can look at the faces of the people they’ve helped (and what beautiful faces these are, don’t you think?), it takes their giving to a whole different level, I hope. You’re a peach to write, Patti — and I HOPE you’ll come along with me to one of these countries!!

  3. Sharene

    How exciting! I didn’t know such a thing existed and we are dairy and beef producers. I just stumbled across this as I am a member of netherworld books due to my recent nursing degree studies. Well done and how exciting! I have previously donated things through Oxfam, goats, fish and pigs. I would love to follow your journey. Travel safe.

    • Thanks, Sharene!! I am sure you will find lots to relate to — and I’m in awe of anybody who not only raises beef and dairy cows but also is a nurse!! I think it’s so fascinating to realize how removed most of us are from the animals that support and enable our lives — but I don’t have to give YOU that tidbit of wisdom! Hope you will follow .. it’s going to be QUITE a ride!!!

  4. Anonymous

    What a fascinating journey. Good Luck. We look forward to your posts!

  5. Rebecca Allen

    Bon voyage!

    • ryan

      Betty, I am so excited to follow this blog; as much as I was following 365! My family was less than thrilled several years ago when I gifted a goat on their behalf but has warmed up to the idea over the years (they thought it was a one time fad). Through your warm, witty, and poignant posts, I will be glad to share with them just how important our gifts are to those on the receiving end – these special families as well as mine.

      Buen viaje!

      • Ryan — I am so excited that you are following Heifer 12 x 12!! I think it’s hilarious that your family was bummed out by getting a goat (I think I probably was the first time I didn’t get a personal present to unwrap, too) — but I am REALLY hoping to make people see and feel what a remarkable, inspiring impact the gift of an animal can have on a family, and how it really CAN help change their lives for the better in a really tangible way. Thanks so much for your great comment & your enthusiasm!!

  6. Anonymous

    Betty,

    What a wonderful year you have ahead of you. I have always been attracted to and supported Heifer International which is a tradition started by my Mother. This Christmas I gave a gift of a goat on behalf of my grandchildren. I had previously given them the book “Beatrice’s Goat” which is the true story of how a gift of a goat changed the life of a little girl about the age of my own grandchildren. They loved both the book and the gift of the goat I gave for them. They were curious about which country the goat would go to and what the family who received it might name it. I assured them that although we could not find the answers to these questions, that the goat would be going to a place where it was needed and would no doubt be given a wonderful name….just like the goat Mugisa in the story of Beatrice’s Goat. I hope we can continue to support Heifer International through the years.

    It will be fun to follow your adventures. Best of luck.

    Margaret

    • Margaret — What a great comment, especially since I’m sitting here looking at MY copy of “Beatrice’s Goat” that I was given in Uganda!!
      It IS a wonderful book, and I am so happy that your Mother, who is such a great lady, started the whole Heifer tradition with you all.
      I think one of the great strengths of Heifer is the way it has been used to teach children about philanthropy and people in need aroudn the world .. and I really hope that your grandkids (who are spectacularly beautiful, btw) will be able to read a few of my blogs — or at least look at the pictures — so they can see some of “their” goats in action! Really appreciate your writing, and can’t wait to have you along on the journey!

      • Kari & Kieren Londergan

        This message is from Kieren as we are reading through your incredible blog. Poor guy is home sick today from camp. ;-( He says, “I think you are really helping poor kids. I would like to help you one day. When I’m 16, can I have your job? How many countries have you visited in your life? What was the poorest country that you have seen? Have you ever been scared while being away from home? I can’t wait to meet you. I really want to help.”
        Love, Kieren

      • This is probably the most touching comment I’ve EVER had … and Kieren,

        I wish you could come on my journey with me! You would love seeing the children

        and meeting them — despite the fact that they are very poor, they smile a LOT, they

        play with toys they’ve made and run around outside, and are very cheerful and helpful to their parents. I’m not sure how many countries I’ve visited in my life, but I know it’s more than

        50…. I feel so lucky about that! The poorest country I’ve seen is probably Haiti .. or Cameroon.

        (They’re also two of my favorites.) I’ve never been scared while I was away on this year’s trip – because the Heifer people take really, really good care of me and watch out for me.

        But I was scared once when I almost drowned in Mexico … and almost got thrown into jail in

        Costa Rica.. and got shaken down by the police in Kenya … but those were a long time ago. I’m probably a smarter traveler now and don’t take stupid risks … I really can’t wait to meet YOU,

        too, Kieren and hope that you have a great time at camp and we can see each other soon!

        Wanna skype?? Lots of love, your great-auntie Betty

        ________________________________

  7. Anonymous

    Betty,
    Last Christmas I gave my college age kids Heifer gifts. This was my oldest sons idea after he had known about this organization for years. Turns out they are from Arkansas, where I lived from age 13 till I got married. My mother still lives there and I consider it home. On my next trip I plan to visit the Heifer Village. This year I picked 3 charities to give sizable contributions to and Heifer was one of them. I have tried to share with some friends in Athens as so many people haven’t heard of them. The work they do is amazing and so necessary to life in these countries.

    You are inspirational to me in my new chapter of life. My oldest son is teaching English in Istanbul and I plan on visiting him in April. He loves Istanbul, but has had a love for the country of Georgia for years now. Good luck to you on your travels and thanks for reminding all of us how much good we can do with a small gift.

    I am really in awe of you and your ideas, journeys. I would love to “tag along” on a trip sometime with you. Guess we will meet eventually and decide that!! :)

    Thanks for your leadership and your spirit.

    Nancy
    PS on another note, one of my favorite blogs you wrote was about the 7 sofas! I laughed and felt your pain!!

    • Dear Nancy — SO happy you are reading my blog, and it’s always wonderful to meet a fellow traveler/Heifer lover! You are going to LOVE seeing the Heifer Village when you go to Little Rock — it’s an absolutely beautiful LEED platinum building right behind the Carter Center, with lots of grassy knolls around it, and the river running by it. I’m also so happy that you’ll get to go to Istanbul — we LOVE that city, and all of Turkey is fabulous!! Maybe you should meet me in Armenia or in Georgia when I’m there (check the widgets on the right side of my blog, as I’ll be updating my itinerary with exact dates as soon as we hear from the country managers). Why not??! And btw, your generosity to people in need is a beautiful thing, and I really salute you! In fact, maybe I will deed you one of my sofas!! cheers, B

  8. Cindie

    Hi Betty, I’m concerned with animal feed. Having an animal is one thing, but having enough to feed it is something else. Could you keep us posted about how Heifer ensures that the family receiving an animal can feed it properly?

    I am also interested in low cost water purification techniques. If you see any good examples, could you share them?

    Thanks and blessings for your journey.

    • Thanks so much, Cindie! I can tell you that Heifer spends a tremendous amount of time with its beneficiaries, educating them on precisely the best crops to grow to feed their animals — and that is one of the things I love about this model. It’s anything but a handout, and anything but a slam/bam approach. Heifer extension workers give teachings over a period of about 3 months before any animal is given — in everything from home hygiene to animal care to breeding to raising crops to feed the animals (and exactly the most nutritious mix of plants) to spraying them for parasites to building energy-efficient stoves to hand-washing stations, to harvesting water to building compost ditches, to cleanliness to gender equality to the importance of education … it’s a REALLY comprehensive approach!
      AND .. I do have a great story on a low-cost water purification technique that may have HUGE promise for developing countries!! Thank YOU for writing and for your thoughtfulness…

  9. Hi Betty, I went to high school with you. We weren’t really friends, but i do remember you. I guess I must have found this blog on Facebook and am soooo glad that I did!
    Reading your comments over the past few days, has brought more than one tear to my eyes. I can only imagine how amazing this upcoming year is going to be for you. What an opportunity! I’m sure you will enjoy this adventure tremendously. I love that you are able to truely appreciate the ‘small’ things that bring people so much pleasure. When it’s compared to what we take for granted here in the US, we should be ashamed. The Heifer program seems wonderful. I have a strong feeling already, that they have chosen the best person for the job. You have all the qualities that this job (JOB??) requires. I wish you the best and thank you for all the good you are doing for those who are most in need. I will be looking forward to each day, hearing about your adventures.

    becky

    • Becky — of COURSE I remember you! High school is a bit of a blur, but I definitely recall your name & face! Thanks so much for your kind words about Heifer 12 x 12 — and I really can’t wait for this big adventure to begin! I’m in Guatemala now and will be posting in a few days.. visiting projects and driving all over the country, which is actually a LOT of work, in the best possible way. And again, of course, when you see how people are living with such limited resources — without running water, electricity or enough food to eat — well, it makes any small discomfort I feel seem totally ridiculous. AND of course, the people are so beautiful and sweet, I’m always just happy to get to know them!
      I am really excited you’ll be coming along this year, Becky — welcome aboard!!

  10. Susannah

    Very cool! I enjoyed reading What Gives 365 and know this will be just as great. I’ve donated to Heifer for several years. Thanks for sharing their work with everyone.

  11. Cindie

    Hi Betty, thanks for your detailed response on my concern about animal feed. With respect to low-cost water purification techniques, will you be sharing your story soon? :-)

    • Hi Cindie! I thought I’d be visiting some water purification projects here in Guatemala, but instead I’m visiting a wonderful project to save the cloud forest through working with the campesinos to foster sustainable agriculture and better soil. Pretty cool! BUT … I’ll be sending you an email directly about my friend’s new venture to bring low-cost water purification tablets (supremely effective & concentrated vs. e coli AND cholera to the developing world. Stay tuned…

  12. Cindie

    I certainly will! Thanks!

  13. Ginger O'Neill

    Hi Betty,

    I am so happy for you to start your adventure and think it is wonderful that Larry is kicking off your inaugural first country with you.

    I wrote to my sister-in-law, Carol O’Neill, and hope she manages to join you in one of your 12 country stops given her connection with Heifer.

    Once again, you will be the lightening rod to keep us all informed about life outside of the American bubble, even though we have high unemployment and malnourished children, our poor still have much more than other third world countries. Then again, if the next election goes the wrong way, we will see more of our American Dream slipping away. Let’s not go there now!

    Moving on, I wish you safe travels and good health. May all of your technological challenges be small and not undermine what will be another blog to expand our world lens on strife, beauty and the power of often one.

    Hugs!!!!

    Ginger

  14. I would love to see all your posts, particularly those done in Cameroon. I would be there in April too!! Ill stay in touch, please do same.

    • Hi Nina! Hope that our paths cross in the Cameroon .. just subscribe to my blog, and you’ll get all the posts this year! (And if you click on Contact in the navigation bar, you can email me directly) … THANKS!!

  15. Debra Wilhoit

    Betty,
    I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines with Heifer International for 19 days a few years ago. It was amazing! May your Heifer days be as exciting, exhausting, and extraordinary as mine, and may you walk away from this experience with a true education, a global perspective, and a friend to many people you may never see again, but who have changed your life and your heart forever. I am a Heifer believer!

    Debra

    • Debra — I can tell you are still amazed by your journey with Heifer, and I can SO relate to that! I am loving seeing these Heifer projects and so cool that you can relate so much to the exciting, exhausting and extraordinary pace of it!!!

  16. adela120

    What an interesting and exciting project! I look forward to hearing about your travels and especially learning more about Heifer. I am of Peruvian decent but have never actually been to Peru – so its been on my to do list for a while. I can’t wait to read about your time there – who knows depending on the timing maybe I will take you up on the offer to join you!

    • Adela — I hope you do get to Peru soon.. but at the very least, please do follow my posts from Peru, when I go there in March! I’m so excited to see the Heifer projects there, as they are very diverse and I know I’ll get to see a lot of places I haven’t been! By all means, come join me there!!

  17. Wow ! This sounds like it’s going to be an amazing adventure:) Looking Forward to hearing more..and I would love to be a “Global Blogging Ambassador ” One day too :)

  18. This is amazing! I thought I was being ambitious attempting to take 12 trips in 2012, and here you are going to 12 countries! Very inspirational, I look forward to reading about your travels.

  19. What an amazing project … not just Heifer, but your journey with them and blogging about them. I hope you reach many, many more people this way so as to raise more donations of goats, pigs, etc.! Having lived for many years in Africa, I appreciate the Heifer approach, and have some understanding of the challenges you face, not simply on your journeys.
    I look forward to travelling along with you, sharing your ups (and I’m sure a few downs), and meeting the beautiful people that you capture so well with your camera.

  20. This is such a great way to promote a wonderful organization. Best wishes! -Abby

  21. DupreeEng3rd

    Our English class thinks it’s really cool what you are doing to help families around the world in need. We started Read to Feed yesterday and are very ecstatic about it. What are the schools like in Haiti?

    • Dear Super Cool Kids from York:

      SO happy to hear from you all — and I’m extremely proud of your efforts with Read to Feed! That’s an awesome project!!

      I am having an amazing time traveling around the world visiting Heifer

      projects and writing about the people I meet whose lives are being deeply

      impacted by efforts of people like YOU! So never underestimate what

      your compassionate work is doing out there in the Heifer world!

      The schools in Haiti are extremely underfunded. There is no country-wide government

      support of public education (only 20% of the schools in Haiti are government funded)

      so in places like Lake Peligre, for instance, all the schools are privately funded and the communities really struggle to pay the teachers — which is

      why the income from animals from Heifer is SO important. Only 40% of school-aged children in Haiti attend school regularly, because their parents can’t afford to send them — but parents in Haiti will sacrifice almost anything to give their children an education. So your support is HUGE!

      I’m going to be writing a blog on Monday about Degand — a community that is using income from a new goat-breeding center to purchase chairs and books for their school …

      I hope you’ll like it!

      Thanks for your great note!

      ________________________________

  22. DupreeEng4th

    It makes us think that sometimes we take our education for granted.We’re going to try to raise a lot of money. (4th block class)

    • Oh, I hope so, Dupree English … if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know. And feel free to print out & laminate any of my photos to bolster your cause (it’s always good to show people who they are giving to ( : !!

  23. Helen Dupree

    Betty, as an introduction – 6th-grade English classes at our school are reading to raise money through Read to Feed so we can purchase gifts for needy families. We are all very excited about tangibly helping families improve their lives which includes children getting the opportunity to go to school. My three English classes (DupreeEng1st, DupreeEng3rd and DupreeEng4th) are looking forward to following and communicating with you on your blog in order to learn about the people Heifer helps. Thank you for providing this enriching experience for our students.

    • Dear Helen,

      I LOVE hearing from your kids, and I am SO excited to hear their questions! I think that my journey does provide a great experience for kids to follow along, learn about some history and geography, and gain some understanding of these different cultures — while also learning about how similar we all are in terms of what we want, need and long for in our lives! So happy you are doing this (and if you ever want to skype with me.. or better still, with Pierre Ferrari, CEO of Heifer, I’m sure that could be arranged!) ALL the best, Betty

      • Helen Dupree

        Thank you, Betty for your willingness to be involved with my students. Yes, it would be great for them to skype with you. I will contact you later in the school year to work it out.

      • Sounds great! I love the kids … and they can always email me directly (probably more efficient) at blonderganmail@yahoo.com … CHEERS!

        ________________________________

  24. DupreeEng1st

    Besides making fudge, what other types of jobs do children have to do in Haiti? Why do they have to do them? Are they forced? How old are the children who make fudge?

  25. Dear Dupree 1st: I don’t know if this candy-making was a real job (ie. if they were getting paid or how long their hours were) … OR if they were doing it as a family chore (it was behind a house) … OR if they were being forced to do it. The kids I saw were probably 12-15 years old. The only other children I saw working were a similar age, and they were sorting coffee beans, which sounds easy but is actually not. Also, you might want to read another post of mine: http://whatgives365.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/ as it’s about Restavek children, who are basically orphans or children that are given away to other families and basically work in utter servitude. It’s a very sad system, and the man I wrote about is working hard to change it. So glad to hear from you, Dupree!!!

  26. DupreeEng3rd

    Do children in Degand have school on windy, rainy days since their school building isn’t completely covered? How do the people in Degand communicate with people outside their community? Do they have telephones? Thank you.

  27. Hi DupreeEng3rd — so sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner! You should write me at my regular email: blonderganmail@yahoo.com … then I’ll be sure to answer your questions!!
    I’m not sure if the kids in Degand have school on windy rainy days … but I’m pretty sure they do, since they still have to go fetch water, feed their animals, and do their farming no matter what the weather! You might be surprised but a LOT of people in Degand have cell phones … and so did people in the remote villages of Guatemala. In fact, there are more cellphones in Guatemala than people — meaning that a lot of people have 2-3 phones!! I guess it makes sense, though … because it’s the only way people living in these farflung villages CAN stay in touch; and it’s cheap and easy to get a cell phone. Plus, there are lots of ways for people to use cell phones to transfer money now, too, so people can exchange funds without using a bank. It’s very innovative and creative!!!

  28. Pingback: Top 10 Reasons to Join the Bloggy Blast | reinventing the event horizon

  29. brian

    Hi,

    While the underlying premise is just okay, if not a bit self serving, essentially you are on a junket and if you are looking for the truth you are adding to the larger body of air pollution being generated by travellers, without really adding anything substantial. Consider what you can contribute by not climbing on a jet or a bus.

  30. Hey, Brian — If this is a junket, then I would hate to see what works looks like. I agree that I’m quite fortunate to be able to travel to all these places, but I also know how hard I work when I am there, and how hard I work when I come home and write up my experiences and work with my photos. I don’t think I could share the stories of the people and countries where Heifer works, (in a far more complex and in-depth way than an advertisement or catalog could possibly do) if I hadn’t been there… and I believe it’s really important for people to deeply understand the Heifer model. I’m sorry you feel that I haven’t added anything substantial. I certainly appreciate the need for all of us to be conscious of the pollution our personal travel adds to the environment…. Heifer certainly has that as a core value .. but without traveling on a jet or a bus, I could not do this work which I feel is valuable — sorry you don’t!

  31. Pingback: 12 Countries in 12 Months with Heifer | Dowser

  32. I just discovered your blog and am excited to follow along!

  33. What an absolutely amazing opportunity!

  34. I totally agree, TEM!

  35. Pingback: Redefining Front-Porch Culture: Bloggers and a World-Wide Notion of Neighbor | reinventing the event horizon

  36. Betty, I hope you’ll accept the Very Inspiring Blogger Award –

    http://thewanderlustgene.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/blogging-a-window-on-the-world/

    No pressure – the important thing is that others come over to see the work of Heifa and your great blog :)

  37. Thanks SO much, Wanderlust Gene — you are such an amazing traveler, I am really touched by this award!!! And I hope it all accrues to Heifer, too!!!

  38. Awesome blog, really :)

  39. Such a cool website. I’ll have to read more when I have time.

    I really enjoyed the photos of Malawi. I think the people of Malawi are the nicest in the world. Do you agree?

  40. very nice work!!! I enjoyed reading it and the pictures are great!

    • thanks, Becky – it’s been awhile and I’ve been keeping up with you on facebook but it’s great to hear from you!! My husband was so happy to meet you (and have you snapping his picture) and since you are the photographer extraordinaire .. I’m thrilled you like my photos!!!

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