Re-Gifting, Heifer style.

As Heifer‘s Byron Lopez, Vivian Martinez and I pulled into the beautiful village of Quilinco near Huehuetenango*, Guatemala, I realized we were late. For once, it wasn’t my fault (blame breakfast and a whole bunch of bad potholes) but I was horrified to see 30 gorgeously-attired mothers & children and weather-beaten farmers in immaculate white hats patiently waiting for us in the beautiful turquoise central meeting place that was cheerfully festooned with flowers, hanging stalks of braided corn, and a pine-needle strewn floor.

Future farmer of Quilinco

This was my first HeiferPassing on the Gift” ceremony and I was late. Dang it!

Passing on the Gift is the most Cornerstone-y of the 12 Heifer Cornerstones – and the thing that truly sets Heifer apart from other “giveaway” charities. When a poor family receives a Heifer animal (any animal – be it chick, goat, sheep, cow, water buffalo or bee), the first female offspring of that animal must be passed on to another needy family. This not only builds community solidarity, it ensures that the gift keeps on giving to more and more families – while it engenders self-respect, dignity, and a sense of responsibility to others (Oh, that we had a little more of that in the USA!)

This community of Quilincohas had a relationship with Heifer since 1984 – and remarkably, the Passing On tradition is still being Passed On. From 80 original families, Heifer gifts are now benefiting over 500 families…with no direct supervision for 8 years (although Heifer still provides some veterinary support, new animals to improve the stock, and community counsel).


Today, we were witnessing THREE Passing On gifts. First was the gift of two stallions (I was envisioning Black Beauty – but no, these were sheep) from 4-time Award-Winning Sheep Breeder Jesus Garcia.  These two males would be shared by four families in two neighboring towns and used to impregnate the local mares.

Heifer's Byron Lopez prepares to pass on Jesus's prize sheep.

The second gift was a valuable Italian female rabbit that was robust, fat and juicy and would likewise be used judiciously to improve the local stock, given by Paula to Isabel.

Vivian passes on Julia's gift to Isabel.

The third gift was a campesino-to-campesino gift of a goat that would hopefully have at least 5 babies, improve the local stock (the price of prize stock is 5 times that of the local sheep) and enrich the lives and diets of the receiving family.

22 days old and already looking good!

The speeches preceeding the gifts recalled decades of community efforts to encourage people to contribute funds (sounds like any civic association anyplace on the planet), work together, and find common goals and common ground. With Heifer’s encouragement, Quilinco’s Mayan Mujeres had pooled their money and begun micro-lending programs to enable other women to buy animals and pass their offspring on. Their history of “working together with solidarity – the way you taught us — and not by ourselves” as Alberta Garcia recalled, has served them well.

The land of Quilinco is steep, foreboding, and back-breaking to farm, but the people there are determined to grow their own food, feed their own children, and prosper. Heifer’s great gift has been to give them the small help they need to succeed in that endeavor.

Celso & his dad, Juan Artemio


My Guatemalan walkabout.

Categories: Animals, Guatemala, Heifer International, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Post navigation

26 thoughts on “Re-Gifting, Heifer style.

  1. Life there seems so quaint..special…peaceful! Betty…you captured the qualities so well with your words and photos! Your photos were especially “special” in this post!

  2. Ginger O'Neill

    Hi Betty,

    For a country known for so much turmoil and blood shed, it is beyond description to see these beautiful faces and photos of what God intended when the Bible talked about first fruits.

    A small piece of paradise amidst the every day jungle called the planet earth.

    Blessings on your head for being the messenger!



  3. This is how things should be in the world. You are helping to do something special Betty.

  4. Anonymous

    I love your photos and concise writing. The message is clear- these folks in Guatemala are making their own lives better- with some support from Heifer. They are hardworking wonderful citizens, living a life of economic independence and self respect. That’s all we have to do- give a little monetary support to Heifer and they do the necessary. How hard is that? A click to Heifer, a click to paypal or a minute to charge a visa card or a two minutes to write a check.

    We, the very privileged in the United States, often say” oh, if only I could do something to help”. This is one of the IT places- we can all afford $20.00 at least.

    Thanks so much for inspiring us, Betty

    Louise Berry

    • Well, I really couldn’t have said it any better, Louise — and although ending poverty and hunger is never that simple, I do believe that Heifer has a great model for helping people to transform their lives and future! Really appreciate your comment, and your beautiful willingness to help!

  5. Betty, that hanging corn is for decoration or is it their drying method? I love all your photos but children always steal my heart. Indeed this is all God’s work.

  6. Absolutely beautiful !! & £O¥€

  7. Anonymous

    Love the idea of re-gifting…..and so inspiring to see how many families are being helped after the few initial families in a particular village. You must be having the time of your life. Thanks for sharing with all of us!

  8. Again, love the sustainability built into Heifer projects! Great work.

  9. What a wonderful ceremony! And for all of its benefits, yes, ‘Oh, that we had a little more of that in the USA!’ That photo of the goat is the CUTEST animal photo I have seen in a very long time! Can’t wait to read about Haiti, but equally looking forward to more from Guatemala!

  10. Deb Morrow Palmer

    Your Guatemalan walk about is exactly the areas Whitney went traveled to to help families. I am so thankful the program is having such good accomplishments. I love the “pass it forward” program. How sad we can’t see more of that. It is always bitter sweet for her when she comes home from visiting her families and friends there.

  11. Hi Betty-
    Thanks so much for sharing your Heifer travels with us! I am enjoying following your blog, and as a current Heifer employee based at one of our Learning Centers in the USA, am especially interested in seeing the good work that is taking place throughout the world using our sustainable development model. I work with livestock and was intrigued to see the terms “stallion and mare” used for rams and ewes in your latest blog pertaining to the pass-on in Quilinco. I have never heard of this before and am interested in the origins of this terminology. As you state in your blog, you were expecting to see a horse… not sheep. Any insight into this unusual terminology? Thanks again for sharing your travels with us. I especially am enjoying the photographs of our Project Partners.

    Be well,

    • Hi Donna!

      I’m so happy you are enjoying the blogs — I cannot tell you what a privilege and joy it has been

      for me to travel to the Heifer projects in beautiful, remote places that very few people get to go …  and see what a truly transformative effect the animals, trainings and support have on the lives

      of people who are really struggling to survive.

      I basically am taking notes every step of the way, and writing down what the Heifer field techs and

      project managers & beneficiaries say to me — so when I used the terms mares and stallions, I’m

      using the words the people themselves used to describe the male sheep .. and females. I am not sure whether that is a country-by-country preference or not??

      SO happy to hear from you … hope you will follow along! My Haiti journey was incredible!!



        Betty Londergan 2702 Mabry Rd. NE Atlanta, GA 30319 (610-348-9279)


  12. Thank you for sharing this story with us 🙂 Give that baby goat a hug for me!

  13. I like the pass the gift aspect of Heifer. What a great ceremony to witness.

  14. I don’t know how many of us are willing, like you, to put our lives and family on hold to bring words and photos straight from the countries Heifer helps. You are allowing us to see first-hand how our checks help, putting the faces on the future, and on hope. It’s incredible Betty.

    I am particularly looking forward to your trip to Appalachia as I am often frustrated that so many agencies ask us to help people in other countries, when so many of our own are hurting. Save traveling.

  15. This is a fascinating journey. Thank you for sharing the pictures which give us a glimpse of it. If only re-gifting Heifer style was more common, the world would then truly reflect the best of what it means to be human. But, step by step, hoofprint by hoofprint, you’re broadening awareness for the rest of us. Thanks Betty.

  16. Amber

    I LOVE IT (:

  17. the photos are beautiful and so ‘alive’. i feel as if i was somehow apart of the experience. wish i had stumble upon your blog since the beginning of your journey. travel safe to Haiti 🙂

  18. carbby


  19. Your photos are just gorgeous! That little lamb peeking out is adorable –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: