It’s My Blog’s Day!

Last October, I proposed to Heifer International that I visit 12 countries in 12 months in 2012 to visit their projects around the world…. and they said yes!

Heifer 12 x 12 was born in January 2012, and today— 12/12/12 — I’m celebrating this journey of discovery & inspiration that is almost coming to an end. Thanks for coming along on this wild, joyful ride!!

Categories: Appalachia, Armenia, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Heifer International, Malawi, Nepal, Peru, Photography, Romania, Rwanda, Travel, Vietnam | Tags: , , , | 59 Comments


Guatemala, January 2012.

The following faces have been brought to you by … you.

Haiti, February 2012.

You see, in 100,000 miles of travel to Heifer projects around the world this year, one thing has been utterly consistent.

Peru, March 2012.

People will take my hands, look in my eyes, and tell me to thank you.

China, April 2012.

Thank you for helping them to feed their children.

Nepal, April 2012.

…and send them to school…

Cameroon, May 2012.

….and stand with dignity…

Romania, June 2012.

…and have the chance to create a better life.

Appalachia, July 2012.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m bringing you their thanks.

Rwanda, August 2012.

Thanks for being so compassionate…

Armenia, September 2012

…for being so generous…

Cambodia, October 2012.

… and for your willingness to share your good fortune.

Vietnam, October 2012.

Look at the beautiful things you’ve done!

Malawi, November 2012.

Have a spectacular Thanksgiving weekend!

(And if you haven’t given to Heifer yet, I still love you ( : )

Categories: Appalachia, Armenia, Cambodia, China, Guatemala, Haiti, Hunger, Malawi, Mothers, Nepal, Peru, Photography, Romania, Rwanda, Travel, Vietnam | Tags: , , | 45 Comments

A new Namaste.

In my farewell post for Nepal, I thought I’d bow to the adage that actions speak louder than words. And the most common action in Nepal is the lovely Namaste (described in a whole bunch of words below).

When I was visiting the amazing women in Lamatol Village, Chitwan, President Nani Maiya Lama of the Self Help Women’s Group & Cooperative cut to the heart of the matter by describing what the Heifer trainings and animals had done for her.

“I used to be so shy and afraid to talk, I couldn’t even look at someone when I’d Namaste,” Nani said.

“But now that I can read a book, sign my name and earn my own income, I’ve got a new Namaste.”

For all the beautiful women (and men) of Nepal, here’s one final Namaste.

Categories: Animals, Heifer International, Hunger, Nepal, Photography, Poverty, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

What I ate in Nepal.

Ginger, Tumeric and Cassava … yum!

After (not) eating all the exotic food in China, arriving in Nepal was like coming back to Normalsville.

In crazy, touristy Kathmandu you could find every possible iteration of American food, including cinnamon rolls and pastries galore. (Obviously the trekkers are carb-loading.)

It was fun to see identifiable fruit and the tiny baby bananas.

Vegetarian chili and Everest beer was my boring but satisfying transitional meal for a day or two.

Then it was onto a beautiful dal plate of curry, rice and lentils, which is a staple of real Nepalese food.

And some super yummy corn & bitter greens we ate for lunch on the porch with the women of Devitar Village.

But my favorite taste treat was in Shaktikhor, Chitwan in a snack shop where the owner whipped up a concoction of peas, potatoes, spices, and corn served on a piece of paper with a cardboard “spoon.”

I loved that the paper “plate” had writing on it. Now that’s recycling!

For 5 rupees (about 8 cents) it was spicy, hot, tangy, salty perfection. He sells about 100 a day and if I were in town his sales would probably double.

The last day we visited the Heifer Dairy Cooperative in Haraiya and met the women bringing in liters of water buffalo milk.

From there we went straight to pure yogurt heaven.

Namaste, folks… next food stop, Cameroon!!

Free range yogurt.

Categories: Food, Heifer International, Nepal, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

She works hard for the money-less*

Goma Bhattarai is my kind of hero.

In 1991, she and a few other poor women in the small village of Gitanagar in Chitwan District, Nepal decided they wanted to start a women’s economic group, like men were forming. In those days, women couldn’t step outside their homes alone or talk to any man but their husband, they owned no property, and they were utterly dependent on their husbands for money – even to buy the tika red dye they wear on their foreheads.

When the women timidly approached the Ministry of Agriculture in the village to ask for a loan, they were told they had no assets and should come back with their husbands. Instead of that rejection crushing them, as Goma says, “It only fueled our determination.” Despite opposition from their husbands, 15 women joined together in secret meetings, each saving 25 rupees a month (that’s 30 cents). From that fund, every two months, they would buy 2 goats for a member, then start saving all over again.

Goma’s liberation army…

Give a girl a goat & she’ll thrive.

Goats were something the women knew how to raise, and it was acceptable women’s work in the village. Girls at marriage often bring livestock with them when they move to their husband’s house, and those are considered their possession (often their only possession). But saving up for two goats in two months was taking too long…

After a year, the women went to the District Livestock Office to try to register their group and met officer Mahendra Lohani – who happened to be in talks with Heifer to start programs in Nepal. After hearing the women talk about their struggle, their experiences and what they wanted to accomplish, Mahendra convinced Heifer to back the women, and in 1993 the Baruwa Goat Raising Project became Heifer’s first project in Nepal (and Mahendra quit his job and went to work for Heifer, where he’s now Vice President of Asia & South Pacific).

The women received 25 goats, and their visible success in raising and breeding the goats quickly convinced other village women to jump on board (and convinced most husbands that women earning an income was a good thing).  Soon 23 groups of women had formed, and in 5 years, 5 generations of goats from the original Heifer gift were passed on to families in need – but that wasn’t enough progress for Goma and her crew. It was taking too long for every women’s group to get goats; they wanted faster change.

In 1997 the women decided to form an NGO that could ramp up the pace of things. The Women’s Group Coordination Committee was born and in 14 years they’ve managed 13 projects for Heifer, formed 275 women’s groups, helped 7,622 families rise out of poverty, and started a 373-member women’s cooperative.

Goma & Saraswoti Mishra, president of WGCC

But here’s where it gets really interesting. Last year, WGCC had a conversation with Pierre Ferrari, the new CEO of Heifer saying, “Things are going too slow. We need faster change.” (Are you noticing a pattern here?)

The indefatigable WGCC Team

So now they’re working with the government, Heifer and other co-ops on an $18 million initiative to develop a value chain that will supply 30% of the 500,000 goats that Kathmandu consumes every year (now mostly imported from India) with cleaner, healthier, Nepalese-raised goats that will profit Nepalese rural families and enable them to feed their country. Genius!!

As a person who’s never stayed at the same task for long, I’m in awe of the steadfast 21-year commitment and creativity that Goma and her compatriots have shown, fighting an endless battle to liberate Nepalese women from poverty and helplessness.

Who they’re fighting for…

“Tolerance and patience are the key to achieving anything,” Goma says cheerfully – meaning I’m in deep, deep trouble. “We face the same resistance in every village, but we are pioneers. Women look at us and know we’ve been exactly  where they are and changed… and they can, too.”

Sisterhood is powerful.


* With love & R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Donna Summer, Eternal Queen of Disco.

Categories: Animals, Heifer International, Nepal, Photography, Poverty, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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