Helping People to Help Themselves

January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I just saw this article as I am trying to find charities I can invest in that help people help themselves. I have worked at times three jobs soemtimes four at a time to make ends meet and I believe in working for the things you get in life. Not to say that the many that have come on hard times-myself included-wouldn’t love a lift up, and that is why I want to give to charities that help people find answers, solutions, help people to help themselves.
I loved this gentleman’s article about Heifer Int. Check it out. Does anyone know of any charities that focus on helping people help themselves? What can we do to help someone taking welfare that wants to work but can’t find a job. There are a few people where I live and I would love to possibly give them guidance on what they can do.


Helping people help themselves
I get a lot of mail that asks me to give money to charitable causes. It troubles me that I cannot see the value in most or that I’m just overwhelmed by the volume of requests. There is one that has caused me to react positively for several years. It is a group out of Little Rock, Ark., called Heifer International. Last week, Jo Luck, the lady who has been the CEO since 1992, was named a winner of the World Food Prize, founded by Nobel Laureate Norman Bourlaug, Ph.D.

Heifer International’s outreach activities have enabled 12 million families, including 1.5 million in 2009 alone, to put nutritious food on their own tables and also contribute to feeding others through Heifer’s practice of “Passing on the Gift,” which asks every recipient family to give a female offspring of their animal to another family in need.

Does that sound familiar? If you have memory of the 1940s through the 1960s, there were similar programs in rural America. My reference is the “Sears gilt” program that was sponsored by Sears, Roebuck and Co., the catalogue and appliance store, which drew its mail order customers from farms and small towns. The concept was simple: Sears Foundation purchased quality heifers, gilts and ewes to award to qualified young people through 4-H and FFA programs. The contract was that the first female offspring would be given to anther deserving individual. This caused an expansion of the program and an improvement in the genetics of the breeding herd.

Right here, in our rural communities, it provided the opportunity for agricultural specialists to consult with farmers on nutrition and care so the animal would have a good start and become a prolific mother. In our household, my older brother received a Shorthorn heifer and raised her to breeding age. She was then mated with a purebred bull that was also part of the program. That calf was the first purebred animal born on our farm and became the foundation for a small herd of cattle that was later sold to pay for a college education.

I resurrect memories of my father, who opposed everything including this type of bold introduction of breeding stock and management practices. He decided that to improve his herd, only a purebred bull would be used. This helped, but he started with awfully scrawny dairy cows and tried for generations to make them into Herefords. The foresight and persistence of our mother allowed my brother to receive the Sears heifer and for me (10 years later) to buy a purebred Hereford cow with calf by side. This resulted in my small herd of purebred Herefords that paid for quite a bit of my education. I also received a scholarship from Sears that paid my tuition for one year.

Jo Luck and Heifer International have taken this concept to developing countries, and the organization was given the prize as one of the premier hunger-fighting non-profit organizations anywhere in the world. The Bourlaug-inspired award highlighted their work in bringing food- and income-producing animals to extremely poor families, guiding them to self-reliance and providing opportunity for improved livelihoods through animal husbandry, technical training, and community development.

If I have a referential experience, I am more likely to be a supporter of a charitable cause. In this case, Heifer International’s public relations work has reached out to supporters and brought the message of sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty directly into hundreds of thousands of U.S. homes. According to information supplied by the World Food Prize, Heifer’s supporters grew from 20,000 in 1992 to more than 500,000 in 2009.

The organization appreciates several key factors that we can extrapolate from our own heritage: People want to help themselves, so the best charity is not to feed them but to incentivize them to feed themselves. There is a brief window for introduction and instruction, so Heifer places the animals into the society, offers advice for care and management, then steps back. When people take ownership, they take pride in what they have and in their accomplishments.

Heifer now gives many species–goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, bees and cattle–that allow a foundation animal, colony or flock to become established and then passed on to others to expand the enterprise.

Often the gift from Heifer goes to women or youth within a community. The same premise works there that worked here in the 1940s: “Don’t insult the leaders by offering charity to them.” Offer it to those they protect and let the new growth begin on the inside with the blessing of the elders. My father couldn’t accept a heifer calf, but he could allow his child to have one through the FFA program. Once his son had it, he couldn’t let him fail because it would make him (father) look bad, so he nurtured the enterprise and took pride in its success. The mother in the background gave her assistance and support but could only smile to herself when she saw it succeed.

Editor’s Note: Ken Root is an independent agricultural journalist. He was named the 2009 Farm Broadcaster of the Year and was the 2008 winner of the Oscar in Agriculture. He is an Oklahoma native and an experienced print, radio and television journalist. He has spent the last five years as Lead Farm Broadcaster at WHO Radio in¬ Des Moines, Iowa. He and his wife Gail have two adult children and two grandchildren.


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