Heard of Heifer International? Find out how this organization promotes sustainable living across the globe – and how you can get involved in Atlanta

Today, Our Green Atlanta is featuring a guest blogger! As it turns out, my cousin Polly does very similar volunteer coordination work with Heifer International to the type of volunteer work that I do with the Atlanta BeltLine. Heifer International is an amazing, inspiring organization and you should read more about it right now:

In addition to being Jenny’s cousin (and therefore privy to all sorts of funny stories about her), I am the Area Volunteer Coordinator for a really amazing organization called Heifer Project International Jenny is letting me guest-blog because I believe that the followers of Our Green Atlanta would be interested in and passionate about the type of work that Heifer does.  If, after reading the scintillating summary below, you would like to learn more about Heifer or volunteering, please respond to this post, friend the Atlanta volunteer organization on Facebook (Heifer in Atlanta), or check out their website at www.heifer.org. This is the first of a series of blog entries focusing on the different aspects of Heifer’s work. Today’s blog will give a brief overview…

Heifer Project International (HPI) is a non-governmental, non-profit aid organization that was begun in 1944 with the goal of sustainable, long-term community development. Heifer is not a relief organization like the Red Cross; instead, HPI partners with community organizations and leadership to achieve long range goals of ecologically respectful economic growth. Heifer’s mission focuses on ending hunger, combating poverty and caring for the Earth via seven initiatives: agroecology, animal well-being, gender equity, HIV/AIDS awareness/assistance, microenterprise, urban agriculture, and youth programs. Heifer’s approach towards development equips individuals and communities with the training and resources necessary to obtain a sustainable source of food and income and manage that source in an ecologically appropriate manner. HPI offers 30 different kinds of livestock, trees, or seeds to project partners as they work towards long term, sustainable development.

Instead of a top-down approach, HPI is entirely a grass-roots organization.  All country staff are from the areas they serve, and to meet their goals of community development, Heifer partners with other, existing humanitarian groups – preferably indigenous to an area, but they will also partner with larger NGOs such as Save the Children – to achieve their goals. Heifer’s policy is to never tell communities what they need, but instead, to ask how they can be helpers as individuals reach their own goals.

Find out how you can get involved with the Heifer project in Atlanta GA

Find out how you can get involved with the Heifer project in Atlanta!

Before the first gifts of livestock or seeds are given, Heifer will have already been in a community anywhere from 6 months to one year giving training and supporting the community as they develop the skills necessary to care for themselves and the gift they will be given. HPI considers this training process integral to long term project success/sustainability as well as goals of gender equity. Field staff offer training on everything from how to manage a business for individuals receiving microloans to what medications are needed to keep a hive of bees healthy. Once individuals receive a gift of life stock, seeds, microloan or training, they become responsible for passing on the gift (where an individual or community has to present to another individual or community something of the same value as they were already given – a flock of chicks, a pregnant cow, the same amount of money given in a microloan, etc.) This concept of passing on the gift is the most significant of Heifer’s twelve cornerstones.

These cornerstones are the framework guiding HPI’s practice and are the reasons that HPI is so protean, sustainable and successful. They are: passing on the gift, accountability (individuals and communities must reach self-established goals), sharing and caring, sustainability and self-reliance, improved animal management, nutrition and income, gender and family focus, genuine need and justice, improving the environment, full participation (of all family/community members, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, educational background, etc.), training and education, and spirituality (as appropriate to whichever group). HPI believes that these guiding structures provide the scaffolding to achieve socially just and economically appropriate development. Throughout the process, the goal is to leverage existing community knowledge and strengths while equipping individuals for advocacy by using the cornerstones above.

Heifer’s goal is to end their initial involvement with a community within 5 to 6 years. By that point, HPI hopes that their cornerstones have become community values so that community members will continue to pass on the gift long after they are gone. Heifer believes at this time that groups should be well versed in advocacy and that bonds committing communities to each other and to development should be well established. However, communities can re-apply for a different type of project help at the end of the first term. For example, in northern Honduras, a community that originally received gifts of livestock ten years ago has reapplied and is now working with microloans to establish a small, marketable milk and cheese business.

HPI began nearly seventy years ago with one man organizing the original donation of 16 cows to families in Puerto Rico. Today, 10.4 million families can trace improvements in their life to Heifer’s work as direct beneficiaries or recipients of a gift pass on. HPI runs nearly 900 projects in 28 U.S. states and 53 different countries.

Come and join us as we change our world!

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