Have a cow: Heifer programbreathes life into poor nations | PostIndependent.com

Have a cow: Heifer programbreathes life into poor nations

Tanzanians don’t have the liberty of wandering through fruit aisles in air-conditioned grocery stores, while they decide between buying Gala, Granny Smith, Fiji or McIntosh apples. Variety and abundance, which help define American lifestyles, don’t exist in Tanzania, Africa.In Tanzania there are no choices. You’re either a have or have-not.After spending a couple weeks in northeastern and northwestern Tanzania, Cristine Aronson of Glenwood Springs and her son, Ian Holtum, are having a hard time adjusting to American conveniences.”Before we left we bought show tickets in New York,” Holtum said. “When we came back we stayed in a hotel in Times Square. That was a tough transition. I almost felt guilty for taking things for granted, but I have to realize that just because I have opportunities, I’m not taking them away from someone else.”Ten years ago Aronson’s family decided to forgo Christmas and Hanukkah gifts so starving families would have the opportunity to prosper and gave their gift money to Heifer International.”This program not only changes the lives of those it directly touches,” Aronson said, “it also changes the lives of those who have the privilege of being in the organization.”Heifer International is a nonprofit organization that teaches poverty-stricken families how to support themselves.Heifer International teaches families how to take care of their livestock, make the most of their resources and effectively farm. After a year-long training program, Heifer gives families animals such as cows and goats, to help them produce their own food and income.Providing knowledge and self-sufficiency boosts families out of extreme poverty, Holtum said.”It’s not a handout but a hand up,” Aronson said.When the family is stable, they’re expected to “pass” the animal or give an offspring to another family.”A villager told us that since Heifer International was with them, no child was hungry, no child was sick and no child was hospitalized,” Aronson said.Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.comGifts that Keep on GivingHeifer “passed” (see story) 8,893 animals in Tanzania by June 2003Heifer gave 3,510 cattle to Tanzanian families, 2,895 were passedHeifer gave 1,896 dairy goats, 731 were passedHeifer gave 222 camels, 17 were passedHeifer gave 55 pigs, 32 were passedThe remaining animals included chickens, donkeys and bees used for bee hives For more information visit http://www.heifer.org.Some of the families Aronson and Holtum visited:Lomayani Saro:Saro is a farmer who fueled his stove by using feces from a goat. Saro used zero-grazing, a method that confines animals so the farmer can feed it fodder instead of letting it eat valuable crops. Saro’s goat lives in a raised shack with slats in the bottom. When the goat goes to the bathroom, Saro collects its feces and places them in a hanging, airtight tarp in the back of his house. A hose connects the contraption to the house. By opening a valve, gas flows from the makeshift tank into the house where Saro gets three hours of gas. Suzie:Suzie is an 11-year-old girl who’s HIV positive. Her parents died of AIDS and she lives with her grandmother, aunt and cousin. Heifer gave Suzie a goat. Suzie’s health has improved, she gets adequate milk and is able to pay for her school uniform but she has malaria, which is a side effect of HIV. Suzie will not live for long, Aronson said.Mama Anna:Anna and six other women make and sell gouda, cheddar, feta and mozzarella cheeses. They started selling cheese when Heifer International gave them a goat. The women make $5 for each kilo of cheese sold. Most Heifer families in Tanzania make less than $100 a year, Holtum said.”You can give Mama Anna any task and she’ll make it happen,” Holtum said. “She’s the kind of person that would run a major company in the States.”

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