A thought for giving a different gift

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2003

I really didn't pay much attention to the colorful catalog labeled "Special Holiday Edition" that came in our mail about a month ago. It landed in a pile of junk mail that I pushed around in my office.

Later the catalog caught my attention. In the right hand bottom corner were the words, "The Most Important Catalog in the World." Right away I realized this was a different kind of holiday catalog. It did not offer toys, clothing, electronic gizmos and the like, but an opportunity to help families in need. It was from Heifer International. It provides animals to families to help them live a better life.

Heifer International started in 1944 with the idea to give families the means to achieve self-reliance through food and income-producing farm animals. Each HI recipient promises to pass on offspring of their gift animal to another in the community where they live. A family member is trained to care for the animals.

Think of it. How about a Christmas gift of two beehives? What could that do for a poor family? Bees can double production of some fruits and vegetables by pollination. They can also be the source of candle wax, pollen for medicine and honey to eat and sell.

The catalog is full of success stories. I read that after preparation and technical training, a Ugandan woman received a pregnant Heifer International dairy cow. She passed the calf on to another needy family. The cow's milk fed her family of four children and two orphaned children that she took in. With money earned from surplus milk, she hired a teacher. The school attracted 30 students. She fed those youngsters a hot breakfast every morning made from maize and milk.

HI trained a group of people in a remote Nepal village to raise angora rabbits and improve their crops. As everyone knows, rabbits multiply fast, so the offspring were passed on to others, fulfilling the HI obligation. Angora wool sold for $27 a pound. The knowledge gained about crop management provided a needed boost to the community's livelihood.

Besides cows and bees, Heifer International places llamas, sheep, chickens, goats, ducks, geese, pigs, rabbits, water buffalo, camels, donkeys and guinea pigs in various countries (some even in the US) to meet specific needs. Water buffalos provide power for cultivation. Guinea pigs help Peruvian families add protein to their diets. Camels earn income for families by transporting materials.

Are there those on your gift list who have everything? Maybe a gift to help bring hope to others is the answer. Donate to HI in their name. A gift of a heifer is $500. A heifer share is $50. Goats and sheep cost $120, a share is $10; Chicks cost $20; A Flock of Hope that includes chicks, ducklings and goslings to provide eggs costs $60; Bees cost $30.

Find out more by calling 800-698-2511 or go to the website: www.heifer.org.