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Heifer International: Sustainable Aid

Many foreign aid organizations and donors provide temporary aid in the form of food, supplies, or direct cash donations. Heifer International is a different kind of organization; Heifer works to provide livestock for impoverished and hungry families so that they will be able to sustain themselves rather than depending on temporary aid. In order to help these people to help themselves, cows, goats, chickens, bees, llamas, and plenty of other options are given in terms of livestock to be donated. These animals help to provide both sustenance and stability to families in need. Agricultural products that the family does not put to use, such as milk, eggs, or honey can also be sold at market for extra income.

Heifer’s goal in this is to ultimately create sustainability for families to allow them to then further their opportunities in life such as provide for education and comfortable living. One of their hopes is also that as one family or group advances in the community that they will share their gift with others around them, allowing the community as a whole to become self-sufficient. With gifts of livestock comes training from Heifer employees, ensuring that the families will make the most of their new additions.

The organization’s projects span the globe, from Cambodia to China to India and Honduras. Their goals with specific projects vary, but include empowering and education of women, environmental conservation, and natural disaster response. A major success story involves a Filipino farmer, Rogelio Abes Jr., who took advantage of Heifer’s gifts and knowledge. Not only did he expand his own farm and income, he shared his livestock and farming techniques with others in the community, and inspired others to rise above poverty through hard work and generosity.

In terms of financials and accountability, Charity Navigator gives Heifer three out of four stars. The organization is entirely transparent with their records and policies, and more than 70% of their income goes to program expenses, while 20% goes to fundraising expenses. Only 6.4% goes toward administrative expenses while the CEO earns .03% of expenses. The only financial issue that arises is the disparity between revenue and program expenses in the past few years, where revenue is significantly higher than program expenses.

On the whole, however, Heifer is working hard against hunger and poverty in many different ways, from school education programs to their Read to Feed initiative that encourages children to read in order to fundraise money for the organization.  Their goals for sustainability seem to be the right direction for food aid to be headed in – while temporary aid can be helpful, it can also breed dependency, and the most important thing is to get people out of situations of poverty and hunger and allow them to be self-sufficient.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: Heifer International, Charity Navigator
Photo: Heifer International