Jo Luck has the resume of the world’s most enviable advocate. She has improved the lives of impoverished people on nearly every continent, while leading the prestigious Heifer International in a variety of innovative initiatives that have assisted over 12 million families worldwide.

A grassroots education determined to end extreme poverty through self-reliance, Heifer International provides families with the tools needed to escape poverty and maintain economic security. Educational programs, including agricultural practices and animal husbandry, are given to help families satisfy basic needs, like food and shelter.  Heifer also donates a farm animal to each family. The resulting food and animal products provide nourishment, in addition to a possible outside income at the local markets.

In return, families are asked to follow the “Passing of the Gift” tradition. They are encouraged to educate those around them, as well as donate the female offspring of their animal to others in need. This simple rule of multiplication has attracted caused numerous donors. Today, Heifer maintains links between the wealthy and poor worldwide in order to resolve poverty issues.

During Luck’s 22 year career with the international nonprofit, Heifer has seen tremendous growth. Upon Luck’s appointment as CEO in 2002, the company assisted 20,000 families. By 2009, the company had helped nearly 1.5 million families. As of today, Heifer International has helped over 20 million families escape poverty.

In 2010, Luck was honored with the World Food Prize for her work with the organization.

Since retiring from her position as CEO in 2011, Luck has devoted her time to chronicling her experiences with the company, while continuing to advocate for change. In addition, Luck remains active in a number of advocacy groups.

She currently serves as the Chair of the Program Oversight Panel for the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research Program, on the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and at the Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative Advisory Group. She also lends her time to the Farm Foundation’s Dialogue on Food and Agriculture Steering Committee and the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agricultural Innovation and Productivity.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: Heifer International, World Food Prize
Photo: In Kansas