A Tour of the Heifer Ranch Global Village

June 18th, 2009

Our first stop will be the urban slums.


Today, the world’s population numbers almost seven billion souls.   Close to one billion of these souls live in urban slums.



The number of folks living in urban shanty towns is projected to triple in under fifty years.

So that will be three billion people living in cardboard shacks on the edge of major cities by the year 2050.






Our next stop in the Global Village is Zambia.

Zambia is in Africa.  

When materials are available, Zambians often build round homes out of bricks that they make themselves.

Round homes do not waste any space, plus you don’t have to sweep out any dark and dreary corners full of spider webs.

The Zambian kitchen is an open fire underneath the thatched ‘pergola’.  A very clever brick chicken coop is located between the home and the outdoor kitchen.



This is my friend Dave standing beside the Zambian garden.  

He’s the one in the fierce, bright yellow rain slicker in case you didn’t notice him at first.





This is Zambia without Dave in a fierce, bright yellow rain slicker.




Personally, I think Zambia with Dave in his fierce, bright yellow rain slicker is better than Zambia without Dave in a a fierce, bright yellow rains slicker.  

But that could just be me.


As we left Zambia, we passed the Refugee camp.  I have a few photos of the Refugee camp but my computer is not cooperating with me, so I will have to describe it for you.  The refugee camp consists of a low slung metal barn with a concrete floor.  No fires were allowed in the refugee camp.  It was a cold, desolate, forlorn place.  Even Dave’s fierce, bright yellow rain slicker could not lift the gloom of the refugee camp.  Currently, 35 million people in the world can be classified as refugees.  Of these 35 million refugees, 12 million of them reside in refugee camps.

Did you know that Henry Kissinger was a refugee ?

So was Albert Einstein.

Refugees can be anyone, anywhere, anytime.  All it takes is a little civil unrest that leads to bloody bedlam, and then to people just like you and me fleeing for our lives with our most precious belongings tied up in a plastic bag on our backs.




Now we have arrived at my house in Guatemala.  



Come on in!  

Guatemala was the most cozy of  all the Global Village homes.  There were three rooms, including a kitchen with a wood burning oven, and even electricity.  

They must have known that I suffer from occasional bouts of weakness and shakiness so they gave me the most comfortable home.



There was colorful paint and simple furnishings too.  

Our Guatemalan home was on a coffee farm.   

Did you know that coffee is the second most valuable traded commodity in today’s world?

Can you guess what the world’s most valuable commodity is?

The typical coffee farmer makes about six cents from a ten dollar bag of Starbucks coffee beans.

If you purchase your coffee from a company like ‘Fair Trade’, the coffee farmers make as much as $1.50 from a ten dollar bag of coffee beans.  This is an extremely painless way to ‘vote with your dollars’ and buy a product that you can be sure the third world farmer is getting a decent percentage from his crop… oh!  and the coffee is fabulous too.  



From Guatemala we’ll swing on over to Appalachia.



In the year 2000, 13.6 percent of Appalachia was living in poverty and 5.8 percent of those people were living in what is termed ‘deep poverty’ which is having an income that is half the poverty level.  The national US average for poverty is 12 percent.  There are pockets of poverty throughout the United States including Hispanic migrant farm labor out West and poor black communities in the South.  All of these groups tend to share a common link of being involved in an industry that has historically wreaked havoc on the environment, the community and the health of it’s work force. Industries like coal mining and some types of farming which rely on a desperate work force willing to work under terrible conditions for little pay.  These industries all too often lead to workers getting sick from exposure to pesticides or diseases like black lung from working in the coal mines.  Once a workers health is gone, he can no longer support his family and they sink further and further into poverty.  





Our last stop will be my favorite place in the Global Village…


This is Thailand.

I loved the houses in Thailand.  





These simple structures are raised to survive the yearly flooding and also to get the people away from the mosquito breeding grounds.







The walls are constructed of bamboo and they are not fitted closely together to allow for air to move through the home.






These Thai homes are built with a thatched roof and a metal roof, but in Thailand the roofs would more typically be constructed of bamboo also.  








It is in places like Thailand that families can easily get malnourished due to lack of iron and/or Vitamin A in their diets.  This causes loss of peripheral vision, an inability to coordinate your movements, slowness in processing new information, general weakness and eventual blindness.  






A family that is struggling to see and to move and to think has less and less ability to properly work their land.






Sometimes it is easier to believe that poor people are lazy and just don’t want to work hard isn’t it?

In truth, there is all too often a vicious cycle of illness, malnourishment, and tyrannical forces such as a controlling industry that wants to keep it’s work force cheap as well as governments that simply don’t care for their people.  Heifer International is a charity that has been able to squeeze in behind this corruption and help people in ways that truly makes sense for the areas that they are working in.  







If you are interested in donating to Heifer or of learning more about their work, you can find out more here.  

Heifer International makes a difference by helping people to help themselves.  

Here ends the tour of the Heifer Ranch Global Village with locations throughout the United States…

Heifer Learning Centers
Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas
Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, California (Scheduled to open in Spring 2010)
Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts

Heifer Global Village Site Sponsors
Howell Nature Center in Howell, Michigan

Shepherd’s Spring in Sharpsburg, Maryland 

It has been a pleasure traveling with you today!

Please exit to your left and watch that first step, it’s a doozy!  

And thank you for choosing MSFH for your tour of the Heifer Ranch Global Village.


  • Wow nice post. I love the Thai houses you posted too! Good stuff to think about.

  • Melissa:

    I just wanted to say that I am a huge supporter of Heifer International. My sister and I will exchange gifts in the form of heifer donations in the other’s name. So thanks for the great post! Wonderful…

  • Pam:

    very informative……. interesting from start to finish…. great pictures…… a great post!

  • Wow! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • jean:

    This was an excellent post. Great job. What an interesting place to visit. I think you were right yesterday when you suggested that heads of state should live there for a while. It would help them tremendously.

  • My first year of marriage was spent in the 23rd poorest county of the United States – deep in the heart of Appalachia. We were in tobacco growing country – where there’s a 49% illiteracy rate, a 60% perinatal loss rate, the rate of cancer “victims” astronomical. The tobacco farmers saturate the seed beds with chemicals – one of the farmers explained to me that they wear steel toed leather boots to work in these beds, and the chemicals destroy them within about three weeks. The seed beds are typically on the banks of creeks – where the chemicals then seep into the water.

    I could go on and on. As a girl who thought Portland, OR was a small town – arriving in Appalachia was a bit of a culture shock. I will never forget the people – they are fierce – they’ve been through so much.

  • Helena:

    Great post, Rechelle!

    Our family loves Heifer! My kids will put aside a tenth of their allowance for Heifer in a jar all year, & then we send it out at Christmas time…they used to love to pick out which animals to send when they were younger.

    I love their “passing on the gift,”, and their philosophy, especially of gender equality & sustainability.

    It was so interesting to read about your experiences in Arakansas! Thanks so much for sharing!! :)

  • Heather:

    This was so informative I am headed over to check out their website. Thank You

  • Margie:

    I visited there once when I worked at Winrock International on Petit Jean Mountain. We had a group of people visiting the US from other countries in our Reverse Farmer to Farmer Program. I loved it. I hope you got to go to Petit Jean while you were so close.

  • Rechelle I can’t thank you enough for taking this journey ( I know you did it just for me) because we’ve had some great conversations about it. I kept saying…I wish we had something like this in our area…and holy cow…er..heifer of course…there is one in Mass…our backyard! Very cool. Planning is under way.

  • What a great idea! Although I’ve seen urban slums, and they are not green like that.

  • Very nice tour! Makes me feel like I’m right there. And the tidbits of trivia (which isn’t really trivial after all) makes it a true education.

    You sparked my interest in the valued trade commodities. Since I’m a retired Kansas wheat farmer AND a former exchangee to Cosa Rica (mucho coffee), I found the following article of interest.
    Sounds like the wheat farmers and the coffee farmers could duke it out for top dog in food commodities. But petroleum remains at the top… until we can get our act together and change that.

    • Rechelle:

      I read the article Sharon. It makes a lot more sense that wheat would be #2.

  • What an eye opening and important trip, Rechelle. Thanks for taking us along with your commentary and photos. I will take my family when the CA one opens. Thanks!

  • Destiny Lopez:

    Hi, I am a freshman at the International School of the Americas and I went to Heifer in November 2009 I loved it! But I was in GV 2 and was in upperclass Mozambique. When did you go?