Browsing Archives for June 2009

Greetings From Guatemala!

June 17th, 2009

I ended up in Guatemala.  





With these two punks for my family…





One of them found out he was about to give birth shortly before we arrived at our new home.





This was our family goat.  






Our supplies consisted of two carrots, a cup of cornmeal, three eggs, powdered milk, matches and an assortment of cooking utensils.  





My home also had nearby ‘facilities’ AND we had all the water rights.  No one was getting a single drop without our say so!







When I discovered that our group had a house, a goat, enough food to survive the night, water, BEDS, DOORS, and even ELECTRICTY, I felt ludicrously wealthy.


The other groups were not so lucky…




My son Calder ended up in Appalachia with black lung, and due to his health condition, he was unable to leave his tiny one room cabin.  His group had potatoes, onions, salt, pepper, cooking oil, and all the wood.






If we wanted to cook our food, we were going to have to trade something with Appalachia.





My friend Jenny ended up with the largest group of kids in the urban slums…








Her group had the smallest amount of food, only a few cups of rice, with nothing to trade for water or wood.  




This experience all took place on the grounds of the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas.





The Heifer Project was founded in 1944 by Dan West.  West was a WWII relief worker who decided that instead of giving hungry children a cup of milk from a supply that was certain to run out, why not give their families a milk cow that could sustain them for years, give them a way to earn money, and even the ability to pass on the eventual offspring to other families in need.  Since then, Heifer has been helping struggling families and communities all over world by working to develop and implement sustainable agriculture practices as well as giving the gift of small herds, flocks and other necessary animals that play a central role in sustaining life in many parts of the world.  



Literally millions of cows, chickens, rabbits, goats, bees, camels, water buffalos and sheep have been sent from Heifer to people who were willing to do the necessary work to create a proper environment to ensure success.  These days, the animals are purchased in the countries where they are used and no longer shipped from the U.S..  Often, the receipt of these animals is enough to bring a family from the brink of starvation to living a life with not only enough to eat, but also a product to sell… eggs, honey, and milk.  The animals produce manure allowing the families to fertilize their crops and gardens as well as fuel to operate cooking stoves.  It can be a life changing gift for a family to receive a goat, a pig, or a small flock of chickens.  Heifer International helps a community to help itself.  




One of Heifer’s central tenants is called ‘passing the gift’.  Once a new herd, flock or hive has established itself, the family must give a portion of their animals to another family that could benefit. They must also promise to help the weakest members of their community first and agree to empower both women and children with the project.  



Heifer has worked to create what they call ‘appropriate’ technology.  Some examples of appropriate technology include a device that turns pig manure into fuel for a stove, pumps that are operated similar to a tread mill that can deliver water to livestock and gardens and animal pens that allow for people to easily collect the manure for fertilizer and fuel.  As I viewed some of these appropriate technologies in action, I couldn’t help but think that we may be closer to times when devices like the ones that Heifer has created, that do not rely on electricty or oil to run, will be needed more and more in our own country.    



Our church youth group visited the Heifer Ranch to participate in a program called the ‘Global Village’.  After a day of group exercises and information, we were divided into three groups, given a few paltry supplies and set loose in the village.  There is no one particular outcome that Heifer is looking for in the Global Village experience.  It is really just a way to experience a tiny glimpse of what it might be like for a family to survive in a poor country under circumstances that are drastically different from our own.   






The adults are firmly instructed to step back and let the kids lead the experience.






Our kids eventually decided that the best answer to our various problems was to pool all of our resources and have dinner together in Appalachia so that my son with the black lung would not have to eat alone.  





After dinner, we all went back to our various homes and countries.  




Some to the urban shanty to sleep on a rocky floor, some to a simple one room cabin with a broken television, no running water and no electricity and my group to our tidy cinderblock home with the obscene luxury of real beds.

But everyone had a meal in their belly.   

It really wasn’t very hard to work together and share what we had.  

It wasn’t so difficult to decide to have our meal in a place where we could all be together.

It wasn’t so hard to realize that if we all threw our meager supplies into one pot, there was better food and more for everyone.

Maybe Heifer should invite all the world leaders for a one night stay in the Global Village?



If the world leaders need any help figuring out how to get along with each other and to share what they have…

I know a few kids who could help them out.

The Goats and the Sheep

June 12th, 2009

We spent last night in a barn.  Not a cute converted barn with faux Victorian furnishings and knotty pine panelling… a real barn.  A goat screamed ‘MAAAAAAAW’ MAAAAAAAAW’ ‘MAAAAAAWWWWWWW” right in my ear every nine minutes all night long to make sure I stayed properly awake, while several huge turkeys did their robust ’jibble, jibble, jibble, in between.  At one point I regained consciousness after a brief slumber to discover some type of smallish slow moving animal sniffing around my luggage.  Opossum?  Rat?  Skunk?  It was too dark to tell.  I sat up and looked at the animal.  The two of us held a staring contest while I tried to decide whether or not to scream like a little girl.  Fortunately, the animal scuffled away before I could respond, which wouldn’t have mattered anyway as even the most fierce scream I could muster would have been totally drowned out by the goats. 

It might seem that I was having a terrible time, but actually it has been delightful (except for the goats, which are charming in their own goaty way).  Last night we played charades with the natives.  This morning after two cups of fabulous organic coffee with cream and honey, I feel wholly revived and ready to tackle our hike to the village… via a ropes course.  I still don’t know which country I will end up  in, I just hope that wherever I land, they don’t have goats.