Guest blogger Ellen Wexler wrote this post.
Continuing this school year, children participating in Heifer International's Read to Feed program will be able to take part in helping impoverished communities around the world become self sufficient. But first, they will have to read. A lot.
The program begins in classrooms, according to Heifer's press release, where students can fundraise on their own or as a group. Teachers can sign up for the program on the Read to Feed website, and later this month they will be able to create their own fundraising pages where classrooms can track their progress. The website also provides teachers with classroom resources that give students background knowledge on topics like world hunger and suggestions for long-term solutions.
Indeed, long-term solutions are what Heifer International specializes in. Read to Feed is only a supplemental program within the larger organization, which has been around since 1944. Heifer works with struggling communities in more than 50 countries and provides each community with three main forms of aid: livestock, training, and organizational development. "Animals provide nutrition for malnourished families, and their excess products (eggs, milk, wool, etc.) can be sold for money to pay for school, medicine, and other expenses," Heifer explains in its press release. The organization travels to communities and helps their members analyze their situations, plan for the future, learn new skills, and evaluate the effectiveness of new techniques.
In the Read to Feed program, students raise money for Heifer by finding sponsors for each book that they read during a time frame set up by their teachers. Once the children finish the program, they pick out which animals they would like Heifer to send to struggling communities.
A camel, one of the pricier animals, can be purchased for $850. Children who are partial to llamas can donate one to a community in need for $150. A flock of chicks, at $20, is a less expensive option. The more books the children read, the more animals they will be able to donate.
The animals, however, aren't donations in the traditional sense—they are only one step in a larger process. According to the organization's website, Heifer's strategy centers on the concept of long-term self sufficiency, which to Heifer, necessitates providing knowledge and training to those that they help. The donated animals will also become part of a larger community effort dubbed "Passing on the Gift" where the recipients promise to donate one or more of their animal's offspring to another local family in need.
"It's not temporary relief," Heifer explains on its website. "It's not a handout. It's securing a future with generations of people who have hope, health, and dignity."