This Christmas, give the gift that keeps on giving: a water buffalo.
I’m serious. You can get one for 250 bucks. (No airbags, no cup holder.) There’s a catch: You don’t get to keep it.
Instead, it might go to a farm family in Thailand that is struggling to survive. That family will drink the protein-rich milk the animal produces, use its strength to provide draft power for planting, and use the organic manure for a natural fertilizer. Sometimes the water buffalo will assist in taking farm produce to market, providing vital income that the family will use for clothing, medicine, and school.
If it sounds like I’m reading this right out of a brochure, I am. But I’m good with that, because I’m starting to think water buffalo – along with goats, pigs, and rabbits — are going to be this year’s ‘hot’ Christmas items. Or maybe they could be.
A few months ago, an organization called Heifer International was featured in a “60 Minutes” piece and while the group claims that its first work took place as early as 1944, that recent TV shot exposed millions to a simple but brilliant concept: that struggling and starving areas of the world receive gifts of livestock that become a new beginning in places where hope is scarce.
As with the water buffalo, all the animals that H.I. delivers are meant to do more than provide a meal. They become an economic means to an end. Heifer cows (a $500 donation) not only supply milk, they create a continued source of support. Every family receiving a heifer agrees to “pass on the gift” and donate the female offspring to another family in their village or town, so that the gift you give is, in actual fact, never ending.
Okay, so it’s not slippers or a Braun razor, but consider:
The National Retail Federation says that Americans will spend $3.29 billion on Halloween this year. That money will buy a lot of fun and you know this column supports fun. (Otherwise, why would I already be planning my own “Bon Voyage, Karl Rove” party?) But just one third of that candy corn money would send two million cows or even more llamas and goats to struggling strife-torn parts of the world such as Rwanda, Guatemala, and Kosovo. I’m sure Kosovo would prefer Americans dropping goats to the payloads we delivered there in 1999.
The aforementioned “60 Minutes” piece highlighted Heifer International by telling the story of Beatrice Biira, a young woman in rural Africa whose family was able to send her away to school because of the resources generated by a dairy goat from H.I. Today she is a freshman on full scholarship at Connecticut College, majoring in international studies. Her goal is to complete her education and return to Uganda to help her country’s development. It would make a delightful children’s book. In fact, it already has.
After Hurricane Katrina, many may be questioning the ability of our government and its current crackerjack leadership to do the old-fashioned goodwill thing that the United States always did so handily, so often. Maybe groups like Heifer International can fill the void. One last note: They are a faith-based organization. The founder was a Church of the Brethren relief worker who hit on the concept of handing out livestock while he was ladling milk to hungry children during the Spanish Civil War. So it has a religious base. But then, so does Christmas.
.Heifer.org for more information
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination due to
(a) a conservative rebellion.
(b) links to Wal Mart.
(c) a failed typing test.
2) A former online porn mogul was
(a) given a talk show.
(b) arrested in Tijuana.
(c) offended by “Hot Properties.”
3) LAPD chief Bratton is currently
(a) writing two books.
(b) learning French.
(c) whittling a flute.
1) (a) “Come on, it was a long shot…”
2) (b) “Come on, you got lucky…”
3) (a) “Come on, I’m bored…”