Sometimes problems in the world, and in our own neighborhoods, seem too big to even begin to chip away at, let alone remove completely—especially if you are a kid. But there are lots of resources out there that can help us all make a difference in a big way by doing what is actually easy stuff. In other words, you can make a difference: you can practice philanthropy.
"Philanthropy" is defined as "concern for human beings as expressed by the donation of money, property, or work to the needy or to institutions advancing human welfare," according to the Random House Dictionary.
In the big picture, it's good to know how important private philanthropy really is! Economists acknowledge that private giving has many benefits. Studies now show that in poor countries roads, clinics, schools and water pumps are frequently funded by private dollars. For many developing countries, private philanthropy and investment flows are a bigger part of financial aid than official government aid."
Here are some facts:
International giving by US foundations: $3.4 billion
Charitable giving by US businesses: $4.9 billion
American non-governmental organizations (NGOs): $9.7
Religious overseas ministries: $4.5
US colleges scholarships to foreign students: $1.7 billion
Personal remittances from the US to developing countries: $47 billion. (www.globalissues.org/article/35/us-and-foreign-aid-assistance#Sidenoteonprivatecontributions)
Give a Goat might inspire conversations about:
Local vs. global causes
Long-term development vs. short-term aid, and when each is needed
Running a profitable project (business): a math unit that includes using ledger paper to record information to would help introduce or reinforce sound finances.
The concept of "passing on the gift," "paying it forward," and exponential math
How it feels to help others
Geography: Uganda, Africa
Education as a privilege
Women as small farmers
Importance of educating girls
Importance of animals for income and nutrition
Ending hunger and poverty
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
www.learningtogive.org includes a wonderful listing of books promoting philanthropy, including picture books like this one .
Ryan and Jimmy and the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, 2006)
Another lovely book to share with children.
Activity: Helping Hands
Brainstorm problems for which your students would like to offer helping hands (these can be big to little, far or near).
Decide together which problem your class will take on (this might be a good time to discuss different forms of decision-making with your kids: voting, consensus, executive decision, tyranny, etc.)
Outline a game plan for your project
Carry out a project to completion
An Interview with Give a Goat's Author Jan West Schrock
Jan West Schrock is the daughter of Heifer International founder Dan West. She is a senior advisor for Heifer and often spends time visiting schools, leading study tours and expanding Heifer's educational work. We asked Jan a series of questions about Heifer, her dad and what inspires her to keep up her work with Heifer International. This is what she said:
Hunger and poverty kills more than six million children every year. Just knowing this instills a feeling of helpless and leads to denial. We need to educate our children and give them a way to make a difference. Children love to help. I believe children have a natural philanthropic spirit that will be tapped if we, as educators, do our job in creating educated and active world citizens.
When did you first realize what your father had in mind with Heifer International?
I was one year old in 1937 when my father went to Spain to deliver used clothing and powdered milk to the victims of the Spanish Civil War. He saw starving children, helpless and desperate women and old men. Most of the young men had been killed, barns burned, cattle slaughtered. The powdered milk provided relief, but not the long-lasting solution they needed. He knew there were plenty of cows in Northern Indiana, where we lived.
Once he returned home, he shared the horrible story of Spain and asked farmers to give a heifer, a young cow pregnant with her first calf, to ship to Spain. The recipients would pass on their first heifer to another family, and they in turn, to another; passing on the gifts they received. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency provided the shipping. This is how "Not a Cup, But a Cow" began.
We kept some young heifers in our barn before they were shipped. They had special tags on their ears. I knew they would travel across the ocean to feed children like myself. As a little girl, I honestly thought every barn had heifers to give to hungry families. My dad's efforts were part of a big movement to help rebuild Europe following WWII. It seemed like everyone I knew was trying to find a way to help.
Do you have a story to share about your dad and Heifer in the early days?
When my father returned from Spain in 1938, he brought gifts in a black box for my mother, my older brother, and myself. A mantilla for mother and two Spanish dolls for my brother and me. We were so happy. Then he said, "I have another gift." We looked in the box and saw it was empty. He said, with a gleam in his eye, "This gift is an idea!" I heard my mother tell this story when I was older.
As Heifer International grew and many people became aware of the hunger and poverty that war brings, my father vowed to never eat cake unless the poor had bread. He kept this promise for the remainder of his life.
When did you get involved?
I have been involved with Heifer's work in many ways for many years. When I was nine years old, we went to Dayton, Ohio, where heifers were being loaded onto an airplane. It was a rainy day for this dedication attended by many people and the press. The cows, however, refused to climb the steep gangplank from the ground up into the hold of the airplane. Several farmers did whatever they could to get them to climb the steep slope. They hollered in their ears and slapped their backs. Finally, a preacher twisted the first cow's tail. With this, she hopped right up, moving quickly and the others followed her. We were all very happy!
I have been a teacher for many years and during this time, I often participated in Heifer's work as a volunteer. I attended celebrations and conferences. Often, I have been called on to share Heifer's history and my father's legacy as peacemaker. In 1999, I joined the Heifer staff as Coordinator of Community Relations and moved to Little Rock. In 2002, I moved to Maine to be near my children and grandchildren. Here I continued to work for Heifer as Senior Advisor. During these years, I have led study tours to China, Ecuador, Peru, and Poland. I have participated in tours to India and Guatemala. I have not seen Heifer's work in Africa yet, but hope to do this soon. Africa has enormous need and Heifer is playing a major role in helping families, children, and many orphans.
There must be more wonderful stories surrounding Heifer than you could possibly share, but is there one favorite Heifer story? Maybe one from the gift-giver and one from the gift-receiver?
A Young Gift-Giver: At his birthday party John David Cobb, six years old, raised funds to give one llama, two goats, two flocks of chickens, two flocks of ducks, a flock of geese, and a trio of rabbits. He did this by inviting 25 friends to Jumpity Jump, an indoor playground filled with huge inflatable toys and asking for donations to Heifer International instead of gifts.
Gift-Receivers Giving, Too: Women who received goats and water buffalo in Nepal decided to save out a handful of rice in a special sack whenever they cooked for their family. The women then collected these sacks of rice during a pass-on ceremony. They sold the rice and used the funds to send their young girls to school, at a cost of $50 per student per year. Not only did the women pass on the offspring of the water buffalo and goats, but they passed on the gift of education for their daughters. This story was shared during a visit to Nepal by the Northeast Regional Director, Wendy Peskin.
Classrooms and schools celebrate their kick-off and the completion of their Read to Feed programs in unique ways. I have been invited to many celebrations and I often share more Heifer stories and provide a time for questions and answers. Some celebrations follow:
One fifth grade class enacted the story of Beatrice's Goat for their school assembly and parents. The music teacher wrote a song about the joy of giving.
A middle school invited Maine's First Lady, Karen Baldacci, who endorsed Read to Feed for the entire state. She spoke to the assembly. One sixth-grade girl brought two baby goats. Mrs. Baldacci attended six Read to Feed celebrations that year. Reporters were present and many stories appeared in the newspapers and on TV. We had a big talk about how valuable goats are to families that survive in poor rural areas around the world.
One school celebrated by bringing a goat to the assembly. The goat got loose, ran outside to the playground, climbed the ladder, and slid down the slide. Everyone cheered! We wished it could have been filmed.
A school librarian involved the entire school to participate in Read to Feed. Each class raised money for the animals of their choice. The librarian made a promise that if they achieved their goal, she would die her hair green. She did. The whole school celebrated!
How do you think this program has affected the children participating?
Once children read the story of Beatrice's Goat or see the video, The Promise, they are very eager to do whatever they can to help other children in our world. Children feel wonderful when they participate in Heifer's Read to Feed program knowing that they are raising money so poor children are no longer hungry and can go to school.
What do you hope for the future of Heifer?
For six decades, Heifer has helped many families end their poverty. Over 8.5 million families are no longer poor because of Heifer's work. We have learned that when families work together as a community to address and solve their problems, they continue their work together in many new ways beyond the initial gifts of animals and training. My hope for the future of Heifer is that children, teachers, and parents will grasp the excitement of working together so that both givers and receivers experience the joy in moving our world into prosperity for everyone. Working together can be a life-changing experience for everyone.
Our project partners have told us, "thank you for giving us a fishing pole. We are no longer hungry and poor. Our children can go to school. But look around the pond. Do you see thousands and thousands more waiting for their fishing pole? There are more hungry families than when Heifer began over sixty years ago. And do you notice that the water is not only polluted, it is running out of the pond. Unless you educate yourselves, who live in a world of privilege and comfort, about the root causes of hunger and poverty, you will not be making much difference." Through education programs like Read to Feed, we are educating the coming generations to become world citizens that understand their neighborhood stretches around the world and take action to make a difference.