High Profile Feature: Ardyth Ann Neill

This article originally appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

In her spare time, Ardyth Neill, president of the Heifer Foundation, can be found weaving gifts

By JOE STUMPE SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Photo by John Sykes, Jr., Ark. Democrat-Gazette

Ardyth Neill, Heifer Foundation President
Ardyth Neill, Heifer Foundation President

When she’s not overseeing millions of dollars for the Heifer Foundation, Ardyth Neill can often be found weaving together thousands of strands of wool or cotton on an old-fashioned floor loom.

“It’s methodical,” Neill said of her hobby. “It’s calming. It’s centering.”

The same could be said of her work since May 2012 as president of the foundation, which helps Heifer International fight hunger and poverty around the globe.

Neill is responsible for just under $90 million in assets for the foundation, which was created by the Little Rock-based Heifer International in 1991 as a way to increase an endowment through planned charitable giving. Although technically separate, the two nonprofits work together and are housed in the same headquarters along the Arkansas River.

Admirers say Neill’s low-key, conscientious style fits the job perfectly.

“She’s a very down-to-earth and sincere person,” said Norm Doll, a Milwaukee businessman who’s chairman of the foundation board. “Consequently, longtime supporters of Heifer have really taken a liking to her.”

Neill’s goal is to more than triple the foundation’s endowment. It’s an ambitious challenge, and one in which Neill’s faith finds an outlet. Finds purpose.

“I think the thing that I appreciate about Ardyth is that she gets that her job is her ministry,” said the Rev. Ed Wills, her pastor at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock. “She doesn’t feel like she has to come to church to do her ministry. She does her ministry in the world.”

World is no exaggeration. Since its founding 70 years ago, Heifer International has worked in the United States and 125 other countries, helping more than 20 million families through the gift of animals, training and community development. The hallmark of Heifer is its “share the gift” program, in which aid recipients pass on animal offspring to others.

Neill, 53, didn’t really want the job of Heifer Foundation president. In fact, she turned it down the first time it was offered, agreeing to serve only on an interim basis.

“I loved being the financial officer,” she said. “I did not see my skills being a fundraiser. Truthfully, it’s worked out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Neill grew up in Springfield, Mo., spending a lot of time on the farm where her mother had been raised. “I’m a city girl, but I have farm roots. It helped shape who I am.”

Asked what she learned there, Neill said, “That there’s a lot of hard work that goes into life.”

By high school, Neill’s interests in math and art were well established. She was a Girl Scout and volunteer swimming instructor for the American Red Cross. She went to Drury University, a small liberal arts college in her hometown, partly because her father worried she’d get swallowed up at a bigger school.

“I was a shy, quiet kid, and Dad thought I’d get lost. He’s been wondering for years what happened to that girl. It did bring me out of my shell.”

To some extent, that is. Neill is quick to describe herself as an introvert, albeit one who enjoys people.

Neill, who majored in business administration, worked in accounting for the Dillon supermarket chain while still in college, then as a controller for the Red Cross, which had a regional blood and tissue bank in Springfield in addition to its regular services.

“When she worked for the Red Cross in Springfield, she was very passionate about that as well,” said her husband, Jerry Neill, who’s also from Missouri. “She chose that path very early on, rather than going the corporate route.”

The couple’s courtship was quick and dramatic. In January 1990, a few months after they started dating, Jerry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes. They got married in May of that year Neill underwent months of chemotherapy only to have the disease return in February of the next year. After a bone marrow transplant and high doses of radiation, it finally went into remission and has remained that way since.

Ardyth Neill, who’d been married before, had not planned on repeating the experience.

“The turning point for us was when he got sick. It just makes us look at life a little differently. It’s precious.”

Added Jerry Neill: “She was there for me when I needed somebody the most. It’s a kind of unique relationship for us that’s not typical of most couples.”

GIVING AIN’T SIMPLE

The two moved to Arkansas in 1994 when Jerry, a geologist, took a job with the state’s department of environmental quality.

Ardyth, after a year working for a chemical dependence facility, got a job as director of accounting for Heifer International. She spent four years in that role before becoming chief financial officer at the foundation in 2001.

Because of that background, Heifer International Chief Financial Officer Bob Bloom said, “She’s really able to understand both sides of the organization really well.”

Heifer International grew rapidly during the 1990s, but most of the money came in the form of donations for operations. The foundation was set up to increase long-term financial stability through an endowment, with a separate fundraising staff and its own offices. It’s designed to produce a portion of Heifer’s operating expenses while continuing to increase its own principal.

After the recession of 2007-08, the decision was made to save money by selling the foundation offices and shifting fundraising, payroll services and other functions to Heifer International. Neill, while serving as interim president, was put in charge of trimming the staff to its current size of five people. Some people were reassigned to jobs with Heifer International, and Neill tried to find others jobs elsewhere.

“We had great staff,” she said. “That was a really hard thing to do.”

Doll, the foundation president, called the savings “significant,” and Neill continues to do “quite a bit of development” – the nonprofit world’s term for fundraising – despite the shift. Foundation donors are often the same people who’ve donated to Heifer International throughout their lives.

“We develop a very personal relationship with these people, which I love,” Neill said.

The foundation’s job is a lot more complicated than just depositing checks. Gifts can come in the form of cash, stocks and bonds, real estate and other types of assets. Some people simply make a sizable monetary donation (gifts of less than $1,000 must be made to Heifer International), or name the foundation as a beneficiary in their will. Others set up a charitable trust annuity, transferring property to Heifer in exchange for a tax deduction and fixed income for life; execute a bargain sale, selling Heifer property at less than its market value in exchange for a tax deduction; establish a life estate, deeding their house or farm to Heifer in exchange for a tax deduction and the right to live out their life there; or choose one of numerous other ways to help Heifer and themselves as well.

“It’s a way to help them today, but also to help the charity they’ve supported in life,” she says.

THE GIVE NARRATIVE

And with state tax laws differing across the country, Doll noted, “It’s pretty complicated.”

Neill spends about a week per month out of the office visiting existing and potential donors. She will be at many of the “Beyond Hunger: Communities of Change” events that Heifer has planned around the country this year, the first of which was held in Little Rock on Saturday.

“I will be attending many of those just to thank those who have supported Heifer.”

Neill has also been to just about every area of the world where Heifer International is active today, among them Nepal, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central America. Projects in those areas include Heifer’s traditional gifts of cows in Malawi, dairy goats in Kosovo, and training in sustainable vegetable gardening in Honduras.

“You can’t talk to folks about planned giving without talking about the work,” she said.

Because women do the bulk of the agricultural work in developing nations, much of Heifer’s work is directly with them. Many are discriminated against within their own societies, and some of those are physically abused and denied sufficient food while men and children are fed.

“I think the women are amazing,” Neill said. “I’ve learned from them. They work so passionately for their children, they’re building schools, they’re building day care centers. In many of the cultures we work in, women don’t normally own property. When you give them an animal, it gives them the ability to know they’re helping themselves.”

Neill’s husband accompanied her to Albania and Kosovo, where they witnessed “Passing on the Gift” ceremonies, which Jerry Neill calls “a big deal” in impoverished rural communities.

“To see her interact with those people, and step out of being an introvert, it takes an effort to do that,” he said. “You kind of have to take a deep breath and go forward.”

Doll saw the impact of Nepal on Neill.

“I think for Ardyth it’s a real emotional deal. She runs into these women, and it’s just an emotional exchange about their lives and what they’ve been living, and it comes back and it spills into her life and into her work in positive ways.”

Bloom agreed. “She’s just soaking it in and thinking about how to relate what she’s seeing in the field to the donors,” he said. “She’ll come back and write a story for her website, then call big donors and relate those experiences. That makes those experiences really real.”

THE GET IN THE GIVE

Heifer International has recently launched a couple of new initiatives. One is what the organization calls “scaling up,” with the goal of getting animals and training to 3 million people a year. Another is the “Seeds of Change” program, which is designed to help farmers in the Arkansas Delta and Appalachia regions increase production and reach new markets.

The Foundation has its own goal: increase the endowment to $200 million by 2025. Today that number is $64 million. The rest of the foundation’s assets are held in trust for donors.

“That’s an awful lot to go from 64 [million] to there, ” Neill said. “But I do believe it’s doable just because of the supporters we have, and them knowing the income off of that would really help.”

The foundation is looking at ways to increase its “socially responsible” investing, which seeks to combine good returns with social good. Neill sits on the foundation’s investment committee, which chooses and reviews fund managers.

Neill said her various duties at the foundation dovetail nicely with her tendency to be “a little cheap” in her personal life.

“I have a tendency to look for the best deal and make sure we’re not overspending, and I carry that on to what we do here.”

Neill still gets back to the farm in Missouri where she spent time growing up. She weaves blankets and scarves on her floor loom, a skill she picked up in college. She’s a big reader. She and her husband love music and attend concerts frequently. Both Neills are active at St. Michael’s, where Ardyth has served as treasurer and sometimes pops in for morning prayers.

Reflecting on her years with nonprofits, Neill said her career choices probably proceeded in some manner from her grandmother and mother, who “were always out helping others.”

Today, she finds inspiration in the very people she’s helping.

“They always thank us and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I’m learning so much more from you,’ because we’re asking so much more from them. They have so little when they start, then we ask them to pass on the gift. When have we been asked to do that?”

SELF PORTRAIT

Ardyth Neill

DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: June 5, 1960, Springfield, Mo.

BEING A GIRL SCOUT, I LEARNED how to lead and how to follow, as well as when to do each. It’s all about being prepared.

FAVORITE MUSICAL ACT: I love music of all styles and enjoy going to concerts, so picking a favorite would be difficult. Concerts I’ve attended recently include Three Doors Down, Michael Buble, Maroon 5, Harry Connick Jr., The Eagles, and Kenny G.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT COWS: I know how important cows can be to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers around the world and in the United States.

EVERY DAY, I find an inspirational way to start my day.

I DRIVE A Subaru Forester.

I COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT my husband, family and friends.

MY HUSBAND THINKS I am driven, passionate and compassionate.

FAVORITE PLACE I’VE VISITED: Nepal

GUESTS AT MY FANTASY DINNER PARTY: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gandhi and John Wayne

TWO WORDS TO DESCRIBE ME: Servant-leader

Empowered Women Transform Communities in Senegal

Heifer Foundation President Ardyth Neill reflects on her recent trip to Senegal and the unique opportunity she had to visit two different projects. Heifer’s Fandene and Yaajeende projects are teaching, training and providing the proper tools for women to rise against poverty and hunger. Neill saw firsthand how one woman, empowered, is really all it takes to change a community.

Empowering Women in Nepal

Heifer Foundation President Ardyth Neill reflects on her recent trip to Nepal and the exciting new goat project there. The Smallholder Livestock Value Chain Project aims to reduce live goat imports by 30 percent and milk by 10 percent by 2016. The project will involve 138,000 farmers in 28 districts.

Right now, you have an opportunity to support Heifer’s work in Nepal and have your gift go twice as far. A group of generous donors has donated $3 million. Our challenge is to raise an additional $3 million needed to help fund this project. We urgently need your support to help us match their donation. Donate now.

Heifer Recognizes 2013 Golden Talent Award Winners for Excellence in Sustainability

Heifer’s Golden Talent Award (GTA) recognizes an individual or family that has taken “a minimum of resources and converted it into a sustaining source of income and other resources, while also helping other families and the community at large.”

Golden Talent Awards are given annually, with the award presentation occurring in September or later, typically at a Country Project Partners’ Workshop or other significant in-country event. Staff from each Country Program determine their country’s winner. There may be one winner per country annually. A cash award of $1,000 is provided by Heifer International Foundation; $800 is for the project community and $200 is designated as a cash gift or in-kind gift to the family or individual.

2013 Golden Talent Award Winners

Africa

Americas

Asia/South Pacific

Africa

Yawah Fellah

Yawah Fellah of Sierra Leone

Cameroon – Daguidam Brigitte
After the sudden death of her husband, Brigitte found herself unable to provide for her family of nine. She remarried a farmer and, after 11 years of struggling with their land, decided to join Groupe d’Initiative Commune with Heifer Cameroon. Quickly combining her talents with the skills learned, Brigitte was able to start two businesses, increase her family’s assets and give back to her community in very generous ways.
Ghana – Naomi Aboraa
A widow living with AIDS and three children, Naomi joined the HOPE project and received chickens and pigs. Shortly after joining, the partnering organization withdrew support and Naomi stepped up as a leader to ensure that the participants would complete their POGs within two years. She has used her new resources and skills to construct a new home, finance her sons’ educations and become an HIV/AIDS and gender equity educator in the community.
Kenya – Melania Otieno
Melania is the chairperson of Oriang Women Group. She is now a small holder dairy goat farmer/breeder, a Peer Farmer Trainer and push pull technology disseminator with a demonstration farm field school. As the recipient of a pass-on goat, interactions with Heifer have transformed her life. She has used her proceeds to improve her community in many ways including a portable water pump.
Sierra Leone – Yawah Fellah
Abandoned by her first husband and widowed by her second, Yawah spent 10 years as a refugee in Guinea before returning home with her five children. Unable to care for their educational needs, she joined a women’s goat project and quickly established herself as an effective leader. She now has a productive farm and livestock operation, supports her grandchildren, assists with local veterinary needs, and uses her voice and charisma to motivate others.
Tanzania – Imani Njwaba
Imani has successfully transformed his life from living in a poor mud house with his family and eating a single meal a day to living in a new modern house with a gas stove and driving a pick-up truck. In addition to his milk sales, Imani provides manure to his neighbors to help support the health and wellness of the community. Now a strong family unit, his wife handles the finances and his children are eager to help when they are out of school.
Uganda – Rebecca Mukama
Rebecca left school and was married at an early age. A poultry business earned her $127/year but was not enough to support seven children. After joining a Heifer project, Rebecca became a community mobilizer, starting income-generating projects and securing a 10,000 liter community water tank. She received a pregnant heifer and now earns about $100/month supplemented by her gardens, trees and livestock products.
Zambia – Humphrey Mwananyanda
The Mwananyanda’s were regarded as one of the poorest families in the community. Struggling to support his family of 12, Humphrey drank himself into severe sickness. In desperate need of change, he and his wife joined a Heifer dairy cooperative and quickly established themselves as leaders and motivators in the community. Humphrey is now able to support his family, his community and – years later – even pay wife’s bridal payment.
Zimbabewe – Emmanuel Mutodza
After loosing his job and returning to a rural home in the Kwekwe district, Emmanuel found earning income and producing food to be unfeasible. Being vibrant, visionary and passionate for development, he resuscitated a local farmers’ group and applied to Heifer International. Group members received guineas, fruit trees and efficient stoves. In addition to leadership in these areas, Emmanuel also initiated a sustainable garden project.

Americas

Nivia Cutipa

Nivia Cutipa of Peru

Ecuador – Fabricio Antonio Avila Demera
Fabricio is a 12 year old boy from a small farming community in the dry forests of the Ecuadorian coast. Despite physical disabilities that prohibit him from moving his limbs or speaking, Fabricio received a pig in 2011. He has tended for his pigs and participated in POG’s to other young members of the community. His family’s new livestock and produce endeavors have brought financial stability and funds to cover Fabricio’s medical bills.
Peru – Nivia Cutipa Colque
With a story of struggle, sacrifice and hard work, Nivia joined a food security and business development Heifer project. She has strengthened her approach and techniques in the process of raising alpacas and hand weaving. In the last three years, Nivia has trained over 800 women artisans from Puno and Cusco, helping them to improve the quality of life for women and their families.

Asia/South Pacific

Salma Begum

Salma Begum of Nepal

Bangladesh – Salma Begum
Forced to abandon her studies and marry at a young age, Salma started to change her life to a more socially and economically sustainable one with the addition of one male calf, one sewing machine, two goats and her handicraft skills. By slowing raising and investing income with land and livestock, she has become the treasurer of the Belly Women’s Group and a respected member of her family and village.
China – Aer Shasha
With limited opportunity in a remote mountainous area, Aer joined a Heifer project and was elected to be a leader of the Waxi Community project. His efforts were hugely successful and lead him to leadership opportunities with other ethnic group communities. His work has spanned a wide variety of issues including clean water, power, bridges, toilets, learning centers and cultural heritage.
Inda – Sumitra Dehury
Married at a young age and unable to conceive children, Sumitra had many struggles in addition to her poverty. Through Heifer trainings, she was able to find a sense of purpose with the Cornerstones and POGs. She and her husband have been able to influence the male-dominated village in ways that have opened opportunities for women. Sumitra has been acknowledged for her animal management practices and has been very influential in the community.
Nepal – Bishnu Pariyar
Bishnu’s last name placed her at the bottom of the Nepali caste system, making her family untouchables. Joining the Pancheshwori Women Empowerment Project provided her with two goats and training opportunities, but it took time for her to be accepted into the group by the rest of the women. Now she and her husband own a buffalo, a tailoring shop and are well respected in the community.
Philippines – Rogelio “Rolly” Abes Jr.
Unimpressed by previous initiatives in his community, Rolly was skeptical of the SELF-HELP Heifer project at first. But after attending a Cornerstones training, his hope was renewed. He now heads an initiative with vermi-composting which has provided enough income to improve his livelihood and purchase many things including a 16′ Isuzu Elf. He has dreams to expand his current business and has been nominated for an Outstanding Farmer of the Year award.

Jerry Bedford: 2012 Dan West Fellow Award Recipient

Heifer International, in many ways, owes its current form to the guidance of Jerry Bedford, who insisted that the organization, whose mission he treasured, be placed on sure footing for decades to come. Bedford’s fundraising and communications efforts helped build Heifer into a well-regarded development organization whose impact has circled the globe.

Jerry BedfordEducated as both a businessman and theologian, Bedford understood that a nonprofit seeking to make a difference in the world would need both its values and its backing to be robust. Bedford worked diligently in service to both goals, first for 25 years as Heifer’s Director of Development and then as the head of the Heifer Foundation which he initiated in 1990.

In recognition of Bedford’s long dedication and many contributions to helping the world’s impoverished people, Heifer Foundation’s Trustees Emeriti have bestowed upon Jerry Bedford the 2012 Dan West Fellow Award. The award will be conferred on Bedford at the Beyond Hunger: Feast in the Field celebration on May 18, 2013 at Heifer headquarters campus in Little Rock. Tickets are available at www.feastinthefield.org.

Throughout his life and as Heifer International’s founder, Dan West maintained a deep commitment to helping the poor, the hungry and marginalized people. His vision continues to guide Heifer International and speaks to the simplest and most basic principle of charity – helping people help themselves.

In West’s honor, Heifer Foundation — a separate nonprofit organization that grows and oversees the endowment for Heifer International — established the Dan West Fellow Award to recognize those who have given of themselves to help the less fortunate of the world. Each year, the Foundation’s Trustees Emeriti choose one outstanding leader as a Dan West Fellow.

“Heifer International and Heifer Foundation owe a great deal to Jerry,” said Ardyth Neill, president of Heifer Foundation. “He laid a strong foundation for the endowment, and everything that we’ve done since then was built on his careful work. His influence on Heifer’s growth has been exceptional.”

Bedford began working for Heifer International as Director of Development in 1966, a time when the organization had just a handful of employees. Bedford leveraged Heifer’s various regional offices to boost donations, which in those days still included hundreds of head of livestock.

Bedford and his wife, Anna Bedford, had experience with poverty in underdeveloped nations from their time as youth directors for the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. On their return to the U.S., Bedford learned about Heifer International, and saw it as an embodiment of the values he wished to promote – brotherhood, humanity and empowerment.

“As Director of Development, Jerry led successful fundraising and marketing initiatives,” recalled Rosalee Sinn, a former Heifer International fundraiser and 2011 Dan West Fellow. “Jerry had strong relationships with Heifer donors throughout the country. He was and is an articulate spokesperson and leader for Heifer International.”

Jerry BedfordBedford traveled to many of the Heifer International country offices to help them form a fundraising base within their own countries. One of the accomplishments that gives Bedford the most pride is the development of the gift catalog, which would become the most reliable source of Heifer International donations. Bedford guided its progression from a simple black-and-white sheet, to a color flyer and then a full catalog.

“It made great sense,” Bedford said of the alternative giving concept. “You can make a gift in honor of someone who’s not in need to those who are in need.”

Bedford was anchored by the strong principles of Heifer International’s early leaders. “They were people of great integrity who valued the dignity of people, and lived their word,” Bedford said. “In the marketing materials, we always treated the subjects with dignity. We tried to build that sense of community and humanity.”

Bedford was instrumental in bringing Heifer International to Arkansas when the opportunity to buy a ranch in Perryville arose. He argued that Heifer, which then functioned out of a small St. Louis office, should have a permanent physical presence tied to its livestock aggregation. Bedford led the effort to raise funds for the purchase of the property, which would become the Learning Center at Heifer Ranch, for about $750,000.

But perhaps Bedford’s most notable contribution to Heifer International was the creation of Heifer Foundation. As Heifer and its work expanded, Bedford saw the need to further donors’ engagement with Heifer as they accumulated more assets and became receptive to including charities in their estate planning.

“Heifer had lots of donors. We just had to learn how to ask them to contribute a piece of their assets, not just their regular income,” Bedford explained.

Bedford became Heifer’s Director of Planned Giving and oversaw the creation of Heifer Foundation. From 1990 to 2000, when he retired, Bedford served as the head of Heifer Foundation. During that time, the Foundation’s assets grew from $4.3 million to $35.5 million.

“Just like individuals, Heifer needed to put something aside for a rainy day,” Bedford said. “If you have an endowment, it’s like ballast in a ship.”

Gary Cooper, a former Heifer Foundation trustee, sees the creation of Heifer International’s endowment as a priceless contribution to the nonprofit’s work to end hunger and poverty. “Jerry was an excellent financial advisor and was responsible for the early growth of the Foundation. He always had Heifer International’s mission as the central reason for growth.”

In his retirement, Bedford and his wife Anna split their time between California and Florida. He maintains involvement with the Arkansas Rice Depot, a statewide foodbank that he founded in the mid-1980s.

Over the course of nearly 40 years, Bedford has remained a passionate advocate for Heifer International’s work. He has educated millions of people about hunger and poverty, and about Heifer International’s model of creating self-reliance through gifts of livestock and training. His devotion to supporting this cause has yielded life-changing results for millions of families worldwide.

Armenian Youth Develop Entrepreneurial Spirit

To own a business, you need relevant knowledge, a project, responsibility and the initiative to start. Heifer International is providing business training to more than 200 members of 20 YES! Youth Clubs in rural Armenian communities.

This training encourages an entrepreneurial spirit, setting the participants up for a prosperous future. As a result of the knowledge gained during the business classes, about 190 participants between 12 and 17 have started their own small businesses in their communities. The youth have developed business plans taking into account the geographic conditions and climate specifics of the region where they live. The club members have thoroughly researched the local market and have developed business plans offering different elements of marketing such as business segmentation, advertising, flexible price policy and encouragement of loyal customers.

The businesses run by the youth include rabbit, chicken, goose, pig, sheep and goat farms. They also cultivate and sell beans, potatoes, garlic, onion, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries and grapes. The most popular businesses are beekeeping and pig, sheep, rabbit and chicken farming.

Aghvan from Djadjur has established a pastry production business. Due to Aghvan’s marketing policy, he became more competitive than two other girls running the same business in their community.

One of the best businesses is run by Zhenya from Nalbandyan community. She grows beans with the help of her father.

Some others are engaged in growing flowers and berries, making handcrafts and providing computer services.

All the youth involved in the project are very enthusiastic about the businesses that they run. Though at the beginning they were confused, because they didn’t have any experience, their interest in business, sense of responsibility and readiness to act helped them to make the first steps. Now they can see results from their hard work and feel proud of their accomplishments. Participating youth not only acquire business skills, but also develop a sense of responsibility and dignity by Passing on the Gift©.

Find out how you can help people in Armenia.

Heifer Recognizes 2012 Golden Talent Award Winners for Excellence in Sustainability

Heifer’s Golden Talent Award (GTA) recognizes an individual or family that has taken “a minimum of resources and converted it into a sustaining source of income and other resources, while also helping other families and the community at large.”

Golden Talent Awards are given annually, with the award presentation occurring in September or later, typically at a Country Project Partners’ Workshop or other significant in-country event. Staff from each Country Program determine their country’s winner. There may be one winner per country annually. A cash award of $1,000 is provided by Heifer International Foundation; $800 is for the project community and $200 is designated as a cash gift or in-kind gift to the family or individual.

2012 Golden Talent Award Winners

Africa

Americas

Asia/South Pacific

Central/Eastern Europe

Africa

Achiri Christopher

Achiri Christopher of Cameroon


Kenya – Beatrice Auma Omengo
Beatrice Auma Omengo has trained close to 260 families in the Murumba area of Kenya in various aspects of social development, sustainable organic farming and dairy farming. She currently trains 1,000 farmers a month in farming and business practices.
Uganda – Jessica Were
Since 1986, Jessica Were has served the Butaleja District in Eastern Uganda. She set up a tree nursery bed, hosts training centers in her home, fosters biogas projects and helped secure funds for a dairy project from Heifer.
Cameroon – Achiri Christopher
A former carpenter turned farmer, Achiri Christopher is also a community leader in Bamendakwe, Cameroon. Through Heifer International Cameroon, he received a dairy cow and started training on January 4th, 2003. He is now secretary of his dairy cooperative, chairman of the development committee in his neighborhood and secretary of his Parish’s Justice and Peace Commission.
Tanzania – Daina Mangula
Heifer International helped Daina Mangula escape the poor living conditions she faced in a polygamous family. She is now a master farmer in her village of Ibumila and also also pioneered the Savings and Credit Cooperative Society in her village.
Rwanda – Uwimpuhwe Enice
When Uwimpuhwe Enice received her first gift from Heifer International-Rwanda, she was living in abject poverty. She has since learned to raise cattle, and donates manure and milk to those less fortunate. She has also passed on the gift to others in her village numerous times.

Americas

Dolores Delgado

Dolores Delgado of Peru


Peru – Delores Delgado
Dolores Delgado credits everything she has accomplished to her mother. Dolores’s mother taught her to raise guinea pigs, a skill she has improved upon and now teaches to her family and community. She used Agroecology to change the way guinea pigs are raised in her community of Huachancay in the Anta province of Peru.

Asia/South Pacific

Basanti Hansda

Bansanti Hansda stands in her kitchen garden in Mayurbhani, India


China – Dang Que
Dang Que has dedicated his life to being a leader in the Jiumai village of the Shannan Prefecture of China for many years. He serves as branch secretary of the village, made a 5-year development plan for the village and assists his neighbors in attaining bank loans by taking loans in his name.
India – Basanti Hansda
Until Basanti Hansda joined Heifer India’s Tribal Empowerment program in 2010, she lived the life of a typical poor tribal woman in Mayurbhani, Odisha, India. She has passed on the gift to several community members and created awareness about the need for fresh vegetables and how to cultivate them in a small plot.
Bangladesh – Anjuara Begum
Thanks to the Jagorani Chakra Foundation, with funding by Heifer, Anjuara Begum has gone from living hand to mouth to providing her family and neighbors with goats. She formed the Uttorpara Mohila Swamity with 16 other women in 2009 and continues gifting extra goats to others in her community.
Cambodia – Son Sinath
In the village of Dak Sorsor, in the Battambang province, Son Sinath has become a leader that emphasizes literacy as a way to end poverty. As a Community Literacy Facilitator she meets with 24 women there times a week for 2 hours to teach them literacy skills and the 12 Heifer Cornerstones.
Nepal – Bali Khadka
Bali Khadka plays decisive and participatory roles in almost all aspects of community building in Bhringi, Pyuthan, Nepal. She serves as president of Prajwalit Social Women Entrepreneurial Cooperative Limited and her village’s para-legal group that fights for the rights of vulnerable groups.
Philippines – Minda Sinagan
Minda Sinagan’s determination to succeed helped her earn a degree in Elementary Education. This determination later became a lesson for others in her community. She is currently the president of Aurora Swine Raisers and Farmer’s Association.
Vietnam – Nguyen Van Hanh
Nguyen Van Hanh, despite only having an 8th grade education, is the group cashier of the Self Help Group of Binh Hoa hamlet. He manages funds and loans given to members of the community, often passing up his turn to receive a loan so that others may receive them.

Central/Eastern Europe

Maia Khabazishvili

Maia Khabazishvili of Georgia


Georgia – Maia Khabazishvili
Following in her late husband’s footsteps, Maia Khabazisvili became project leader and chairman of the Tkviavi Farmer’s Association in 2010. She currently leads 385 project participants who are rebuilding their village after the devastation of the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict.
Romania – Angela Matis
When Angela lost her father at 10 years old, she became a second mother to her four younger sisters. She is now a second mother to the entire village of Rasca, Romania. She constantly researches government subsidies and other funding sources and helps others apply. She also hosts practical weaving classes in her home during the winter months.

Literacy Skill Inspires a Woman to Learn

Eap Sat reads to one of her children.

Eap Sat reads to one of her children.

Eap Sat is a widow who works very hard to feed her six children in the village of Cheung Toek, in the Baphnom district of the Prey Veng province in Cambodia. As a child, she never had the opportunity to attend school due to her family’s financial struggles. Instead, she had to work to help her parents earn income to support the family.

After getting married, she continued to live in poverty. It was difficult for her to find any work to generate additional income to support her children due to her lack of education.

In 2010, the Heifer-funded Women Empowerment and Holistic Community Development project in partnership with Chetthor was implemented in the village of Cheung Toek. The project promotes a values-based literacy program to improve women’s literacy and math skills. Eap Sat was initially hesitant to join the program, and she refused to attend the literacy class; she said she was too old to learn.

Following the encouragement and persuasion of the facilitator, Eap Sat joined the class. Since then, she has been inspired to continue learning. She now understands that the class is not just a place to learn how to read and write, but to share ideas, interact, and communicate with others.

Two years after joining the literacy class, Eap Sat is able to read, write and perform calculations. She now enjoys reading to increase her knowledge. She is very happy, because the skills help her in her daily life. Her newfound knowledge has helped her produce better yields from her livestock and garden. She also operates a small business for additional income that has led to improvements in her family’s quality of life.

“I would like to express my gratitude to Literacy Facilitator Rim Yeab for her encouragement,” Eap Sat said. “Without her help and support, I might not have attended the class, because I thought that it was just a dream. Obviously, I can read and write now. Finally, I also express my deep gratitude to Heifer in collaboration with Chetthor for having the literacy classes in my village.”

Story by: Phon Yut Sama,
Driver/Office Assistant,
Heifer Cambodia

Photo by: Makara Orn,
Training Officer,
Heifer Cambodia

Heifer Foundation Appoints Ardyth Neill President

Ardyth Neill, president of Heifer Foundation

Ardyth Neill, president of Heifer Foundation

The Heifer Foundation Board of Trustees has appointed Ardyth Neill as the president of the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping end hunger and poverty through planned charitable giving.

“The board of trustees and the staff of Heifer Foundation are pleased to announce that Neill will permanently take over the position of president after serving the dual role of chief financial officer (CFO) and interim president/chief executive officer twice during her tenure at the Foundation,” said Marcia Williams, chair of Heifer Foundation board of trustees. “Having worked with Ardyth for years, I am thrilled that she has been named to and accepted this most important role at Heifer Foundation. She weaves her professionalism, ethics and dedication to the cause and many skills into service to the Foundation. I look forward to watching the organization thrive under her leadership.”
Neill came to Heifer Foundation in 2001 after serving as director of accounting for more than four years for Heifer International. Since then, she has served as CFO and vice president of asset management for the Foundation.

“I have had the privilege of working with Heifer Foundation, Heifer International and our donors for the last 15 years,” Neill said. “My goal is to strengthen our collaborative efforts, creating a solid foundation of support for families helping themselves out of the cycle of poverty. In doing so, we carry on the example given us by Heifer International founder, Dan West, while providing a model for future generations to build upon as we maintain a deep commitment to helping the poor, hungry and those in the margin of the world.”

Heifer Foundation was established in 1991 to oversee and grow the endowment to provide support for the work of Heifer International. Heifer Foundation and Heifer International are separate non-profit charitable organizations that work together to provide a comprehensive sustainable strategy supporting a common mission of ending hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.

“I am delighted to hear that the Heifer Foundation board of trustees has appointed Ardyth Neill as President of Heifer Foundation,” said President and CEO of Heifer International, Pierre Ferrari. “She is a dedicated professional who will manage Heifer Foundation with diligence and care for the mission of Heifer International and its loyal donors. Ardyth and I have known each other for over 18 months and have found that we work very collaboratively and effectively together. I congratulate her and am thrilled to continue to build upon the successful relationship between Heifer International and Heifer Foundation.”

Neill started her non-profit work as a comptroller with the Greater Ozarks Chapter, Blood and Tissue Region of the American Red Cross. Her professional career began as an accountant for Dillon’s Springfield Division. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration with minors in accounting and economics from Drury University.
Ardyth is currently a member of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), Society for Human Resource Management, Partnership of Philanthropic Planning (formerly NCPG), Central Arkansas Human Resources Association, the Rachel Donaldson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and The Order of Daughters of the King. She is an active member of St. Michaels Episcopal Church where she serves as treasurer and a member of the Outreach, Finance and Audit Committees.

Neill is married to Jerry Neill and lives in Maumelle, AR.

About Heifer Foundation:

Heifer Foundation envisions a sustainable world where hunger and poverty no longer exist. Its mission is to partner with people in the global movement to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth. To that end, Heifer Foundation offers donors a variety of planned charitable giving options, while developing and managing an endowment to provide long-term support for Heifer International. Heifer Foundation offers a variety of planned giving instruments that provide individuals from all walks of life the ability to help themselves, their loved ones, and a world in great need. For more information, visit www.heiferfoundation.org.

About Heifer International:

Since 1944, Heifer International has helped more than 12 million hungry families in over 125 countries move toward self-reliance through the gift of livestock as well as a wide variety of education initiatives, including agricultural techniques and leadership skills. For more information, visit www.heifer.org.

Songsri Mitsathit – an Agent for Change

Sangin Nuea is a small Karen village in the remote mountain range of Omkoi district, Chiang Mai province. This is where Ms. Songsri Mitsathit’s family lives. She has been a Community Facilitator (CF) in the Pwo Karen Women Empowerment for Holistic Community Development Project for nearly two years. “I like to work with Heifer because it allows me to learn many new things that I can apply to use in my family and my community,” the 25-year-old woman said. “I am proud of being a change agent for women and men in my community.”

Songsri and her 5-year-old daughter Nareerat

Songsri and her 5-year-old daughter Nareerat

Songsri, the oldest of 13 children, is married and has one daughter, Nareerat. Her family is Pow Karen ethnic minority. It is a belief and tradition of Karen people that cause women to not be treated as equals to men.

With Heifer, Songsri works hard to run project activities and follow up with project participants in the same and different communities. She travels on a motorcycle from one community to another. Although, she is a skillful rider, the steep and dirty mountainous roads cause her to have frequent accidents, especially during the rainy season when the road is muddy and slippery. “It is very difficult and I have accidents often, but it is not serious,” Songsri said. “I am more worried about the progress of the self-help group than this challenge. I want to make sure that they take good care of their livestock and apply the knowledge received from the trainings in their lives. As a woman it is very challenging to change mindset of men and women towards sustainable development, since they are used to being the receivers. But, it won’t stop my mission to improve the livelihood of my people.”

At first, many of the self-help groups didn’t fully accept Songsri, but that did not discourage her from assisting the villagers. “Before, women were voiceless and were not involved with any decision making,” Songsri recalled. “We just followed what the village headman, our fathers or husbands said.”

Songsri and her sow

Songsri and her sow

When she is not busy with project activities, Songsri helps her husband at their pumpkin and chili farm and raises three pigs. Two sows just gave birth to a total of 11 piglets. Trained as a Community Animal Health Worker (CAHW), she takes very good care of her animals. She learned about pig feed formulation from other community facilitators and started to make her own. When project staff visited her family, she enthusiastically showed them the fermented feed. She wanted to make sure she did it right so that she could teach others. When faced with issues regarding her animals’ health, Songsri asked the Omkoi district livestock official for advice. “One of my sows didn’t have enough milk to feed her piglet,” she said. “but I remember the livestock official told me to apply the other sow’s milk to the piglets’ mouths so would get used to one another.”

Songsri is an enthusiastic, but humble and sincere woman. She always cooperates well with activities in the field or during meetings and training in the city. With her parents’ limited income, they could not support her aspirations for higher education, but that does not stop her from learning on her own. Even with her busy work and family schedule, Songsri continues to further her studies through informal schooling. “I want to set myself as a role model for people in my community, especially women,” she said. “I want them to be more confident to speak up about their problems and show their abilities. I also want to prove that women are as capable as men.”

Standing next to her is her daughter, Nareerat Mitsathit, who is five-years-old. Nareerat is a kindergarten student at the informal education center of Sangin Nuea village. Holding and kissing her daughter, Songsri said, “I want to be a role model for my daughter and I want her to have better education so she can help develop our community in the future.”

Story and Photos by: Sangwan Sapma,
Communication and Networking Manager,
Heifer Thailand

Additional Photo by: Bjorn Slis,
Volunteer