Nancy Kermode has been an avid supporter of Heifer since 1979 when she and her husband Chet introduced the organization to their church as an opportunity to help others. Today, the Kermode Family Endowment helps families around the world realize better futures for themselves.
We wanted to share this short video with you to say thank you for giving your time, money and service in 2014. Every gift, fundraiser and effort helps create lasting change for families around the world.
We at Heifer Foundation are grateful for your faithful support of our work to end hunger and poverty. Heifer Foundation President Ardyth Neill recently recorded a short message in recognition of your gifts that have provided hope for so many people around the world.
Your continued contributions are helping us end hunger and poverty around the world. Please consider making an additional holiday gift this year to Heifer or Heifer Foundation. A gift at Heifer.org provides immediate help in our ongoing projects around the world. A gift to Heifer Foundation’s endowment will be invested to provide sustained support for many years to come.
As we approach the holiday season, it is always important to take a moment to reflect and give thanks. In this video, Heifer Foundation President Ardyth Neill acknowledges the contributions of Heifer’s earliest volunteers, the Seagoing Cowboys, and expresses her gratitude for their dedication.
This holiday, we give thanks for your support. Your continued contributions make creating lasting change a reality, and that is something for which we are all grateful.
By Jessica Ford
Global communications manager
Every year, the Heifer Foundation honors an individual who shows a personal and professional commitment to helping the poor and hungry throughout the world. The Dan West Fellow Award has been presented to a long list of fantastic people from every walk of life, who represent many roles and relationships to and with Heifer International. Dan West, Heifer’s founder, maintained throughout his life a deep commitment to helping the poor, Passing on the Gift®, and securing a commitment to sustainability by helping people help themselves. When selecting winners for the Fellow Award, nominees must also epitomize this commitment. This year, the Heifer Foundation is pleased to announce that the Dan West Fellow Award goes to Stephen Mondora.
Stephen (Steve) Mondora served as an at-large Director for Heifer International from 1999-2011. Also a former Vice Chair and Chair of the Board, Steve served in each role for the maximum time permitted by Heifer by-laws. He is also a former Trustee of the Heifer International Foundation.
Steve’s service to Heifer began long before his formal leadership roles. He and his wife of 56 years, Carolyn, first learned of Heifer during a casual conversation with an acquaintance in 1978, which led the Mondoras to become donors. After Steve retired, he and Carolyn began looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities and decided on Heifer. In the fall of 1993 they became full-time Presbyterian Mission Volunteers at the Heifer Ranch, serving as co-directors of, at that time, Heifer’s National Distribution Center. They were responsible for procurement, warehousing and distribution of all program materials, literature and promotional products sold or donated to individuals, churches and other organizations.
Steve and Carolyn’s time at the Perryville, Ark. Ranch was some of the best of their lives. They saw Heifer blossom and bloom while living in Perryville, and certainly got to know the ins and outs of Heifer in fun — and sometimes challenging ― ways.
Steve loves to reflect on the creative solutions they came up with to get stuff done when money was scarce. “We would collect boxes from grocery stores around town, turn them inside out so people couldn’t see the labels, and use them to ship boxes of materials from the distribution center. Eventually, we started ordering boxes with our name on them because the demand was so great. One time we needed packing paper and went to a local newspaper and asked about the extra paper from their printing rolls, which is normally either scrapped or recycled. We offered to buy it and told them about Heifer. Once they understood the mission, they gave us the paper for free.”
When the distribution center wasn’t busy, Steve would help out all over the Ranch. With his civil engineering background, he helped survey the site for Hersch Lodge, and he was one of the many volunteers who constructed the entire building. To accommodate Heifer’s very rapid growth and before the new headquarters was built, he frequently helped with remodeling projects at the old Louisiana Street building.
While at the Ranch, Steve also saw and contributed to the start of some innovative activity for Heifer. He helped establish Heifer’s first toll-free (800) number and the automatic routing system for regional offices. He and Carolyn managed the distribution center during a time of tremendous growth for Heifer. “When we first started, we would be doing well to ship three boxes a day. After about 18 months, sometimes we filled two UPS trucks in one day. That’s how much Heifer grew in such a short period of time.”
Steve also saw the organization through its digital beginnings. In 1994, he was walking through the halls of Heifer headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., when a staff member summoned him to look at their computer screen, where they’d just laid out the very first Heifer website. “That was the beginning of something so huge. And to see how the organization has materialized into what it is now is truly amazing.”
In his leadership roles with Heifer, Steve saw the organization evolve from a small, struggling charity to the highly successful, sophisticated development organization it is today. He played a major role in developing Heifer’s brand (the now familiar jumping cow logo you know today), as well as acquiring the land and negotiating for the current headquarters and buildings at 1 World Avenue. Steve also served on the committee that brought current President and CEO Pierre Ferrari to Heifer when long-time President and CEO Jo Luck announced her retirement.
“Steve is so well-deserving of this award,” says Luck. “His life truly embodies Passing on the Gift. He and Carolyn have given so unselfishly, and we are the better for his leadership, generosity, and unwavering dedication to a better world. I congratulate him wholeheartedly.”
“All the people I worked with at Heifer as a volunteer and board member, without exception, were so dedicated,” says Steve. “We all just knew that what we were doing was special. The teamwork and cooperation was amazing.”
Steve regularly references something he calls a Heifer Heart. “It means that you deeply understand the mission of ending hunger and poverty and that everything you do focuses on how to support that mission. If it won’t help feed hungry people, or have some strong connection to that, then you shouldn’t do it.”
As a Board member, Steve visited several Heifer projects, including the Navajo Nation site (formerly run by Heifer’s USA program), Ecuador, and Poland. He and Carolyn went to Poland on their own dime. “We were supposed to be part of a study tour that was cancelled; but we decided to go anyway by ourselves.” While there, they joined a Heifer program officer to visit sites on routine monitoring trips. This is where Steve got to see the real power of Heifer in communities. “When they found out that a Heifer representative was in town or nearby, they got so excited. They wanted to honor us, feed us, visit for hours, and thank us for all Heifer had done for them. We were greatly honored by their hospitality!”
Steve credits his wife Carolyn with finding Heifer and changing the track of their lives, but the Heifer fever wasn’t hard for him to catch. “I wouldn’t have ever been part of this had it not been for her,” he shares. “She followed me all over the country for my work. When I retired and we were deciding who to do, she wanted to go to Perryville with Heifer. This was my chance to follow her—and by following her passion this time, it forever changed my life.”
Today, you can find Steve and Carolyn still passionate about Heifer and issues of world hunger. They are residents of Fort Myers, Fla., and are quick to share the work of Heifer International with friends, church groups, or anyone else who will listen. This passion, combined with his willingness to volunteer and serve on Heifer’s board for so many years, makes Steve a well-known name and face in the Heifer halls and Ranch stalls. His work laid the foundation for so much about Heifer today. His long standing commitment to Heifer International sets the bar high, making him well worthy of the title: Dan West Fellow.
Heifer’s Golden Talent Awards (GTA) recognize individuals who have 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.” The awards are presented each year in September or later, typically at a Country Project Partners’ Workshop or other significant event in the recipient’s area.
Staff from each country program determine their country’s winner, and there may be one winner per country each year. 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.
This year, Heifer is recognizing 15 individuals and their families in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Rwanda: Ms. Uwera Flora
After losing all her property in the war and her husband shortly after, Ms. Flora sometimes cannot believe that she made it from there to where she is today. She joined a Heifer Project in 2003 and eventually became a trainer of trainers. Today, her family can eat beef and eggs at least once a week, and has transformed her 1.5 ha to a demonstrational farm year-round.
India: Ms. Milli Patra
Married at 17, Milli was abused for more dowry, which her family could not afford to pay. She returned home a burden, but eventually joined a women’s group that received training from Heifer; there she learned book keeping and entrepreneurship. After receiving 3 goats from Heifer, Milli was unstoppable- today she owns a home, land, a farm, and a small business. She fights against domestic abuse and leads self-help groups so that others have the same opportunities she has.
Cameroon: Ms. Zikou Emilienne
In 1990, Zikou was widowed after 32 years of marriage with 8 children and an annual income of $194. In 2009 she joined a Heifer project where in addition to trainings, she received 4 pigs and some farming tools. She has since worked hard to succeed, and had diversified into poultry, mill grinding and scaled up her farm work. She also works hard to care for the Earth by planting trees, composting, and being a community activist.
Philippines: Ms. Jane Lutong
Widowed at 34 with 3 small children and only a 5th grade education, Jane worked planting rice in Supang. In 2011 her children begged her to join a Heifer group, but Jane was afraid it would be a waste of time. Jane attended the cornerstones training and began to partner with other families. She realized her insecurities and self-pity imprisioned her and she decided to develop herself and learn to trust others. She received kitchen garden seeds and a gilt. Ten months later, she sold 8 of it’s offspring at great prices due to the farmers field school. She kept the fattest and healthiest to pass on. She has transformed from a shy widow to a village council member.
Sierra Leone: Ms. Fatima Musa
Forced to flee a war in 1992, Fatima lived in a refugee camp until she was able to repatriate in 2001. Her husband passed in 2003 leaving her to care for their 5 children, 2 orphaned nephews, and her ailing mother. In 2005 she helped form an association of widows, which in 2009 was selected to take part in a Heifer project, as Trainer of Trainers and Community Animal Health Workers. Fatima attended trainings on cornerstones, leadership, and animal wellbeing. She received animals and quickly increased the size of her herd and farm production. In addition to facilitating other groups in the area, she is a leader in several local activities focusing on value chains, education, and youth in the area. Heifer phased out work in her district in December 2013.
Senegal: Mr. Hassane Sene
Once homeless after he had to move to the city looking for work, Hassane received the gift of sheep and is now able to work land in the rural area he is from and raise a family. He took part in a Heifer project started in 2009. He turned his three sheep into 30 over that time, and is an active community health worker. He has trained over 50 people in animal husbandry and invested in a horse and carriage as transportation. Not forgetting where he once was, he regularly donates millet and use of the horse and carriage to those in need.
Uganda: Mr. Robert Atukwase
Robert joined a Heifer group in 2010 and received the gift of bees and several seedlings. He managed his gifts very successfully and the community named him a model farmer and a Trainer of Trainers. He is an advocate for community transformation and leads a group with 602 beneficiaries. His focus is on youth and women as beneficiaries. Thanks to his dedication to the cornerstones, he has mobilized farmers to collect milk for local orphanages and created local lunch events for the community with the goal of eroding discrimination.
Bangladesh: Ms. Mossamad Sabina
Facing social challenges as a divorcee with two children to care for, Sabina was suspicious of the NGO that came to her town and offered skills training and assets. But after receiving training on Management, Kitchen Gardening and Heifer 12 Cornerstones from the project, Sabina realized that she had an opportunity to escape her poverty and be a self-dependent women. From then on, she tried to make herself self-sufficient and started several income generating activities such as kitchen gardening. She travelled to talk about her work with the group, and received a cow in 2009. She reinvested her profit and now is able to fully support her 2 children being in school and has the respect of her family. This divorcee who used to be one of the most marginalized members of her society is now a leader among her fellow villagers.
Ukraine: Ms. Antonina Kurylenko
After trainings from Heifer, Antonina took the leap from working other farms to starting her own family farm. Her farm has done well, and she was selected to lead a local co-op of farmers in her area. The “Dobrobut Andriivky” co-op had a number of troubles before Antonina was chosen as its head. They couldn’t organize proper collection of milk and proper delivering of other services. Co-op members voted for Antonina Kurylenko because she is a strong farmer managing her family farm: she understood the needs of regular farmers and could advocate their interests as well as lead the co-op in the right direction. Since she took leadership over the co-op, it started developing very fast. The co-op elected an effective board and paid off all the debts left by the previous leadership. She launched a comprehensive dialog with the community and gradually revived their trust in the co-op. the co-op fulfills all the tasks set at the Board meetings. As of today, the co-op enrolls 153 members compared to 68, when Antonina took leadership. The co-op provides milk collection and cooling services, fodder provision services and services in animal reproduction. The co-op has 3 milk trucks, two mobile milk collection centers with cooling tanks and milk collection centers. One of the milk trucks together with 5 modern milking machines were provided in the framework of the state special program for cooperatives development.
Tanzania: Mr. Cornelius Kapinga
Cornelius’s dedication, hard work and determination to be a farmer and an environmentalist has earned Cornelius a credit as a master farmer in his community. Cornelius was tasked with creating an association for awareness on the importance of dairy cows and environmental protection as part of an umbrella dairy cattle project in 1995, and today that association has 29 groups, each having an average of 120 members. Due to an exemplary hard work Cornelius was selected by his fellow members to go for further trainings, including community animal health workers (CAHW) courses. This has led the villagers to call him doctor because he provides free basic technical consultation and treatment of animals. Cornelius has established a strong network, which among others is involved in sensitization and advocating the preserving of natural forests and water catchment areas around his village. Cornelius received a heifer through a POG in 2000. To date the family has managed to raise 25 heifers. The family completed the obligatory POG and in addition has passed on 8 more heifers to families in need.
Nepal: Ms. Bishnu Praja
Traditionally semi-nomads, Chepangs have only recently started to settle down and practice agriculture; before which they heavily depended on the forest for their survival. The increasing population has exhausted the forest resources leaving families like Bishnu’s with food insecurity. When Bishnu began working with her first women’s group in March 2012, her goal was to save $.05 per month, which was very challenging. After lots of work and several trainings, Bishnu received various saplings and 5 does and a buck for breeding. Her and her husband worked very hard and reinvested profits and have been able to build a house in addition to expanding their farming operations. Bishnu is very proud that her children are educated. Her eldest, in grade 12, is also a Community Agro-Vet Entrepreneur and is furthering the development of his community in his own ways. Bishnu is confident her children will achieve much more than her.
Zimbabwe: Mr. Kudakwashe Mafuta
An innovative entrepreneur and environmentalist, Kudakwashe introduced a goat dip tank in his community, which resulted in more regular dosing. He has adopted improved structures for his animals, as well as dividing up the pen for rotation in case of water logging. The kraal is also designed to minimise loss of manure. For goat housing, the farmer introduced a raised platform structure which improves breeding through provision of a healthy, secure and stress reducing environment. His skills earned him the opportunity to train to be a Community Animal Health Worker, as which he performs castrations, dehorning, goat dipping, diagnosis (clinical and post mortem), safe animal carcass disposal for infected livestock, extension, training, construction of pens, animal disease prevention and control. Many farmers in the community also come to Mr Mafuta’s plot to learn about good agronomic practices. To care for the Earth, Kudakwashe has planted many trees, takes part in gully reclamation, controls soil erosion, and buys local fertilizer when possible.
Haiti: Mr. Val Ynelson
Val is a Community Animal Health Worker (CAHW) under Haiti REACH. Orphaned at 12, Val managed to become an assistant to a 2nd grade teacher and sold phone cards, earning sporadic income and suffering from food insecurity. He saw an opportunity to train as a CAHW and committed to success there. During the training he saw integrated farming at a Heifer project site and was impressed- using savings from his work as a CAHW, he bought 14 goats and built himself a small goat breeding centre on land he inherited from his father. He also planted various crops for animals and human consumption. He earn his CAHW certificate in December 2013, and in March 2014 bought supplies for a small veterinary store. While working in the community, he has developed a wide and diverse network of social capital. Val has positioned himself as a young leader representing the community in forums, government meetings and local and international organization platforms that represent the interest of the youth.
Together, with other young adults in the community, they formed a vibrant personal development group that shares and exchanges ideas and experiences. Through this group, other young adults who do not have land to build a shelter for their animals are using his breeding center to keep and reproduce their goats. Currently, there are 28 goats in his breeding center.
Romania: Mr. Marius Mierlea
Marius is taking care of an 80 year-old grandmother, his parents who are very sick (his mother is diagnosed with cancer),1 daughter and 2 cousins with no opportunities to find work in the area. Before Heifer’s support, Marius and his wife worked as hired laborers. Heifer came and brought the relief to them with 3 heifers, and specialized training. Marius and his wife Simona are aware of the importance of new knowledge; therefore, they fully attended all trainings conducted by Heifer and the local coordinator. His diligence and application has brought his fruitful output. This fall they are ready to complete POG as their cows delivered 3 healthy heifers. As being aware of the importance of new knowledge, Marius is never absent from any meeting, training or project activity. He shares what he learns with the whole family so that they can support each other in agriculture production.
Though he has to do all work in the farm by his own, Marius is enthusiastic with joining group and project activities such as group savings, mentoring among the other villagers to design cattle breeding as a profitable activity, monthly meetings. Marius is very interested in sustainability and self-reliance and improved animal management as he realizes it is fundamental to work independently when the project ends.
China: Ms. Zhang Min
Zhang Min became a migrant worker when she was 17. She married and welcomed the birth of one son and one daughter. But later her husband found out that he was infected with HIV/AIDS due poor clinic conditions when he sold blood as a young man. Facing discrimination, his diagnosis had a big impact on their relationship. Her husband was unable to work or participate in daily labor, so the family lost their major source of income. Zhang Min became the breadwinner and her husband focused on taking care of the children. In order to provide for the family, Zhang Min found work as part of a construction crew working in rural areas. In 2010, Heifer launched a goat project in Wang Zhuyuan Village. With her influence, a Self- help Group (SHG) was soon established and Zhang Min was elected as the SHG leader. Zhang Min participated in every single training and activity. She can now conduct the Cornerstone Training and PSRP training independently for Self Help Groups (SHG). While caring for her ailing husband, Zhang Min actively participated in various trainings organized by Heifer, learning 12 Cornerstones, making SHG plan, as well as establishing sanitation cleaner team. In order to bring fun to the community cultural activity, Zhang Min organized a dancing team. She used her livestock-rearing knowledge from the training to raise goats. The number of goats increased significantly from 4 to 10. She was able to fulfill POG responsibilities 3 months early, and is a visionary town leader who is helping pave a way for another successful generation through various infrastructure projects.
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
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?”
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
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.
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’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
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.
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.
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.