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.