In this season of giving, I wanted to highlight a charity that really makes a difference.  What makes Heifer International different is its focus on giving a hand-up not a hand-out.  It’s all about improving a family’s situation in a sustainable way by providing a on-going source of food and income.  Through Heifer International, you can donate gifts of livestock and training that will significantly impact the lives of families living in poverty.

The giving doesn’t end there, though.  Each family that receives a livestock gift agrees to give one of their livestock’s offspring to another family in need – it’s called “Passing on the Gift.”  This is one of the foundations of Heifer International’s mission and creates an ever-growing network of health and hope.  Below is an example of the incredible impact this concept creates:

At a Heifer International “Passing of the Gift” ceremony that took place outside Kigali, Rwanda, one-hundred fifty farmers, officials and celebratory dancers took part in the joyous occasion to mark the “passing on” gift of a dairy cow from 22 Heifer donors to 22 recipients. The donors were themselves recipients of a Heifer International gift of livestock, and were fulfilling their commitment to give their cow’s first-born female to another needy recipient. The donations represented the sixth generation of giving for the vibrant, successful Heifer dairy cow project in Jabana, beginning with 172 animals in 2004, almost doubling in size to 321 cows in 2009.

And just this month, Heifer International launched a United States program “Building Healthy Community Food Systems in Arkansas and Appalachia Project” that focuses on two of the most impoverished areas of the country.  Two grants of $125,000 were awarded to the East Arkansas Enterprise Community and the Appalachia District Health Department by the Heifer USA country program.  These grants will supply agricultural materials, equipment and training in sustainable business development, agriculture production and distribution processes, which will help participants to access capital and credit to develop local food systems.

This year, beyond the presents and parties and family get-togethers, I hope you consider a different kind of giving  – one that can have a domino-like effect of improving the lives of families across the world.  For more information about Heifer International, please visit