We visited Peru, the Tibetan region of China, and Ghana all in one day. Our tour guide of the replica villages at Heifer Farms in Rutland, Massachusetts explained the varied sustainable farming and livestock practices in the various countries and the contributions of Heifer International along the way. The replica global villages at the educational farm facility were an hour drive from our home, but it took us a world away. It introduced my kids to what a rural, pastoralist or agricultural community in a developing country might look like.
It was on our family trip to Tanzania this past summer, roughly a year after our visit to Heifer Farms, that I watched my kids worlds crack wide open as they witnessed that theoretical knowledge first hand. Both the Maasai and the Datoga tribes of Tanzania whom we visited are pastoralists, cattle is their currency. As we watched clouds of dust fill the horizon along the savanna a small boy, around the same age as my youngest son, herded his cattle on the side of the packed earth road. I turned to my son and said, “If you were born here that could be you.” He chuckled a bit at the thought and then with a more pensive look replied, “It’s amazing to see how different kids’ lives are here from my own.” I think I heard angels singing in that moment! The reason we travel with our children to far-flung places is exactly to get that point across. All around the world people are so similar at the core, yet we live in such varied cultures and circumstances.
The day we visited the Maasai village we were able to peek in on an adorable kindergarten class in their one room thatched hut schoolhouse. They sang us their ABC’s and stole our hearts. Our guide Adam had grown up Maasai and spoke about the unique nutritional challenges of the Maasai diet with increasingly erratic climate issues. We could see how dry the land was while we were there, draught had stretched longer than usual the past couple of years impacting the livestock and the lives of those who depend on them for life. This brings us back to the work that Heifer International is doing with pastoralist communities around the world including Tanzania. Since 2008 Heifer International’s program in Tanzania has worked to help dairy farmers develop sustainable practices to enhance milk production. Heifer is expanding the program to create more diverse markets for farmers and with the help of those farmers along with government agencies, and the school districts, Heifer’s School Milk Feeding Program has been created to provide milk for children who lack proper daily nutrition. We know that if children are hungry it is difficult for them to focus on school, so not only does the program improve learning and nutrition in children, but provides a reliable market for local dairy farmers.
Right around the time my family and I were visiting Tanzania in July of 2017 Heifer launched the Heifer School Milk Feeding Program to bring Heifer’s work with communities full circle. The roll out began by providing students in the Njombe region free fresh packets of pasteurized milk every school day. Each 200ml packet of milk contains at least a quarter of daily calcium requirements for children. Eventually the goal is to reach 9,000 students age 9 and under the Njombe, Iringa, Mbeya, and Songwe regions with fresh milk packets Monday through Friday during the school year.
Our family now has a way to stay connected to the children we met in Tanzania. Supporting the Heifer School Milk Program for just 40 cents a day ($75.00 for a whole year) provides fresh milk to one student for a year. In honor of School Milk Day on September 27th we plan to donate to the Heifer School Milk Feeding Program, not only to help provide proper nutrition to a child in need but to also positively impact communities by Increasing farmers’ incomes and help in reducing poverty.
To make an impact you can make a donation of any size! Just $75 can provide one student with fresh milk for a school year (that’s just 40 cents a day)!
This post was written in partnership with Heifer International, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.