Karyn (over at Pretty* in the City) got me thinking, with her wish for a goat...and after we received our Heifer Project catalog in the mail, I cannot resist the urge to plug one of my favorite charities here.
http://www.heifer.org/ is the website of Heifer International. It is one of the best ways to help poor people to help themselves. Here is how it works: you purchase an animal, or a share in an animal, or a bunch of animals (whatever your wallet will allow), such as a sheep, goat, cow, pig, bees, chicks, etc. That animal is given to a needy family, and they receive training in how to care for it; they also get to breed it. They keep their original animal, and they have the joy of giving away the new baby animal (and their knowledge of how to care for it) to another family in their community. Even though they are poor, they get to help someone else...what a great gift for both parties. The animals are chosen because they are suited to the family's environment and culture, and the milk, fleece, honey, eggs, etc., that the animal produces will add nutrition and/or income to that family. Children then have enough to eat, and can go to school. The community benefits when each family is blessed.
We have given gifts from Heifer as Christmas presents, in the past. We would let David and Katie decide which animal we would give; it was a joy to do this as a family. Our church has also done this as a group project. You can even buy an "Ark" (two of everything)! Sometimes, a generous donor is willing to match gifts.
Though cancer research (and the Katie Gerstenberger Endowment at Seattle Children's Hospital) is at the forefront of my mind these days (as well as Ronald McDonald House), Heifer International is a wonderful organization, and I wanted to tell you about it. They deserve lots of support.