By Susan C. Kahler
Heifer International has begun the important preparatory work involved in its initiative to rebuild livelihoods destroyed by the South Asia tsunami. Representatives from Heifer headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., visited AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., on March 1 to profile Heifer's tsunami recovery program, and to tell all AVMA headquarters staff how the donations pledged through the Heifer-AVMA partnership will restore self-reliance to many families.
In January, the AVMA pledged $500,000 in matching funds to Heifer. This aid organization supports the introduction of livestock into small-scale farm efforts in 50 countries and 23 U.S. states. The Association will match donations from AVMA members, industry partners, and the general public to reach the $1 million goal, to fund the long-term recovery of tsunami-ravaged communities.
At press time, $35,543.96 had been donated through the AVMA partnership, in addition to the $100,000 that the AVMA initially gave as start-up funds.
Dr. Terry Wollen, director of animal well-being and staff veterinarian with Heifer, underscored the organization's development focus. "If we focus too much on relief, we create a dependency," he said. Accompanying Dr. Wollen was Cynthia Hester, director of corporate relations, who manages the matching gifts program.
Heifer has committed $2 million for programs to provide training, livestock, and related help to tsunami victims on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and elsewhere in the region. Although Heifer has been in Sumatra since 1981, its existing projects are inland. "We'll use the AVMA partnership to begin work along the west coast of Sumatra and the island of Nias," Dr. Wollen said.
The tsunami destroyed 1,550 villages and 172 subdistricts in Aceh province and Nias, according to Dr. Wollen. Small farmers and fishermen there will receive help rebuilding their livelihoods. Besides providing livestock, the AVMA partnership will support training in holistic animal health and husbandry, which includes nutrition, disease prevention, and reproduction. The funds will also help strengthen community-based organizations that anchor the program, purchase fishing equipment, introduce agroecology practices to reestablish trees and mangroves, and provide gender education training to ensure that all men and women participate in the planning and rewards of managing animals. The program will be managed for three years and monitored for another two. The key cornerstone of "passing on the gift" creates a ripple effect and sustainability.
Dr. Wollen said that, especially given the AVMA's ongoing emphasis on animal welfare, Heifer looks forward to the partnership. "We've seen the Association identify and continue to address the needs of the membership. I'm really proud to be an AVMA member."
Tax-deductible donations can be made via a secure online form at https://secure2.heifer.org/heiferlink/AVMA/giving.cfm. Or, visit the AVMA Web site, www.avma.org, and click on "tsunami recovery" to get to that link or to print out the donation form, which can be faxed or mailed to Heifer International. To donate using a credit card, call (888) 548-6437. To engage the matching funds, donors must reference the AVMA on the memo portion of their check or when calling the toll-free number.