AVMA, Heifer partnership has sustainable prospects

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By Susan C. Kahler

"You've opened some doors for Heifer, and hopefully Heifer has opened some doors for AVMA," Dr. Terry S. Wollen, director of animal well-being for Heifer International, told AVMA staff during an Aug. 29 visit to headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill. 

Dr. Wollen and two other Heifer program and marketing staff made the trip from their headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., to personally thank the Association, the AVMA membership, and the extended veterinary community for raising a million dollars to help their organization expand the cycle of sustainability to additional victims of the Asian tsunami.

According to Dr. Wollen, the AVMA partnership enabled Heifer to spread its work into new areas of Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Donations from AVMA members, their friends, families, and clients as well as the public totaled $625,205, of which $500,000 was matched by the AVMA. An additional million dollars for the tsunami work was generated by a separate Heifer donor appeal.

As provided by the AVMA's arrangement with Heifer, the surplus $125,205 over the first $500,000 of donations in the AVMA campaign was channeled into Heifer's Disaster Rehabilitation Fund. After Hurricane Katrina struck, Heifer had some inspiring news about how those funds would be used (see page 1225).

Dr. Mahendra Lohani, Heifer's Asia South Pacific program director, said that $300,000 in tsunami aid will go toward helping Sri Lanka, the first Heifer project there in recent times. $998,688 will be directed to Sumatra and Indonesia, $350,000 to Thailand, and $336,605 to India. (See JAVMA, Sept. 1, 2005 for more details.)

"When I was in veterinary school in India and heard about AVMA," Dr. Lohani said, "it used to be a dream of mine that I might come (in touch) with this organization, and this partnership has made that possible."

Cynthia Hester, director of corporate partnerships at Heifer, said there were 3,000 donors in the AVMA campaign. "Of all the professions, veterinarians contribute to Heifer more than any other profession," she said.

Dr. Wollen noted that the agricultural families in the tsunami-devastated countries have a special relationship with their livestock. Heifer will explore that relationship with Dr. H. Marie Suthers-McCabe, who will begin measuring and characterizing the relationship.

Dr. Suthers-McCabe is an associate professor of human-companion interaction at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and directs the Center for Animal Relationships. During the 2005 AVMA Annual Convention, she received the Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award, sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition.

Following completion of that project, Heifer intends to initiate a series of workshops around the country, leveraging its relationship with the AVMA, to enhance animal health and husbandry around the world.