I’m back! I just spent an amazing week at Heifer International’s ranch outside of Perryville, Arkansas! If you haven’t heard of Heifer International, it’s an organization that donates livestock animals to poor families around the world. People like you and me select animals through there catalog or website to purchase as gifts in someone’s name. It’s esp. popular around the Holiday season. Heifer’s mission is to end poverty and hunger. That’s a pretty big goal, but throughout my week at Heifer Ranch I learned that it’s very possible.
Heifer used to be a Christian organization, but is no longer. Heifer chose to not be linked with a religion because it allows them to work in countries that many Christian organizations can’t. Although, faith and spirituality is still a key “corner-stone” of Heifer International. Also, the alternative break program I attended for mission trip is for church youth groups.
Speaking of youth groups, I was fortunate to spend my week at Heifer with an amazing group of kids. I went with Plymouth U.C.C.’s youth group that I have been a part of since last fall. We started our trip early last Sunday morning. We arrived at Heifer Ranch after an early dinner at Mustang Sally’s in Perryville. We had the first night to do whatever. On Monday morning we enjoyed breakfast and had an orientation. We spent our mornings and afternoons in either service, education or community challenge sessions.
The most memorable 24 hours had to be our time in the Global Village. Let me explain: The Global Village is made up of small model houses that are supposed to be like what the poor live in throughout the world. These “countries” were spread out in a forest on the ranch and connected by dirt trails. Some of the countries were Zambia, (in Africa) Guatemala, Tibet, (in China) Thailand, (had two houses) Appalachia, (not really a country: region in U.S.) There was also an urban slum and refugee camp that could be in any country. We were assigned countries and roles in a family by a lottery. I ended up in the urban slum with people from my youth group as well as some kids and a chaperone from Kentucky. It was some night.
We arrived in the urban slum sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. (No watches, cell phones, etc. so hard to know.) after a tour of all the countries in the Global Village. We were given a resource basket-Thank God! – with rice, a little silverware, plates and bowls. We spent most of the daylight hours trading for more food and attempting to light a fire. We decided to have a community dinner with many of the groups. This community dinner was a great idea and we ended up with plenty of food and were even able to provide the refugees (who had no resources) with dinner. We made eggs and rice and served it with a vegetable stir fry I made that ended up being not enough and ruined by the beets I improperly cooked. Oh well! We were lucky we had anything to eat at all. Since the urban slum had the biggest fire pit and many of the cooking resources we hosted the dinner and breakfast the next morning there.
The sun was already down by the time everyone got dinner and the dishes had to be washed in the dark. Next, we set up our sleeping bags in our small wood and metal scrap “house.” It was more of a shack. At least we had a roof and a wood (vs. dirt) floor. But, what we didn’t have was a door. Not having a door esp. freaked me out when we could hear coyotes yipping nearby. Also, I’ve never missed air conditioning more. It was hot and buggy most of the night. I eventually fell asleep but was woken soon after. I was incredibly itchy and found out I had fire ants everywhere. Everyone in our house had fire ants head to toe. Disgusting! I am still a bit itchy, a week later. Fire ants seemed like a minor problem compared to the wasps in many of the other houses in the Global Village.
I have never been so grateful to see the sun come up! (Even though the ranch’s rooster teased us by cocka- doodle- doing every hour starting in the middle of the night.) I definitely didn’t enjoy my night in the global village, but it was a life-changing experience. One I am more than glad I took part in. I know that that night seemed like a huge deal to me, but compared to what many more people than we want to think have to go through this every night, it was nothing. In all honesty, I have never felt like more of a spoiled brat than I did after that experience. I’m sure most of the other kids and chaperones who’ve experienced the Global Village can relate.
The camp ended with a Heifer county fair that was a lot of fun! We bobbed for apples, did a water balloon toss, bean-spitting contest, face painting, and a redneck relay. We also had the opportunity to vote for our favorite counselor/host to kiss an animal’s butt. We voted with our dollars and ended up raising around 700 bucks for Heifer!
To close out this post, I’d like to thank the people that made this experience worthwhile: Heifer Ranch’s passionate staff and volunteers, Barb Godwin, Jennifer Gelner, David James, Katherine Crowley, Caitlin Edwards, Justine Gelner, Jake and Jeff Goetz, Alyssa and Carly Hewitt, Whitney Overlin, Anne Parrish and Jessica Taylor! Thanks guys!!!
P.S. Pics to come!