Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Giving

by Tracy Kiely

There are some who would suggest that Elizabeth Parker is herself a (fashion) charity case due to her penchant for corduroy and cable knit sweaters. (However, to be fair, this charge was leveled at her by her best friend Bridget who herself dresses like a cross between Joan Collins and Liberace, so perhaps one should consider the source.)

Anyway, Elizabeth has a soft spot for all charities. She gives a lot during the year but even more so during the holiday season. Ever since she saw that Salvation Army commercial last year (the one with the worker ringing the bell at flood scenes and homeless camps) she routinely drops whatever money she can find in her purse into the red bucket. Granted, it’s never a huge sum as Elizabeth rarely has cash on her, but she makes an effort. However, her big holiday charities are The Smile Train and Heifer International.

The Smile Train helps millions of children in developing countries who have unrepaired cleft lips and palates and little to no prospect of ever receiving corrective surgery. Most of these children cannot eat or speak properly and aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. Their lives are filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache. The Smile Train provides the corrective surgery and in doing so radically changes the lives of these children.

With gifts of livestock and training, Heifer International helps poverty stricken families in developing countries improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. Heifer refers to the animals as "living loans" because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal's offspring to another family in need. This is a cornerstone of the mission that creates an ever-expanding network of hope and peace. There are several ways to donate; you can purchase a few chickens or a whole cow. But your gifts help change lives.

Take a moment to check out these charities and see if it’s something that you want to contribute to. You just might change a life today. Happy Holidays.


Kelli Stanley said...

Wonderful post, Tracy--and such great causes!

But now I can't get the image of Joan Collins crossed with Liberace out of my mind ... ;)


Anonymous said...

Heifer International (HI) is an organization that claims to work against world hunger by donating animals to families in developing countries. Its catalog deceptively portrays beautiful children holding cute animals in seemingly humane circumstances. The marketing brochure for HI does not show the animals being transported, their living and slaughter conditions, or the erosion, pollution and water use caused by the introduction of these animals and their offspring.

By definition, animals raised for food are exploited in a variety of ways. The animals shipped to developing countries are often subject to; water and food shortages, cruel procedures without painkillers, lack of veterinary care resulting in extended suffering as a result of illness or injury.

A large percentage of the families receiving animals from HI are struggling to provide for themselves and cannot ensure adequate living conditions, nutrition, and medical care for animals they have been given. HI provides some initial veterinary training to individuals and the initial vaccines. But, long term care for these animals and their offspring is up to the individuals.

To make matters worse, animal agriculture causes much more harm to the environment than plant-based agriculture. The fragile land in many of the regions HI is sending the animals cannot support animal agriculture. Although they say they encourage cut and carry feeding of the animals to avoid erosion, the reality is often quite different.

The consumption of animal products has been shown in reputable studies to contribute significantly to life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a variety of cancers. Regions that have adopted a diet with more animal products see an increase in these diseases. The remote communities supposedly served by HI have no way of dealing with the health consequences of joining the high-cholesterol world.

While it may seem humane and sustainable to provide just one or two dairy cows here or there, the long term consequences are an increased desire for animal products in local cultures leading to an increase in production. These communities may be able to absorb the additional water use of one or two cows, what happens when there are hundreds or thousands of dairy cows, each consuming 27 to 50 gallons of fresh water and producing tons of excrement? The heavy cost to animals, the environment and local economies is not figured into HI's business practices.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great causes, Tracy! Thanks for calling attention to them, just as a Joan Collins/Liberace cross calls attention to, well, anything.

Shane Gericke said...

Ms. Parker must be thin ... only thin people can get away with cords and cable knit. I try that and I look like a sewing project gone terribly awry.

The Smile Train sounds like a very cool project. Do they only help kids overseas, or do they do domestic kids, too? I know nothing about this outfit and would like to know more.

Shane Gericke said...

"The consumption of animal products has been shown in reputable studies to contribute significantly to life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a variety of cancers."

Way to make the season bright, Anonymous. Merry Christmas!