Middle School students from CT Experiential Learning Center (CELC) spent three days and two nights at Heifer International’s Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts participating in the Global Gateway Program.CT Experiential Learning Center Middle School at Heifer InternationalCELC students participated in activities that asked a lot of questions and challenged them to think about real-world issues, such as quality of life versus standard of living, poverty, malnutrition, and population versus consumption of resources. Students experienced first-hand how and why Heifer works to achieve its mission: to work with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the earth.

Heifer accomplishes its mission through the giving of livestock and other resources to communities who must agree to implement Heifer’s 12 cornerstones, which include passing the gift of the offspring, sustainability, self-reliance, nutrition, income, gender and family. These cornerstones facilitate communities working together, making these projects sustainable over time. Living by these “cornerstones” as principles promotes equity and peace while providing nutrition, income, and ending the cycle of poverty as the communities gain the means to provide for themselves.

The students got to step into someone else’s shoes as they spent an overnight in one of the countries within the Global Village – a site featuring international homes and gardens similar to what would be found in the countries where Heifer does its work. Students were split into two groups. One group stayed in Tibet and the other in Kenya. There they were given family roles, went to the global market to purchase authentic foods, and had to work to cook and prepare their meal in the way it might be done in that part of the world – over an open fire with limited resources.

Students experienced some of the challenges our world neighbors face everyday. “Global Gateway creates an existence in which nothing – shelter, food, water or cooking fuel – can be taken for granted.” (Heifer) This experience certainly offered a new perspective to think about things we may not even realize are taken for granted: refrigeration, electricity, the amount of choices when we consider having a meal, et cetera.

Heifer is now in its 70th year and works in thirty-one countries throughout the world, including parts of the U.S.A. This work is inspiring and empowering. Lives are being changed, and people not only are able to bring about change in their own lives, but also in the lives of others, as Heifer enables those who receive to then pass along the gift. It is on going; it takes everyone; we all are truly a global community.

There are many ways to support Heifer and be part of the change. Consider gifting an animal to someone in need this holiday season. To find out more, contact www.heifer.org.

Here are some of CELC students’ impressions of their Global Gateway experience:

“Last night we slept in the Global Village. Nolan, Ronnie, Melinda, and I were in Tibet. Ronnie was assigned head of household and the only one who could read in our ‘family’. Nolan was ‘injured’ and had to keep his arm in a sling. Liam was ‘pregnant’, which meant he had to carry the baby (water balloon) with him. If it popped, we’d have to mourn for an hour. Mourning means we had to stop whatever we were doing. This could have been bad because for breakfast and dinner, we had to build a fire and make our own food. If we had to mourn, we might not have been able to make dinner before dark.”  – Sue

“Hunger is a big thing. Learning about this may have been uncomfortable but also very enlightening. Heifer taught me not to put aside hunger in my mind anymore. It is not only the amount of food that we eat, but also the work that is needed to produce and cook it. Too many people eat to satisfy cravings, but people all over the world eat to relieve pain from real hunger, and sometimes they can’t even do this.” – Jakob

“What I have taken away from my time at Heifer was that while we all know that there are hungry people in this world, we ignore this and we have to take more notice. We need to help more people in need. We need to make this world a better place.”   – Sophie

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