The CEO of a major US global charity that counts Bill Clinton, Ellen de Generes and Meryl Streep among its supporters has said that the generosity of the Irish people through the recession is striking to all working in the developing world.
Speaking at Shannon Airport this morning ahead of an airlift of 70 in-calf dairy heifers, including 30 raised by inmates at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House prisons, that will transform the lives of an impoverished Romanian community, CEO of Heifer International CEO Pierre Ferrari said that Irish people are an example to the rest of the world when it comes to helping the poor.
Heifer International, which has itself lifted 20.7m families out of abject poverty since it was founded 70 years ago and will aid 2m families this year, was the first aid organisation in the world to use livestock as a means of taking people out of poverty. Among its leading international partner agencies is Irish NGO Bóthar, which is responsible for the today’s airlift from Shannon Airport after having the 70 heifers donated to it by Irish farmers.
Mr Ferrari, who joined Bóthar Executive Director Deirdre M Ryan on the precious cargo flight to Romania this morning, said that he has been struck by the extraordinary sense of giving of the Irish people.
“In the middle of what I hope will be the worst times that this generation of Irish people today will know, you have remained one of the top nations in the world in terms of giving. Last year’s World Giving index placed Ireland first in Europe and fifth in the world.
“Bóthar has been a great conduit for that giving over the years and has done remarkable work in 35 countries across the developing world. We have been proud to partner with them on projects over the past 23 years, since their very first airlift, which was to Uganda. Not alone does partnering with Bóthar mean additional food producing animals for impoverished people but the quality of the Irish Friesian Holstein heifers is incredible. Their yield is so high and the quality of milk so fantastic that it’s a gift beyond the recipient family’s dreams.
“These heifers will take them from a sense of hopelessness to real hope as it is not just a once-off donation. We call it ‘passing on the gift’ as the heifer itself will give quality milk but the first born female calf is passed on to another family and Bóthar will return each year to put the heifers back in calf.”
The heifers were gathered at Roscrea Mart yesterday after being brought there by the donor families. They were transferred to Shannon Airport overnight where they were carefully loaded onto the aircraft and dispatched to Romania early this morning.
Based on calving trends, the Bóthar herd airlifted today, which will be distributed to families in the Timisoara region, could grow to as many as 1,000 animals within ten years, transforming an otherwise poverty stricken community.
Said Ms. Ryan, “This is a day that will change the lives of these Romanian families. It will lift these people from poverty and the best way I can describe it is that it would be the equivalent to us being handed over the keys to a successful business.
“Having Pierre here with us is a real honour. He’s CEO of one of the best known charities in the US and his presence here really validates what we have been doing. His words of encouragement regarding the Irish sense of giving are also very welcome.
“It’s been a really challenging few years and we would not have been able to keep our projects going were it not for the enormous generosity of the farming community and the general public here who donate the in-calf heifers and funds to buy other food producing animals.”
Bóthar, which is also currently finalising the build of a creamery for community in Rwanda, has been working with families in Romania for 12 years, including fish farms and sheep and cow herds. In recent years it airlifted in-calf dairy heifers to an orphanage in Romania where they provide for the dairy needs of 200 children, from infants to late teens.
Speaking from Roscrea yesterday after dropping off their in-calf heifer, Annette Phelan from Galmoy, Co. Kilkenny said, “This appeals to us because we know in our heart and soul that the full animal goes to its destination as none of what we donate goes to administration fees. We know also that the heifer will do amazing good for the family. It is immeasurable what this cow can do in the long term for families in those countries.”
Fellow donor Shane Blackwell, from Cappamore, Co. Limerick said: “Donating a heifer to Bóthar doesn’t really affect us financially a huge amount but it gives tremendous benefit to someone else. There’s a great tradition in the farming community in Ireland of helping out your neighbour but in this instance, the neighbour we are helping is just that bit further away.”