Several Owls, Falcons, and Wings participated in the Heifer Global Village at the Howell Nature Center in Michigan this month. The two-day event brought us face to face to the humbling realities of living conditions in developing countries. On the first day, we explored continental regions by numbers. North America has 5 percent of the population and consumes 32 percent of the world’s resources. Latin America has 9 percent of the population and consumes 8 percent of the resources. Europe has 11 percent of the population and consumes 31 percent of the resources. Asia has 61 percent of the population and consumes 25 perces of the resources. The disparity of people and resources could be seen mathematically, but it wasn’t until we saw some the living conditions that these realities became realized.
After lunch, we explored accurate replicas of the urban slums of India, a simple mountain home in Peru, a village hut of northern Thailand, and small mountain cabin of Appalachia.
We were split into three family groups and assigned to live in one of the replica houses. Our objective was to make a fire and cook a meal together. Another challenge was taking care of a “baby,” which was represented by a water balloon. Each family needed milk for their baby and could not set the baby down. One family in the urban slums found they had only two cups of rice for eleven people. Another group in Appalachia found they had more food resources and fuel for their fire but not many people for labor (making a fire, cooking, and taking care of the baby).
We learned to trade, bargain, plan, and problem solve with other villages. Trading had to be done in the native language, too. By the end, we all had a meal, although the rain that came meant a gas stove had to be used and the Appalachia house gladly traded “stove time”.
The next day, we reflected on our experience. The students wrote “Letters to Self” to put their experiences into words:
Falcon Desirae said, “I learned that not everyone has the wealth we do. Lots of people don’t have shelter, food, water, or clothing. People suffer all over the world. I want to help in anyway I can.”
Wing Alyna said, “I’ll remember how hard it was to work together as a family for a common goal. I’ll remember the struggle of having to build a fire before a meal could be cooked.”
Owl Zachary said, “From this experience, I have learned about the lives of the poor in rural places. I am now more inclined to help those in need and I have gained valuable knowledge. I learned to be grateful for what we have.”
Owl Arden said, “When we traded in our villages, I learned it is always good to help.”
Students are creating groups to spread awareness to help support those in need through Heifer International, a non-profit that uses an ethic value-based system to establish economic and social mobility around the world. For more information, go to www.heifer.org.