Category Archives: Heifer International

The Coming Storm

So. Tomorrow we launch our yearly fundraiser. It’s our 10th anniversary. A big milestone.

Worldbuilders is my pride and joy. It has changed my life, and I’m as proud of it as I am of my own sweet children, and I love it as much as I love my children. It is a force for good in this weary world, and I’m so proud of the fact that over the years beautiful geeks of all nations have come together, raised nearly 8.5 million dollars, and made the world a better place.

We’re going a lot of new things to mark our 10-year anniversary. We’re pulling the trigger on a plan I’ve been slowly assembling for years. (It has to do with D&D) I’ve been mulling it over for ages, and I’ve finally figured out how to make it work…

On top of that, I think this is the year I’m going to pull an arrow out of my quiver that I’ve been keeping in reserve for a *long* time.

But the biggest news of all is that we’re changing the format of the fundraiser itself. Worldbuilders isn’t going to be a four weeks long (plus a little) this year. This year we’re doing the whole fundraiser in two weeks. Less than half the time we normally use to let it all play out.

It’s big stuff. And we’re making all these changes for good reasons. And they’re good choices. I have high hopes for this year. I think it’s going to be our best year ever.

So now, tonight, I should be writing a blog where I rile y’all up. I should do some cheerleading. Get you excited about what’s coming….

And that’s the blog I sat down to write tonight. But I’m not feeling it.

So instead, tonight, at 2:17 am, I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m not excited. I’m stressed.

No. That isn’t even the real truth.

The truth is, I’m scared.

It should come as no surprise to any of you who have read this blog over the years that I hate and fear change. There’s a reason I still live here in Stevens Point. There’s a reason I still wear the same coat I bought in college. There’s a reason I still use my beloved, 30-year-old Model M keyboard.

(This keyboard has seen some shit, y’all.)

We’re changing the fundraiser this year. And I know it’s for the best. But… I don’t like changing things that work. And the truth is, Worldbuilders has worked amazingly well for almost a decade now… We’ve raised over 8 million dollars to help people all over the world. We’ve helped tens of thousands of families. We have saved lives. We have given families hope and peace. There are children out there who are fat and happy because of us.

And still, tonight, the evening before the fundraiser, I’m scared.

I’m scared people won’t like the changes we’ve made. I’m scared people will be confused. I’m scared we won’t be able to get the word out to new people. I’m scared donors from previous years won’t come back….

I’m worried people won’t realize the fundraiser is *so* much shorter this year until it’s too late. I’m worried that they’ll show up on December 13th, when we’re normally still going strong, and realize they’ve missed out on everything.

I’m worried I haven’t done enough to prepare, and this year will be a failure, and it will be my fault.

Aaand that’s it. I don’t have a sudden reversal to end with. No big closer. No ray of light.

I was kinda hoping if I started this blog I could write my way out of this feeling, but it’s still here. I’m worried that it’s all going to be a trainwreck, and thousands of kids will go to bed hungry because I screwed up.

I just literally sat here for five minutes (It’s 3:05 now) wondering what I can possibly say to pull this blog up into something inspirational.

And I got nothing.

But what else can I do but put my head down and bull forward? My little boy has been filling up jars with change so that he can have enough money to buy a cow for Worldbuilders this year. So we’re going to do that. (I feel a little better thinking about that.)

(He’s so much older than this now, but I love this picture.)

Also, y’know what? Here’s a picture of him with a fake mustache because it’s my blog and I an post pictures like this if I want.

Also, here’s my littler baby dressed up as a bug.

(Cutie AF)

Oh. Wow. When I was scrolling through the files in my media library, guess what I just found.

This:

Hell. Every once in a while I can really put some words together, can’t I?

I guess I’ve got to take my own advice, don’t I? I’m not as good at this as I’d like to be. I’m not as organized or as clever or connected as I wish I were. I’m scared all of this is going to fall apart around me and that the fundraiser will fail.

But what can I do? I guess I’m going to Bilbo it up.

So when I wake up tomorrow (Monday) I’m going to e-mail people and call in favors and do interviews and pull strings and contrive every of trick I can think of to get eyes on the fundraiser this year. Because we’re giving away some *cool* stuff, and I want the geeks of the world to come donate money, make the world a better place, and win some cool shit while they’re at it.

I hope you’re ready, everyone.

I hope I’m ready too.

Either way, I’ll see you soon.

pat

Also posted in boding, hubris, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about, trepidation, Worldbuilders | By Pat99 Responses

Giving Tuesday: For the Love of Cows

As I type this, Worldbuilders has raised more than $279,000 dollars.

It’s also Giving Tuesday. And I’m going to be honest with you. Part of me really wants to be snarky about that. This year someone used the term “Thanksgiving Eve” around me, and I went on a tirade because no. No there is no such thing as that. We started with Thanksgiving. Then we got Black Friday and that was fine. Then there was small business Saturday and that was kinda okay. Because yay, small businesses…

But then there was Cyber Monday too, and you know what? Not everything has to have a day. Sometimes it’s just Wednesday. So no, thank you very much, it’s not Thanksgiving Eve.

So I’m going to be honest with you. I feel a little bit the same about Giving Tuesday. That cussed, contrary part of me *really* wants to have a problem with it. It feels kinda… artificial.

Boy, this isn’t the best way to start off a charity blog, is it? I’m doing this all wrong.

Here’s the thing. No matter how I happen to feel right now, today is still Giving Tuesday. It’s a day when a lot of people feel moved to donate to charity. And even at my most curmudgeonly, I think that’s pretty great.

And *because* it’s Giving Tuesday, I’m supposed to write a blog that will inspire y’all. To be generous. To dig deep. To think of others. To pick Worldbuilders as your charity of choice, donate, (and maybe win some fabulous prizes while you’re at it.)

I’ve written those blogs in the past. Typically about halfway through the fundraiser I get caught up in the excitement, write something passionate, and y’all warm my bitter heart & stomp out to donate. This has happened ever year so far, and it reinforces my belief that humanity is good. And that geeks in particular are lovely, empathetic, large-hearted individuals.

But this year… I don’t really have a great idea for a blog. I… honestly? I just feel so tired. Every day the news beats me down a little more. Every day it seems like the world is a little more on fire. Every day it seems like we’re just a little closer to the brink.

And we just had my dad’s funeral this weekend. I’m not bouncing back from that as quickly as I thought I would.

But the fact remains that it’s Giving Tuesday. And I’m the only one who can write this blog. So I’m writing a blog. And, apparently, I’m determined to make a mess of it. This really isn’t how it’s supposed to go….

*     *     *

I just got up from the computer and had a walk, pretty convinced that when I sat down again, I’d have to erase what I’d written and start over.

But instead, I found this on my dining room table.

(Click to embiggen)

This is a box my son brought over to my house a couple weeks ago at the beginning of our fundraiser. It’s full of change he’s been collecting all year. He *really* wants to get enough to buy a cow for a family through for Heifer International.

If you want to know why, here’s the video from a couple years ago:

My boy knows a cow costs $500, and he’s been working at it tirelessly. He scrounges the house for change, going through our pants pockets and couch cushions. He has emptied both his own piggy bank and his brother’s. He opened a store after Halloween, selling his candy haul piece by piece to anyone who came over to the house….

Sometimes he just straight-up shakes people down for money, explaining how helpful a cow can be to a family that doesn’t have much food or money. In fact, just this weekend at my dad’s visitation, I found out he was offering funeral home mints to people for a quarter. I explained, gently, that this might not be the best place for that. But not before he brought me a check a kind soul had written out to Worldbuilders.

Somehow I don’t think my dad would mind. Especially not given what I found in the box just now.

I think this must have come from a letter they exchanged over the last year. My dad wasn’t an easy man to persuade, but he had a soft spot for my little boy….

I don’t know if I have a real point to sharing this with you except to say that finding this box made me feel… happy. I feel proud of my boy. And right now, when my own enthusiasm is at a little bit of a low ebb, it’s nice to be able to borrow a little bit of excitement.

If you want to be excited about what a cow can do for a family, you should watch this video. It’s not even two minutes long.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to show my boy that video. We’ll count his change and we’ll talk about cows.

In fact, I’m going to invite him to come livestream with me tomorrow, too. (For the next two weeks, I’m streaming to raise awareness of our fundraiser 4-7 CST every day.) Tomorrow, he and I will do it as a team. We’ll play some video games and talk about cows.

You can come on over to my stream and meet him, if you like. Maybe a little of his enthusiasm will rub off on you too.

That seems like a nice way to spend Giving Tuesday.

[edit: Amanda here! We’ve made a team page to support Oot and his change jar, so if you want to help him raise enough for a cow, you can donate here.]

*     *     *

Just to be clear, Heifer International doesn’t just deal in cows. It works with people around the world to improve their lives in the long term. They don’t give people a loaf of bread or a sack of rice. They provide animals and materials sometimes. But more importantly they provide education. They provide the training and tools to become better, more efficient farmers and business people.

Take Félix Octavio Rosales for example. He’d been farming for many years before he received Heifer training as a part of the Healthy and Sovereign Land project.

Félix and his wife, Mrs. Gómez, had been using chemical fertilizers and pesticides without understanding what they were doing and the harm they were causing to not just their farm, but their health.

They attended multiple workshops and training sessions with the Healthy and Sovereign Land project and were educated in how to make their own fertilizers and pesticides naturally. Instead of spending money on agricultural chemicals, they made their own out of the rabbit and guinea pig manure they already had at hand. Their soil has become nutrient rich, and the produce yield has increased significantly.

Mrs. Gómez has been able to sell the additional produce at the weekly market fair, empowering her to contribute income to her family.

“Another change is in my health,” Félix said. “I see this reflected in the way I feel when I work and when I have to walk long distances; I feel better. I see these changes because the food we eat is natural, without chemicals.”

And all of this was through education alone, provided by Heifer International.

The projects that involve gifts like chickens require training too, like Ndiolle Faye went through.

For many years, Faye’s family lived in poverty, struggling to get two meals a day during the off-season on their farm, and eating mostly millet the rest of the year. Faye was unable to go to school as a child, and though she tried to make it a priority to send her children to school, there was never enough money.

Then Faye joined the Wax Bakh Self-Help Group as a part of a Heifer project.

“Assistance started with a series of trainings, building a hen house and the placement of four hens and an improved breed rooster,” she said. “There was great joy in my family and in the  community. I saw this as an opportunity to move ahead in life.”

She received the gift of a flock of chickens, which quickly grew from 5 birds to 155. Her family’s income greatly increased, and she was able to run a business as she’d always hoped to do.

Less than two years later, she had sold more than 100 chickens. She used that money to buy 2 young rams for the purpose of fattening them up and re-selling them, providing more income and further diversifying her farm. Now she buys and sells rams three times a year, and invests the money into her poultry farm as well as saving more for her family.

She no longer worries about paying for her children’s education. If she doesn’t have the money, she can simply sell some of her chickens at the beginning of the semester to pay for school fees, new clothes, and supplies.

By integrating livestock and agriculture, she increased her income while improving her family’s food security and nutrition. Growing the flock increased the quantity of manure available, which she used to replenish the soil. As a result, her farm yield has increased by 20 percent. She keeps a portion of the harvested produce to add nutritional diversity to their meals.

Now, two years after receiving her flock of chickens, her family eats three nutritious and diverse meals daily, all year long.

Faye has also participated in the Heifer Cornerstone of Passing on the Gift, where she shares her training and a starter flock of birds to families who are in need.

And get this: As of today, she has Passed on the Gift to 11 different families.

“I am a happy woman. I meet my needs, and support my family. I own a poultry farm and we eat well. I can sell poultry anytime we face any challenge. We eat eggs and chicken as we want. And I have basic livestock husbandry skills – all thanks to the Smallholder Income and Nutrition Project.”

***

Okay. Now I’m into it again. I’m excited. Are you feeling it? Because I’m feeling it….

This is what we’re doing with our fundraiser, folks. This is what Heifer International does, and everything you donate to the fundraiser goes to help programs like this.

The gift of Bountiful Harvest training costs $72.

The gift of a flock of chickens, and the training necessary to raise them, is only $20.

Clean water for a whole village costs $300.

A cow, of course, costs $500 dollars. As my son will no doubt explain to you tomorrow on our livestream.

If the world is getting you down, try joining us here at Worldbuilders. You can give a family the chance to be self-reliant. You can help parents feed their children. You can literally change someone’s life forever. Seriously.

Here’s that donate link one more time.

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Oot, Worldbuilders 2017 | By Pat9 Responses

Making Change

Heya folks,

We’re four days into this year’s Geeks Doing Good fundraiser. I hope you’ve been enjoying it as much as I have. I’ll admit that I spend a lot of this week refreshing the fundraiser page to see how much we’ve raised.

(Hint – right now we’re at just over $90,000 dollars. Which is pretty good for four days….)

Today I’m going to talk about one of the items we’re trying out for the first time this year: Change Jars.

I’ve talked on the blog before about my own change jar. For the lion’s share of my life, you could tell a lot about my financial well being by the state of my change jar. If it had quarters in it, you know that I was doing pretty well for myself. But more often, those were picked out for laundry, or even to pay for food. During the leaner times there weren’t many dimes in there either….

So these days, when I look at my change jar seeing all those quarters is a constant reminder of how well I’m doing.

A couple years ago, I practiced counting with Oot, my young son, and then recorded a video with him where he really suprised me.

Here it is for those of you who haven’t seen it:

I’m sorry about the vertical nature of the video. I was hoping to catch a teachable moment on video with my son, explaining to him that we could use our change to help people. But he beat me to the punch with almost every point I wanted to make. (You can see the unedited version of the video here if you’re possessed with the strong desire to see me break down crying.)

Anyway, ever since then, the change jar in our house has been referred to as a Cow Jar. Whenever Oot would find a coin, that’s where he would put it. If someone gave him some money, he would typically put it there. The enterprising little guy even set up a store in our house, selling the candy he got for Halloween so he could get more money for the Cow Jar.

After two and a half years, Oot was sure we had enough for a cow. So we took my change jar, Sarah’s change jar, the change jar in my office…. pretty much all the change jars in the house, combined them, and we ended up with this video….

We didn’t end up with quite enough for a cow. And while Oot was a little disappointed, he has redoubled his efforts to save enough money for a cow by Christmas time.

I was thinking about this when we were developing our product ideas for this year. Every couple days when I put my change into a bowl by the door, I smile and think about buying a cow. What’s more, I think about how much fun it will be to count out the change with my little boys. It’s a good way to sneak a little math into a project, while getting them to think about giving to people less fortunate than themselves.

I thought it might be fun to share this family tradition with you.

Back in December, we worked with some local Wisconsinites to make Eolian Mugs. Those worked out so well that they’re making stone Eolian coasters for this year’s fundraiser…

So I asked them if they could come up some change jars, for those of you who… I don’t know, really. Maybe for those of you who have kids and would like to show them that thinking about helping others can be part of your everyday life. Or maybe you’re a fan of Worldbuilders, and putting saving up for a goat will make you happy. Maybe you’re more high-class than I am, and you want something more attractive for your loose change than the cereal bowl I’m currently using.

Or maybe you’d just like to join Oot in his quest to gather change and make the world a better place. I think we might have a “Oot’s Change Jar” team this year during our holiday fundraiser, where everyone who has been saving their pocket change can join forces and be awesome together.

And here’s some jars you can use if you want to do it with some style….

We’ve got three different sizes. My people did some unlikely maths to figure out how big each jar had to be in order to fit approximately the right amount of change for each of these. But in the end, we have:

A smaller jar that fits around $20. Enough for a flock of chicks. That means eggs for eating and selling every day. To say nothing of the fact that chickens themselves improve crop yields, as they eat bugs that cause problems in gardens and small farms.

There’s a medium sized jar that should hold $60 for some tree seedlings. Trees can provide fruit and nuts that a family can eat or sell to gain financial security. Trees also provide shade, and greatly improve sustainable agriculture by preventing soil erosion.

There’s also a large jar that hold enough for a goat: $120.

I’m not shy about the fact that I love goats as a Heifer gift. A goat can easily produce more than a gallon of milk a day, enough to supply a family with some left over to sell. They’re known for having twins when they give birth, so the families are that much better at Passing on the Gift of a baby goat to other families in need.

If you already have a beloved change jar, (or if you’re just not that into pottery) you can still join Oot on his quest to turn pocket change into cows…

We’ve designed a sticker to affix to your existing jars at home for those of you who would prefer more of a low-impact way. It’s just a couple bucks over at the fundraiser….

Here’s another link to the fundraiser if you’d like to pick up a change jar, or look at some of the other things we have available there. Like signed books, cheap games, and new types of tak pieces we weren’t able to produce for the Kickstarter. (Stone and metal pieces, specifically.)

And you can also pre-order a signed copy of the 10th anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind, too. If you’re into that sort of thing.

There’s also t-shirts and… well… kind of a lot of stuff. Too much to describe here.

I just peeked over there and saw that the total is over $93,000 now. I’m hoping we can make it to $250,000 like we did last year.

But remember, there’s only a few days left to get on board…

Later space cowboys,

pat

Also posted in Geeks Doing Good, Oot, Worldbuilders | By Pat22 Responses

Guest Blog: Heifer International

Today’s blog comes from Heifer International by way of Vicki Clarke.  Vicki has been our contact person at Heifer since the very beginning.

Vicki Clarke Nepal

 Vicki in Nepal

After years of e-mailing back and forth, making phone calls, and staying in touch about various projects, Vicki and Maria have become pretty much best friends. It’s gotten to the point where Maria has pictures of Vicki’s kids up on her desk. (Children kids, not, y’know…. Goat kids.)

We hung out with Vicki at the Heifer Ranch. She drove up to volunteer when we had all of packaging to do for our IndieGoGo. At this point, she’s as much part of the Worldbuilders team as she is a part of Heifer.

So when Vicki volunteered to write a guest blog for us, we were happy to let her.

Without further ado: Vicki Clarke.

* * *

You can imagine we had a tiny dose of skepticism when a guy from Wisconsin contacted us claiming to be an author, and said he was interested in Heifer.  Full bearded and clad in a Joss Whedon t-shirt, he said he’d had some luck publishing his first book.

Yeah, right. 

It sounded crazy.

Word spread around our offices about this newly-minted fantasy author who said he’d match his fans’ donations to Heifer. So we watched his blog as the numbers grew and grew.

Then kept growing.

It was probably as much fun for us to watch the donations pour in as it was thrilling (and terrifying) for him to realize his fans might drain his bank account, all for a good cause.

In the ensuing years, we’ve regarded Pat and Worldbuilders with amazement and gratitude. Every year when the Worldbuilders’ fundraiser is launched, we can’t believe we are lucky enough to count this community among our supporters. And, every year at the conclusion of the fundraiser, the money given blows us away.

It is a yearly reminder that we can all be part of changing the world. That Worldbuilders chooses each year to invest in us is humbling and drives us to continue working alongside communities to help them build rewarding futures.

Heifer International - Nepal, January 2013.  Rapti Women Empowerment Project  (Project# 22-0531-21-2).  Taleyanpur Village, Banke District, Nepal.  Heifer is working with families to raise their consumption of green vegetables, milk and meat.  The partici

In those six short years, Heifer has directly and indirectly assisted more than 10 million people. The Worldbuilders community has catalyzed a movement that has undoubtedly helped us achieve those numbers. We are able to do more work and faster.

In thousands of donations, from thousands of friends, readers, fans, artists, students, teachers, engineers, gamers, fellow geeks, and more, we have worked together to do something really remarkable: provide the seeds of change to those who struggle daily for food and income.

Your donations through the Worldbuilders fundraiser over the last six years purchased income-producing animals, seeds and trees for families – from alpacas and seeds in Peru to cows and goats in Tanzania and Kenya, and poultry and pigs in China.  You helped us invest in education and intensive training in animal husbandry, environmentally sound, sustainable farming, and business development in Kenya, and community development and empowerment for thousands of women and their families in Nepal.

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United by one man, and one cause, we come together to do something great and do a little something to put an end to poverty.  Well, not so little, as it turns out.

  • In Ghana, we helped families turn the gifts of poultry and bees into productive farms and 75% of farmers were able to double their monthly incomes as a result.
  • In Nepal, we invested in the determination of women farmers which resulted in a ten-fold increase in household income from goat sales and a three-fold increase in total earnings from egg and poultry sales over an 18 month period.

That’s income that families use for better nutrition, school fees and uniforms, better housing, clean water, medicine, toilets, and more.

You see, all of us at Heifer want more for the small-scale farming families we work with than simply being able to feed their families for a day or for one growing season.  More than just surviving, providing life’s most basic necessities. We want them to live fulfilled, dignified lives—whatever that means for them, in their own context.

Through the fundraiser every year, you are a part of this work to end hunger and poverty: you provide the basic tools for a successful life and those gifts are transformed into hope, opportunity and dignity.

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I realize here that I sound optimistic.  I’m a realist, honest.

But just as much as I believe in each of us and our collective power, I believe in the farmers (many of them women and mothers) who have the power and determination to find their way out of poverty.

Together, we can achieve sustainable income and food security for the most marginalized.

Together, we can protect our natural resources and preserve our environment.

Together, we can end world hunger.

One of my new favorite quotes comes from a man in Bangladesh who saw what happened in his family and village when his sister became part of a Heifer women’s group.  He invested his own money and started working with the groups on Heifer Cornerstone training.  (For those who haven’t read about the Cornerstones, you can learn more here.  Or better yet, watch this.)  When asked why he would invest in the Heifer model?  He said, “If I help a few, it will be limited to that. But with Heifer’s Passing on the Gift model, my gift will continue to pass on. If everyone learns to pass on… there will be no conflict in the world.”

It’s that belief that drives us forward.  A belief in peace and in community.  A belief in families working to achieve self-reliance.  A belief in people—in who they are and who they can become.  And really?  A belief in our power over poverty.

All of us at Heifer are thankful that all of you believe in it too.

It sounds a little crazy.  But that’s my kind of crazy.

Huge thanks to Pat, Sarah, Oot, Cutie, Maria, Brett, Amanda, Kat, Nicole, Adam, Rachel, and the volunteers and friends who make the world more awesome.

*     *     *

Thank you Vicki, and thanks to everyone who has helped with Worldbuilders this year.

Here’s a our donation page, for those of you who would like to spread little love this Thanksgiving.

Stay tuned for new products and Black Friday deals in the store tomorrow.

Also posted in Worldbuilders 2014 | By Pat1 Response

Worldbuilders at the Heifer Ranch

Happy holidays, everyone–and we mean happy! You guys continue the new tradition of knocking our socks off with your generosity by pushing us right past the $175,000 mark. Keep an eye out for more stretch goals to unlock.

But on to business.

Last year Heifer International actually donated something to Worldbuilders–a few spaces at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. The Worldbuilders team was supposed to head over there for a little training anyway, but they gave us some tickets to auction off. We put a few on the auction block and stuck some of them in the lottery.

Anticipation was high, and in May, the Worldbuilders team and some auction and lottery winners finally got the chance to visit the Heifer Ranch.

Heifer-Ranch1

The ranch started out as a place where Heifer would raise livestock to ship overseas. That all ended in 1960 when they found it was more cost effective, better for the local economy, and more conducive to the health of the animals if they purchased local livestock for their programs.  The ranch has soldiered on. Even though it’s still a working ranch, it’s now an educational facility where they give folks first-hand experiences of what some of the problems are that Heifer is working to resolve, and what those resolutions are.  It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

While we were there, we met all sorts of cool people, listened to presentations about what Heifer does, how and why they do it and just how much work goes into helping people pull themselves out of poverty.  We toured their global village and had to prepare our own lunch from limited supplies, we made cheese, and we ate delicious food that was grown and raised entirely on the ranch, which also supplies a few local institutions as well. It. Was. Awesome.

We wrote about the experience as soon as we got back, because we wanted to share what we discovered, learned, and enjoyed with you, as a part of this year’s fundraiser.

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0757

Steve, Pat, Shiloh and Kat prepare lunch while Amber reads a recipe in the background.

“I like to cook, and I was pretty excited when we were given the challenge of cooking a meal over an open fire. All of us had tasks and we eventually got the fire going and the food prepared. No one got burned too badly and there was a lot of ‘white rabbit’ chanting to banish the smoke. We enjoyed our simple meal after several hours of cooking while Nate and Vicki shared facts about open fire cooking.

They told us  that every day over 50% of the world’s population cooks this way, for every meal. It’s dangerous and time consuming. Kids can’t attend school because they are too busy gathering limited fuel supplies and tending the fire. Each year, millions are made ill, injured, or killed by the fires and exposure to the smoke. The novelty of open fire cooking quickly wore off as the sober list of facts grew.

I was relieved to hear about Heifer’s work on this issue. In many of the locations that Heifer International works in, they provide improved cook stoves as part of their educational and training projects. They work with the community to provide them with stoves that fit their culture and environment, ensuring that the stoves are actually put to use. These stoves cook food more cleanly, quickly, and safely.  Kids get more free time for their education. This is just one of the great ways in which Heifer is helping build a better world.” – Kat

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0510

Joyce gets an apple-prompted kiss from a camel.

“From the first time I chipped in with my friends to buy a llama, Heifer International has intrigued me.  Being around the folks at the ranch who deeply understand the need for the Heifer brand of conscientious education and help, who are interested in the causes of poverty, in how to change people’s lives, without changing who they are, completely thrilled me, and rejuvenated my desire to do whatever I can to help the cause.

And I milked a goat.  And kissed a camel (no tongue).  And earned a number of spectacular bruises.  It was pretty much the best weekend I have had in at least a week and a half!” – Joyce

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0255

Nicole milks a goat–we later used that milk to make cheese.

“I came back a mix of so many emotions.  I made new friends and had tons of fun, so I was refreshed.  I connected with my co-workers on a deeper level, so I was warmed.  I worked for my meals, so I was satisfied.  I discovered that the scale that Heifer operates on is so much larger than I thought, so I was stunned.  I realized that I was ignorant and jaded about the reality that so many other people face, so I was lucky.  I learned that Worldbuilders is the single largest Heifer Team in existence, so I was proud.

The most overwhelming emotion I faced upon our return, though, was excitement.  We are doing a really good thing.  And I’m ready to dive back in.” – Nicole

Heifer Weekend 2013 11 May 0197

Maria shows Oot how to milk a goat.

“Our time at the Heifer Ranch and Heifer headquarters was a fantastic experience.  Being at the global village, learning of the challenges many communities are faced with, and seeing what Heifer is doing to try to end hunger, was very inspirational.  What is very encouraging about the Heifer model is its approach to working with communities and how extensive that process is.  It truly represents a model of self-sufficiency and sustainability.  I’m personally excited to take what we’ve learned in such a short time and share it with all of our supporters and the Worldbuilders community.  I think once everyone sees what we saw, everyone is going to get super jazzed for the upcoming fundraiser in 2013.” – Maria

Camel

Not Brett, but a reasonable facsimile.

“Heifer International plays the long game, and they play it right. They only go when they’re invited. They don’t send guys in suits, they accept and train community members to lead projects. Often it’s a year or more before the first piece of livestock or seed is shipped. Most of the time, women in the community take charge, even if the community is traditionally misogynistic. Heifer will work with experts in fields they don’t specialize in to make sure everything is done right. The scope is so wide and varied, I just can’t comprehend it, let alone write about it.” – Brett

Sarah and Oot

Sarah and Oot on the ride to morning chores.

Sarah had a great anecdote about Oot from the stay at the ranch.

We were sitting on a bench enjoying the beautiful afternoon.  I said ‘I love you Oot,’ and he looked at me and said ‘I love this ranch.’

Heifer Weekend 2013 14 May 133

 Oot enjoys the shady walkway at Heifer’s Little Rock headquarters.
(Be sure to embiggen and see why Oot’s smiling so much…)

It was a great time. We were there with Vicki, one of the directors of philanthropy and our primary Heifer liaison, Nate, our brilliant and informative guide through all things Heifer, and a small but knowledgeable team of volunteers who showed us everything from feeding chickens to milking goats to how to farm in otherwise harsh environments. We got to learn about zero-grazing, biogas projects and why Heifer puts women in charge. There was a lot to learn.

One of the big things we learned was how much we didn’t know about Heifer’s projects. They offer their gift catalogue and encourage folks to buy goats and ducks for loved ones–that’s easy to grasp. But they also team up with other nonprofit organizations to bring clean water to villages, they teach farmers in Ghana how to raise grasscutters, they help fishermen in Haiti figure out how to get enough fish from a ravaged lake, they help women’s groups set up local co-operatives and they make sure children get a good education. It’s hard to explain that stuff in three words.

Money donated to Heifer International goes to improve the lives of so many people in so many different ways. You’re not just buying a goat. You’re buying knowledge, self-sufficiency, pride, and the willingness–often the excitement–to pass on that gift to the next family. That’s worth so much more than a goat.

*     *     *

To be honest, we can’t capture in words the awe we experienced at the ranch. Everyone came away with something different, but all of us agreed it was a great weekend. Everyone we went with was lovely–it didn’t take long for all of us to click, and that cross-section of wonderful people from such diverse backgrounds just proves the high caliber of all you folks who donate to Worldbuilders and Heifer International.

If you want to, feel free to head over to the Worldbuilders Team Heifer page. A donation there of just $10 sends that $10 straight to Heifer, and you get entered in our lottery.

We also have a few auctions ending this Sunday, but please don’t ignore your family just to bid on them. We’ll have more posted soon.

We’re deliberately going light on the fundraiser posts during the holidays, but we’ll be back before you know it with more posts about books and the cool people who write them, read them, and donate them so you can appreciate them as well.

Thanks, and please continue to have a great holiday.

Also posted in Worldbuilders 2013 | By Amanda10 Responses

2014 Calendars – Fantasy and Philantropy

So for the last couple of years, Worldbuidlers has put out a calendar to help raise money for charity.

This year, we decided to up our game and put out TWO calendars:

The first one we put together with help from Heifer International itself to showcase the good work they do all over the world:

Cover

The second is filled with joyful geekery, featuring a bunch of cool fantasy authors… and me.

LZ Cover

Right now, both of these calendars are up for sale in our online store, The Tinker’s Packs.

If you want, you could hop over right now and buy them. But if you’d like more details first….

  • The Heifer Calendar:

One of the things that’s always bothered me about charity fundraisers is that they frequently center around guilt and pity.

We’ve all seen the TV commercials. They show you starving, desperate children and say, “For the price of a cup of coffee, you can feed this child. Not even fancy coffee. We’re talking shitty truck-stop coffee with powdered creamer in it. Not that you would ever drink that. Today you had a half-decaf mocha with blueberry syrup and extra whip that cost you six bucks, you fat, disgusting American bastard.”

I’m paraphrasing, of course. But you know what I’m talking about. You see one of those commercials and if you have any empathy at all… well… it’s just crushing. Whenever I saw one, it always made me feel helpless and hopeless.

The first time I ever saw something different was Sarah Mclachlan’s video, World On Fire. Way back in 2004.

The premise for the video was this: They took the $150,000 a video normally costs, and put that money toward different charitable causes instead.

After all these years, I still remember one moment in the video where they said they’d helped send kids to school. Then they showed a picture of this little girl sitting in a classroom. And she was *so* fucking happy to be going to school and learning things. She was beaming with joy.

A screw it, I’ll just post the video here so you can see it yourself if you want….

The part I’m talking about is right at the 1 minute mark.

I remember watching that video, and thinking “This. Is. Awesome. What Sarah McLachlin has done here is Awesome.”

Then, after a moment, I remember thinking, “I want to be awesome too.”

What’s my point? Here’s my point.

When we decided to put together our own Heifer International themed calendar, that’s the feeling I wanted to replicate. I didn’t want people to feel guilty or sad or depressed at the state of the world.

I wanted you to look at this calendar and think: This is Awesome. What Heifer is doing is Awesome.

So our calendar is full of stories of people that Heifer has helped over the years. People who got a little help, then used those resources to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

Stuff like this:

After working on their own for 21 years, the women in Azacualpa village saw things begin to change in 2005 when 22 families received heifers from Heifer International.

Four years later, in 2009, they received chickens and completed two rounds of Passing on the Gift, sharing chickens with other families in their community. Seeing the positive results from these first two projects, the women wanted to try something a bit more ambitious.

Cashew

“We wanted something more to do to generate more income,” said Maria Elsa (bottom left, with her husband and grandchildren). From this, the Southern Cashew Enterprise Association was born, with Maria serving as president.

Heifer provided the materials and hired builders to construct the storage rooms and ovens for this cashew enterprise. They also provided 200 cashew tree seedlings.

In 2012, a drought destroyed most of the area’s corn harvest. The cashew business, however, along with the ability to sell eggs and milk from their livestock, still provided income for the families in Maria’s village.

Maria gets almost four gallons of milk a day; she uses one gallon for her family and sells the rest.

Victoriano Gonzalez, Maria’s husband, said, “I never expected to see a cow in my yard and now we have four.” While the women work, their husbands have taken over more of the household chores.

“Now our husbands bring us food while we are working,” Maria said.

 This! This is what it’s all about. Heifer helps people, then those people help themselves. Then they help *other* people help themselves.

And you *don’t* have to shell out 60 cents a day, every day, forever, just to keep some poor kid from starving. When I did that, I felt like I was throwing stones into a well. I felt like it would never *really* make things better.

But here’s the thing: you send some money to Heifer, and they use it to help people make significant, long-term changes in their lives. Now when I donate money, it feels like I’m throwing a stone and Heifer is making sure that stone lands in *just* the right place so that it triggers an avalanche of awesome that will go on for decades, improving the lives of thousands of people.

If you buy this calendar, you are throwing a stone too. I hope that every day you look at it and think: That is awesome. And I am awesome too because I helped.

  • The Beyond Words Fantasy Calendar:

The second calendar we’re doing this year is fantasy-themed. But unlike last year’s calendar that focused on fantasy characters. This calendar focuses on the authors themselves.

For example, Brandon Sanderson:

Sanderson-watermark

Or Lauren Oliver:

oliver-updated(It’s worth it to embiggen this.)

Or Gregory Maquire:

Gregory-Maguire-promo

As you can see, the point wasn’t to dress up the authors as something out of their own books. (Gregory isn’t dressed up as someone from Wicked, for example.) This was a chance to… well… to do something fun and cool.

There are a lot of cool authors involved in this project, including:

If you’d like to see more of the pictures, you can peek at some more over in The Tinker’s Packs.

  • A special offer:

Now I can hear many of you out there howling, “How can I possibly choose between these two awesome calendars? I love Heifer, but I’m also a big geeky fan of [insert author name here]!!”

First off, rest assured that if you buy *either* of these calendars, money will go toward supporting Heifer International.

But really, why buy only one calendar? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a calendar in your office AND in your kitchen? A calendar at home *and* a calendar at work?

And what about Christmas presents? Think of those older relatives that are hard to shop for. Do you really want to give them another kitten calendar? A scented candle? No. You really don’t.

But if you give them a Heifer Calendar, you can explain to them how the money went to a *really* good cause. Then they get to feel awesome, too.

Calendar-2-forSo here’s the deal we’re offering. If you buy more than one calendar, we’ll give you a break on the price.

  • If you buy two calendars, you get $5 off.
  • If you buy three calendars, you get $10 off.

You can mix and match to your heart’s content. Here’s the link the the calendar combo deals on The Tinker’s Packs.

  • The fine details:

A few other things you might want to know:

1. If you buy the Beyond Words calendar, your money will support First Book as well as Worldbuilders.

2. The Beyond Words calendar isn’t *quite* back from the printer yet.

It should be finished in a week or so. And we’ll be shipping it soon after. That’s why it’s listed in the store as a pre-order.

So if you order a calendar bundle including Beyond Worlds, we’ll wait until *all* your calendars are ready before we mail them. It will take a little longer, but shipping is much cheaper that way.

3. Last year, a lot of people complained that while the calendar was attractive, it was hard to use.

The reason for this was that the re was little functional space for writing down doctor’s appointments, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.

We’ve fixed that this year. Both our calendars have nice, big colored boxes for you to write in.

  • Being in the Loop:

As you all know, I end up being really busy. That means I don’t always get to write blogs as quickly as I’d like.

This blog is a great example of that. I’ve been working on it for days.

But the people who follow The Tinker’s Packs on Facebook and Twitter heard about the calendars almost a week ago. That means they’ve already had a chance to place their orders, and in some cases have already received their calendars, giving them the chance to be very smug among their geek friends.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss stuff like this, it would be a good idea to follow those accounts. Especially as I don’t always blog about everything we put up in the store, and a lot of time, items are limited….

More cool things happening soon. Really soon. Stay tuned.

pat

P.S. If you’d like to sell some of our calendars in your store, or just buy in bulk, drop us a line at questions@worldbuilders.org.

P.P.S. If you’d like to help out Worldbuilders in some other way, drop us a line at donations@worldbuilders.org.

Also posted in being awesome, The Tinker's Packs, Warm Fuzzies, Worldbuilders 2013 | By Pat24 Responses

Giving Thanks

One of my best thanksgiving memories is from 2003, back when I was still living my old student lifestyle.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t really a student at that point in my life. But the only real difference between 2003 and 2000 was that I was teaching classes rather than taking them. My habits, hobbies, and income hadn’t really changed from my student days, and I still felt like a student at heart.

A couple days before the real Thanksgiving, my friend Ian said to me: “We should get people together and have Thanksgiving tonight.”

“My stove doesn’t work,” I said. “And I don’t know how to make stuffing.”

He shook his head. “No. We should all go to the store and buy some kind of food we’re thankful for. Then we get together and share it.”

And that’s what we did. That night we ate taco dip and poppin fresh biscuits. We had fried mushrooms and shrimp and mountain dew. We had nutty bars and ice cream and a bunch of other things I can’t even remember.

We gathered round, ate these wonderful things, enjoyed each other’s company, and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Times have changed since then. These days, most of my friend have left town. I miss them terribly, but I have a different sort of family now. More specifically, I have a baby.

I’m going to post up a picture of him. Because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Apparently megalomania is genetic.

Today I’m taking a break from copyediting and posting more Worldbuilders books. That means I have time to do one of my favorite things. I get to have lunch with Sarah and Oot at the Olympic.

The Olympic is a restaurant I’ve been eating at for years. Sarah and I had one of our first dates there. And she tells me that once, years before we met, she watched me from a nearby booth, eavesdropping, lust simmering in her innocent young heart.

These days going to the Olympic is fun for me because I get to feed little Oot.

For months I had nothing to do with this. Sarah breastfeeds, and because she’s stay-at-home Oot can get a snack pretty much whenever he wants, straight from the tap. But now he’s over a year old, and while he still loves the boob, he’s eating solid foods too.

I order the chicken soup and give him parts of it. A noodle. A little chicken. A bit of celery. A little piece of carrot that’s soft enough for me to cut up with my spoon.

Oot investigates these things. He pokes them with a finger, then crams them into his mouth. It is not unlike the way his daddy eats, though his daddy tries to be more genteel in public.

I have a lot to be thankful for. My first book has met with stupefying success. I have an understanding editor who has given me the time to turn my second book into something I can be proud of. My work is being translated into thirty languages. I have awards. I have money in the bank.

But none of that makes me as happy as lunch with Oot. I give him a piece of lettuce from my sandwich. A piece of tomato that I bite in half for him. A little bit of turkey. He moves them around on his little plastic mat, then pokes them happily into his drooly little baby maw.

I was a fan of Heifer International long before I ever considered having a kid. I donated money. I got weepy when I read Beatrice’s Goat.  I gave goats and chickens and sheep as Christmas presents.

But now that I have a baby, it’s something else entirely. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I couldn’t get enough food for my baby.

Actually, that’s not true. I have a very good imagination. I can imagine exactly what it would be like to not have enough food for my baby. It’s a horrifying feeling. It’s a huge feeling. When I think about not being able to feed my baby, my mind brushes up against the edge of something very big and dark in my head. Like nighttime swimmer who feels something firmly bump against his foot.

They say any civilization is three meals away from barbarism. And now, having a child, I believe it’s true. If I couldn’t get Oot the food he needed, I think I would do monstrous things. Barring that, I think some part of me would break and never, ever be right again. Not ever.

Still at the Olympic, I give Oot my whole deli pickle mostly out of curiosity. He pokes it, then picks the whole thing up and bites off the end. He makes an indescribable face. Then he takes another bite. At first it looks like he’s going to eat the whole thing. Then he holds it out to me, and I take a bite. I made a face and he laughs. He takes another bite, then holds it out for me again.

I am very lucky. I think this all the time. I have a warm house. I have a healthy baby. Not only do I have food for him, but we have food enough so that eating it can be a form of play.

This is why I started Worldbuilders.

When I started making serious money off my first book, it was nice. I paid off my credit card. I earned enough so I could get a mortgage on a house. But other than ordering a slightly better brand of frozen burrito, my lifestyle hasn’t changed that much. It’s nice to be able to order Chinese takeout whenever I want. But really, money hasn’t made me noticeably happier.

Matching donations through Worldbuilders makes me happy. It’s my new hobby. I look forward to it all year long.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I see the donation thermometer jump up by a thousand dollars and I flinch a bit.

Then I remember that 120 dollars buys a family a goat. I think about children drinking milk. Not just one morning. Every morning. I think about children eating eggs. I think about mothers and fathers selling the extra milk and wool and eggs to buy things they need to have a better life.

And then I’m happy.

After we finish up at the Olympic, I run some errands. At Shopko, I see a little bath set. It’s got a little comb, and some bubble stuff, and a yellow sponge duck.

Oot loves ducks. It’s one of his favorite words. We could play with this in the bathtub.

And I almost buy it before I realize how stupid this is. We have combs at home. We have stuff that makes bubbles. I would be paying twenty bucks for a bunch of plastic packaging and a sponge duck. For twenty bucks, I could get a flock of chicks from Heifer.

And once I think of it in these terms, it’s easy not to buy this useless piece of crass commercial shit. Oot is deliriously happy playing with a cardboard tube or one of the rubber ducks that we already have in the house. He doesn’t need this.

When I get home from errands, the first thing I do is check the donation totals. I’m really hoping we can get the thermometer up to 130,000 dollars again this year. Maybe more. It would be great if we could beat last year’s total.

The thermometer has gone up another 500 bucks. That’s good. That’s another $250 I’ll be kicking into the pot. That’s six goats and a bunch of chickens.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Have a good turkey day everyone,

pat

P.S. Just in case you want to wander over to the Worldbuilders donation page, here’s the link…

Also posted in day in the life, musings, my student days, Oot, Sarah | By Pat31 Responses
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