My Neighbor First!
Our second annual Wheaton College Symposium in Human Needs and Global Resources engaged issues of holistic, values-based community development as they intersect with the challenges of hunger and poverty. The main conclusion agreed upon by participants in our first HNGR Symposium is that neighborliness is at the heart of transformational development. During the second Symposium, we explored this idea further. The experiences of one of HNGR's long-term partners,Heifer International, served as a case study of neighborliness in practice.
Dr. Jim De Vries, Senior Vice President of Programs at Heifer International, gave a plenary address entited "The Heart of the Matter: Holistic Values-Based Community Development." Swaleh Kanaja, Africa Area Director of Programs, gave the chapel convocation.
HNGR and Heifer in Tanzania: The Heart of Neighborliness
Farmers, such as Mama Mwanyika (pictured with her goat, right) are selected to receive the gift of an animal from Heifer by a committee of people in their community. Samuel Lazaro Umbaga, the chair of one such committee, explains that they choose families to receive animals from Heifer based on their level of need, their interest in keeping an animal, their desire to help the community, and their ability to receive training. Widows and orphans are given high priority, especially those that have families.
When asked why the farmers in their community seem to be so interested in helping other people, Mr. Umbaga replied that it had to do with “the philosophy of passing on the gift. And again, love for the neighbors—it’s in our hearts. In our blood. We are ready to give. In this area, if you go to someone’s house, they want to give you something. They feel bad if they give you nothing.”
Struck by the presence of generosity in a place where everyone seems to have needs for basic things like shelter, food, and water, I asked why those who were on the selection committee didn’t just choose to receive an animal themselves. They laughed, and Mr. Kihoko replied, “Because we say, ‘my neighbor first.’”