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Local students make an impact on world hunger
APRIL 29, 2013

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, MN – Ending world hunger and poverty is no small feat, but members of Gethsemane Lutheran Church’s eighth grade confirmation class took a step in the right direction at the Wright County Baby Animal Fair April 21 in Buffalo.

Nine students participated in the biennial event – now in its seventh year – which raises money for Heifer International, a non-profit organization which believes that if you teach a man to fish, he will have food for life.

With that concept, Heifer International works to provide livestock to impoverished countries – a gift that, inevitably, keeps giving.

The Wright County Baby Animal Fair gives people an opportunity to learn about Heifer International’s mission and the global impact they can have by purchasing an animal for a family in need.

As part of the fair, booths are set up highlighting the animals Heifer International provides, and booth attendants explain the benefits of the particular animal in developing areas of the world.

For example, the boys of Gethsemane’s confirmation group – Cy Flick, Austin Schnitzler, Dylan Braunworth, and Gaven Gillman – were involved in the “Worms Are Wonderful” booth.

Irene Bender, an advocate for Heifer International and one of the confirmation teachers at Gethsemane, explained that silkworms are an integral part of agricultural production in South America as they are used for creating compost and nutrient-rich soil.

The girls – Alicia Johnson, Shelby Miller, Abby Huhn, Elayna Margraf, and Michaela Growchow – worked in the guinea pigs booth.

Now, most people in the US consider guinea pigs to be a household pet.

However, guinea pigs are raised in South American countries as a valuable source of protein, Bender explained, adding that guinea pig meat has more protein than beef.

With guidance from Heifer International, villages learn how to raise the guinea pigs and then sell them as a source of income “and a way to improve their lives,” Bender said.

“We all enjoyed informing people about the animals and how they helped people on different continents,” said Alicia Johnson. “We were never bored, there was great food, cool entertainment, and of course, baby animals to see. It was a great learning experience for everybody (including the adults).”

Doug Huhn, Brenda Johnson, and Becky and Steve Nelson also participated in the fair.

Each of the 3,000 attendees were able to visualize just how prevalent hunger is around the globe with the World Dinner Table.

Everyone received a colored sticker that would indicate how much – or how little – food they would receive. If someone had a red sticker, they would be among the 24 percent who are starving and their plates were empty. Those who had a yellow sticker were among the 36 percent who only have rice and were therefore often malnourished. Those with a green sticker were among the 30 percent who likely have adequate food, such as rice and beans. The remaining 10 percent had a blue sticker indicating those in the world who had plenty to eat.

“The greatest thing is to see the parents and grandparents explain this to their kids,” said Bender, who worked at the World Dinner Table. “They realize how fortunate we are, and that there are people right here in the US that don’t have enough food to eat. It makes a strong impact.”

The event was considered a big success, with $14,490 contributed to Heifer International Gift Animals. With admission to the fair being a nonperishable food item, 3,211 pounds was donated to the food shelf, along with $651 in donations.

How the WC Baby Animal Fair began

Friends and co-chairs of the event, Nancy Drigans and Connie Root hosted the first Wright County Baby Animal Fair in 2001, after reading stories from Heifer International and how the gift of an animal can make a great impact on those living on the edge of poverty.

“We were just so touched by those stories,” Drigans said.

Drigans was at a point in her life when she wanted to make a difference in the world, but wasn’t quite sure how to do that.

Because the two friends found that Heifer International did “amazing work,” they wanted to share its missions and stories with others. The organization has two missions Drigans noted – working to end world hunger, and caring for the Earth by teaching sustainable farming and other eco-friendly practices.

They had seen churches in the area doing animal farms for Heifer International, though on a smaller scale, Drigans noted. “We thought, why stop at the church? Why not invite the whole community?,” Drigans commented.

Before she knew it, the ladies had rented out the Buffalo Civic Center and were planning the first fair.

The coolest part about the fair, Drigans commented, is seeing a community of people working together to make a local and global impact.

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