Rotarians hear about two overseas programs

Rotarians hear about two overseas programs

By Tim Evans

It was all about education.

Members of the Carlinville Rotary Club heard two programs Thursday, Jan. 3, at their regular meeting held at Nick’s Pizza, learning about a worldwide farm training program as well as an educational program in Uganda that is helping orphans become responsible citizens.

Barb Oakes told Rotarians about Heifer International, a program started after World War I providing livestock and teaching farmers how to raise livestock in overseas countries as well as South America.

Now approximately 75 years old, the program was started to help foreign counties “get back on their feet,” according to Oakes.

She said the program started with just cattle and hogs, but said there are 38 different varieties of farm animals today that are brought to 124 different countries.

Oakes said farmers are trained how to take care of their animals and must sign a contract to give away their first female farm offspring.

Since getting involved, Oakes said she’s found some local farmers who had been involved in the program including a couple from the Girard area, noting she’s been on a “genealogy quest” to find ancestors of farm families who were involved in the program.

She said the livestock could find travel opportunities by ship through the Chiqita Banana Company, but needed “cowboys” to travel with them to feed and care for the animals, returning home months later.

Oakes said her research lead her to a 1954 newspaper article about a donation to Poland from the Kessinger family in Girard. She said it’s rare to find anyone still alive who first participated in the program, but said she did find one man – Bill Meyer, who even had slides from his overseas trip.

She also found two major cattle ranchers from the area who contributed to the program – Austin Hulcher and Bud King.

She said some of the program is operated today through FFA and 4-H programs and Rotary also has some involvement financially.

In a separate program, Peter Kitayimbwa, director of the Widows and Orphans Support Organization of Uganda spoke about his program with Becky Miller of Carlinville, a former teacher in Uganda who met Kitayimbwa through Blackburn College.

“People in my country are dying young because they have no hope,” he said, noting his message is hope for his fellow Uganda citizens and four siblings, none of which graduated from high school.

His education at Blackburn has helped him go back to his homeland to build a new high school for about 150 orphans. He said the cost to sponsor each student is $260 annually and noted the chances of a youngster graduating from high school in his country was only 10 percent before his program started.

Miller pointed out Kitayimbwa has achieved a tremendous amount for his homeland since his return six years ago and said the program is exclusively for Ugandan youths who have lost their parents to disease or other illnesses. “We must try to continue to give hope,” Kitayimbwa told Rotarians, noting he is on a mission to raise funds for his cause.

In other business, Carlinville Rotarians were planning their annual pancake breakfast on Feb. 17, with Susan Millard serving as chairman. More details on the event will be released later.

Rotary President Glen Krupica shows items made in Uganda by orphans with Becky Miller of Carlinville and  Peter Kitayimbwa, director of the Widows and Orphans Support Organization of Uganda. Photos by Tim Evans.

Barb Oakes tells Carlinville Rotarians about the Heifer International program.