Most people when they turn 60 (I’m just projecting here) either want to go to a fabulous spa or jump off a cliff. But my friend, the fabulous Pierre Ferrari, has something more noble in mind: in lieu of presents on his birthday today, he’s asking friends to donate to his 60YAK60 project.
Pierre’s goal is to help Heifer International provide 100 female yaks to 50 Tibetan nomadic families, to improve their nutrition, economic self-sufficiency, transportation, and income.
And who doesn’t want a yak for their birthday?? These long-haired grass-eating female bovines reach up to 560 pounds, give milk profusely, have dung that can be used for fuel, reproduce every year, live ‘til the ripe old age of 20, and secrete a special sticky substance that mats their underhair for extra insulation – a nifty trait (shared only by Mickey Rourke) that enhances survival in the cold, high Himalayan plateau where yaks live.
What a yak can mean to an impoverished Tibetan family is profound. Tibet is home to one of the most ancient ethnic groups in China and its geography is harsh, extreme, and breath-taking. The people struggle to survive, with families in the project communities earning an average of about $300 a year. So a female yak that can transport goods, produce milk, give wool, and reproduce itself is a valued addition to the family, especially when coupled with Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones that accompany the gift of every animal.
Heifer’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty by giving people both the resources and support to transform their own lives. Women, who tend the animals, are gathered into self-help groups and given animal husbandry training, classes in gender equality, marketing, small business management, environmental sustainability and cooperative effort, and each signs a contract to Pass On the Gift – giving the offspring of their yak to another poor family within two years. It’s an empowering, enlightened system that has been proven to improve communities’ self-sufficiency over decades.
Pierre’s focus on Heifer Tibet is no accident. His adorable wife Kimberly is a Buddhist, and he has spent years supporting altruistic and philanthropic causes that have proven results. With a Masters in Economics from Cambridge University and an MBA from Harvard, he’s no slouch in understanding what makes organizations work, having served as Senior Vice President for Coca-Cola, and currently as Director of Guayaki Yerba Mate Tea, and Chairman of the Board of Ben & Jerry’s. In fact, it’s the blending of his keen business acumen with a yak-sized heart that makes him such a unique guy.
So today I’m giving $100 today to 60YAK60 .. with all my wishes for a Happy Birthday – and kudos to Pierre for Passing on the Gift himself! To join me in donating, click here!