Heifer Ranch Changed my Student’s Outlook on Poverty

Every spring for six years I had the joy (and undertaking) of sponsoring a group of seventh graders on a trip to Heifer Ranch. Heifer as we came to call it is located just outside of Perryville, Arkansas. This trip was always an adventure as each group of students reacted differently to the tasks put before them (and let me tell you watching some of them gather feces from sheep to be tested for worms was hilarious).

For the most part, this was a service learning trip. The students would learn about Heifer International and their mission, which is to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. While at the ranch they would have to put into practice the lessons they learned by caring for the animals, working in the gardens, working on maintenance crew, or helping to upkeep the grounds. They also, for one night experienced what it would be like living in poverty through the global village. The students would come back to Texas with a renewed purpose and ideas about how to help people who were in poverty and hungry in our own community. Several of them who had birthdays after the trip would ask for donations rather than presents to send to Heifer International to help with their mission. For a thirteen year old, that is pretty incredible in my book.

When I first learned that I would be going on a week long trip every year with a group of seventh graders to Arkansas, I thought, oh great…Arkansas. Why did I have to be a seventh grade advisor instead of an eighth grade one who gets to go to Boston, or New York, or Orlando? By the time I arrived with my first group, I knew why I was chosen for this trip. It was where I was meant to be. I love to be outside and if being outside meant mucking out stalls, and weeding gardens I was completely and totally ok with it because the grounds of Heifer Ranch are breathtaking. I had never seen so many trees, rolling hills, flowers, and green fields. There was something so peaceful about seeing a field full of sheep, cows or goats just doing their own thing.

I never took a “large” camera with me. I always carried my Elph because it would fit in my pocket, and I didn’t have to worry about it being over my shoulder and dropping it in goat poop (or who knows what else). For the most part I took pictures of the students working or playing so I could share them with parents when we got back, but every once in awhile, when we had a break I would sneak away and have some fun of my own. Who knew that a barn could be such a great backdrop, or a piece of barbed wire fence look so cool?

Now that I have moved from Amarillo, and no longer work at St. Andrew’s I can sincerely say that I miss going to Heifer Ranch every spring. There really is no place like it. From the volunteers who work there, the scenery, the sense of peace, and of course…the crazy seventh graders I truly miss it all (maybe I am a little crazy). Hopefully one day I will be able to return and share a little piece of joy with those around me.