TOWNSEND -- Giving a man a fish may feed him today, but giving him a goat or cow or flock of chickens could feed him and his family for a lifetime.
That's why Hawthorne Brook Middle School students worked to raise more than $2,200 this year to donate to Heifer International, a nonprofit that provides livestock to people in developing countries to help lift them out of poverty.
The fifth- and sixth-grade students held Heif-fairs, where they sold crafts and baked goods, as well as other smaller fundraisers to raise the money. They used the funds to purchase two heifers, a pig, goats, honeybees, rabbits and chickens to help struggling families make enough money to feed their families and send their children to school.
John Perkins, a volunteer coordinator from Heifer International who accepted the checks from students June 12, said that encouraging philanthropy among students is an important step toward achieving the organization's ultimate goal.
"If we're going to end hunger and poverty in the world, we've got to change our minds, so education is just as important as providing livestock. That's something that will help us in the future," Perkins said.
Along with the gifts of livestock comes a promise that those who benefit from the animals will pay that gift forward.
"When a family receives an animal from Heifer International, they promise to pass on the firstborn to another family so they can help another family, but also so that your gift gets multiplied," Perkins told the students.
According to Hawthorne Brook teacher John Anderson, the fundraisers, which have been held for the past five years, were almost entirely student-run.
"Every year we encourage the kids and the kids are the leaders," Anderson said.
Some of the participating students said the experience was eye-opening.
"I really wanted to help kids in need because I feel that they should be able to live the same kind of life we get to live in other countries," said sixth-grader Cassidy Hardy.
Sixth-grader Melissa Genoter said she enjoyed seeing the far-reaching impact that her classmates' efforts can provide.
"It's really amazing to see how we can come together to affect other kids and to see how far that can go," Genoter said.
For fifth-grader Millie Chew, helping to organize the fundraiser was both fun and rewarding.
"They asked if we wanted to help and I thought it might be fun, and it felt good to help other people while we're doing it," Chew said.
The choice of charity, she said, made sense because of the way that it helps people.
"Money, if you use it, it's gone." But an animal, she said, keeps on giving.
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