Rob Bean and his paddling partner Marek Uliasz begin their trip down the Green and back up the Colorado River to Moab.
"The Big Moo Canoe" - Taking a hard line to fight poverty in Haiti, Colorado Ultra-Marathon Paddler Leads Multiple Efforts to Benefit Heifer International.
If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime. This is part of the theory behind the Heifer International organization that raises money to provide heifers for people in 144 different countries. Rob Bean from Fort Collins, Colo. is a volunteer who loves to canoe and loves the outdoors and he paddles in canoeing marathons. Last week he was in Wyoming practicing for his big challenge this week on the Green and the Colorado rivers. What does paddling and heifers have in common, well maybe not much, but Bean has combined his love of canoeing and his love of helping other people together. He uses his canoeing to raise funds and awareness for Heifer International.
"Heifer International is not well recognized, I think people have heard of the concept, but it doesn't have a lot of name recognition. The organization has been around since 1944 and has provided animals and farm training all across the world. One year someone sent us a chicken for Christmas and that was our introduction to Heifer International. It's a great concept, that was about six years ago and we've been involved ever since. We do a major challenge every other year, this year our major challenge is the Green River. We are going to try to do 80 miles today. We expect to be in Moab, Saturday or Sunday. In 2010 we did a challenge in Missouri where eight people were out canoeing non-stop for 340 miles. Out of 57 hours I had maybe six hours sleep. I would just grab sleep here and there. This challenge on the Green is more relaxed. I sponsor events and also have a speaking engagement circuit promoting Heifer International.
"I really work on the awareness side of things. A lot of people don't know about us. We hit the $25,000 fundraising mark last week. Contributions are accepted online. The whole mission is to end poverty. We want to give people an opportunity through animals and training to bring themselves up. We give away not only heifers, but goats, chickens, rabbits, geese, llamas; sometimes the type of animals depend on the region and the community and what their particular needs are. There are two different farms in the southeast and the west coast that raise animals. These animals are used in the United States, we used to ship them overseas, but now we purchase the animals in the local area and that adds to the local economy. We bring in free training in addition to the gift of the animal. Sometimes foreign aid can hurt a country. If people are getting things for free, then what's the incentive to raise a crop and try to sell it. Free can be detrimental to a community. We want communities to become economically sustainable. We also have a new period of focus, we used to help communities with 50-100 people. We are now reaching out to communities with a 1,000 people or more. There are ongoing projects in Haiti and Africa. We help with training and putting in farms to raise the livestock. One other thing that's encouraged is the gifting of one of the offspring of the original gifted animal. But, the people are really generous who have received an animal, many times they have given away at least six offspring. This really helps an entire community to become more economically stable. In Haiti, the people are bunched up in the cities, the farm projects are working to draw people back into the rural communities," said Bean.
Bean said he has been involved in volunteerism in his church and worked at many camps. That's how he met his wife, by working at a camp. He has helped others learn to climb and canoe.
"A gift of a cow is a huge deal to these people. The animal has a high value. It can be bred, used for food, milk; it provides sustenance. Some of the animals are meant to be a protein source some are used in the farm work. We tailor the animal gifts to the needs of that community and what's most beneficial to them. We help them establish farms which can produce the feed the cows need. We work with the farmers and ranchers to plant the crops the animals need. They build pens for their animals. We have advisors that assist with the veterinary needs of the cows. Each project lasts from three to five years and at the end of that period a community is well on its way to being self-sustaining. People are overjoyed with the gift of an animal. It's huge what it can do for a family. They are able to use funds to go to school, purchase clothing, improve their housing, the possibilities are endless. Beatrice's family in Africa received a goat. With that goat project her dream of going to school was realized. She went to school and then to college in the United States and she is now back in Uganda helping her people. Her life was changed by the gift of a simple goat. Her goat had twins and she gave one of them away," said Bean.
The journey down the Green began on May 2 as they hit the water at approximately 8:20 a.m. Bean and his paddling partner, Marek Uliasz, each in their own boat left the Green River State Park boat launch. Bean explained this trip will be one of their hardest paddling challenges since the projects inception in 2007. Bean and Uliasz will paddle 120-miles down the Green River and back "upstream" more than 46 miles on the Colorado River, ending near Moab. Bean uses his outdoor challenges to open up a dialogue with the public about global poverty issues and to share his passion and support for the Heifer International, an organization focused on ending hunger and poverty through gifts of livestock and sustainable farming practices.
Rural Entrepreneurs for Agricultural Cooperation in Haiti. R.E.A.C.H. is the largest animal project of its kind in Haiti's history and Heifer has committed $18.7 million towards the five year effort. Heifer's pragmatic approach to global economic development has brought 10 million families out of poverty since 1944, and the model being implemented in Haiti has been proven effective in similar projects in Africa.
"Families in Haiti were struggling before the 2010 earthquake, but since that devastating blow, it's more important than ever that significant programs focused on economic development take root, not just emergency aid," stated Bean. "The people of Haiti are creative and resilient, and just need the tools and education to break their dependence on foreign aid and thrive through their own efforts. Heifer International knows how to support communities in these types of endeavors and has a track record of successful projects all around the world."
Along with the main "Moo Canoe" challenge in May, other events and activities are planned to raise awareness for Heifer throughout 2012. Bean has organized a six week children's challenge to introduce more than 100 school-aged kids to Heifer ideals. In July, Bean's 11-year old daughter Megan will climb Grays and Torrey's Peaks in support of her challenge called "High Altitude for Haiti." Bean also participates in a variety of alternative giving fairs and is available to speak about Heifer and his adventures.
"It's important to me that our project include opportunities for others to get involved in the effort, that way the deeper message takes root. The kids I am working with are so excited to be helping raise donations to collectively buy a Heifer for a family in Haiti. They have learned that a single cow can produce more than four gallons of milk per day, enough for a family to drink, share with neighbors, and sell excess into local markets. Milk adds needed protein to a family's diet while supplementing the family's income to improve their lives," said Bean.
The team hopes to raise more than $5,000 by the end of the summer. To date, more than $25,000 in donations has been collected. People can support The Big Moo Canoe by visiting www.moocanoe.com where they can make a donation directly to Heifer International through the secure website. Also follow all of the action on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BigMooCanoe.
Bean has paddled more than 1,000 miles in challenges staged in Wyoming, Missouri, and Utah since 2007 in support of his cause.