My Passion for Over 38 Years

By Joe Gray
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What has kept me volunteering with S.H.A.R.E. for over 38 years? 

When I first heard about S.H.A.R.E. from my farmer friends in our area, I was amazed with what they were planning to do, to help others out of poverty by incorporating S.H.A.R.E. Agriculture Foundation. Most of us who live in Canada do not know what it is to starve or wonder when you will have another meal or what it will be. S.H.A.R.E.’s first project back in 1977 was shipping 38 Holstein heifers and 3 bulls to Mossoro, Brazil. My farm could not spare any heifers because we were trying to increase our own herd, but we had a very good bull from one of our best cow families that we donated. Our bull has improved the genetics of much of the herd in Brazil, which is very rewarding in my mind, that part of our herd is still helping others. 

In January 1984 the founding directors encouraged me to stand for election to be a board member, and that was the start of my many years of volunteering with this fantastic charity which I continue to be very passionate about. It was truly heart-warming to read reports from Hugh Beaty, our project manager, about the great projects that we had in Brazil and how they were improving the lives of hundreds of families in the poorest rural areas. One of the spin-offs of our first project was sending 4 litres of milk daily, from the cattle herd at the Agricultural School in Mossoro, to an orphanage managed by Sister Ellen. When I went on a monitoring trip in 1993 with Bob Thomas, our project manager at that time, we visited that herd at Mossoro and they looked wonderful. We also visited the school at the orphanage. The students sang a welcoming song for us in Portuguese, which I could not understand, but it brought tears to my eyes.  I could feel how much these children appreciated the milk and help they had received from us. Visiting most of our projects during the 3 and half weeks that we were there, I could see the difference that we were making in people’s lives and how much they appreciated our help. In the beginning, they had told us what they needed and we did not tell them what they should be doing or try to change their culture. This principle really works and we continue to use it in all our projects. 

We also investigated proposed projects, which gave me firsthand experience of the situation these people were in before receiving any funding from S.H.A.R.E. With tar paper shacks, starving children and not much of a future besides begging for help, one could see how desperate they were. They received little help from their government, which was full of corruption.  

 I recently read an email from Sister Ellen saying that they are receiving 36 litres of milk daily now, in 2022, and that is more than the orphanage can use.  The extra is distributed to poor families in the area who really appreciate the milk. Our first project is still making a difference in people's lives 45 years later. We have moved out of Brazil, knowing that that country has improved a great deal and now exports many agricultural products 

In 1999, I went on another monitoring trip for 2 weeks with Les Frayne, project manager for Central America, which was another eye-opener. I saw projects that S.H.A.R.E. had started a few years before and one could see the improvement on the lives of families, and everyone appreciated the help that they received from us. S.H.A.R.E. has a “pass on” principle with most of our projects which aims to spread the help they receive.  The concept is very visible in animals. The one family who had received a dairy cow from us felt so proud when they were leading a female calf of their own to their needy neighbour.  And so, our project goes on.  Most of their homes had dirt floors, but they were so proud to invite us in and their floors were swept so clean, it was unbelievable. One of the farmers said to me through an interrupter, “When I received my first cow from S.H.A.R.E. about 5 years ago, I never knew how I was going to feed my family.  Now I even know that I will be able to send them to school.  Thank you very much.” I could see by the impression on their face and the sincere gratitude in their words, that we had made a huge difference in their quality of life, by helping them achieve their goals.  My passion grew even more. We are a small enough organization, that we can be unique with each community and find meaningful ways to inspire them, so they will continue to be successful and self-sustained. 

S.H.A.R.E. has had thousands of great projects over the years that I could write books on, but one can read about many on our website; from irrigation systems in Bolivia, water wells in Cambodia and Families & Land I in Central America & Haiti, to our new one starting soon Families & Land II.  You can be a part of this new journey of helping others and improving their lives.  I am, it is my passion! I will continue, as long as I am able to make a difference in peoples’ lives and with S.H.A.R.E.’s support. 

Throughout my time with S.H.A.R.E. I have been treasurer for 35 and a half years, on the board of directors for a few different terms, and served the last two years as Donor Relations Officer.  With the latter, I am truly enjoying talking and visiting with some of our loyal supporters, who have always been there for us.  We could not do anything without them and we really appreciate all our donors. I am proud of the little portion that I have been able to volunteer, to this all-volunteer charity, that has grown gradually over 10 times in the last 45 years. I know it will continue with new supporters (and if you are reading this, we are counting on you!). Just remember, over 96% of your donation goes towards our projects - great bang for your bucks. Even some of the administration and fundraising is covered by an endowment fund.

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