HUGHES, Ark (KTHV)-- A woman with a mission and a camera can help change the world.
Betty Londergan is an international ambassador for Heifer International and blogs about her experiences at heifer12x12.com
A "proud" gardener she is not. But you'll find Londergan spending hours a day snapping pictures among garden rows with a very special motivation: sharing the work of the non-profit and capturing a true look at global poverty through the lens of her camera.
Londergan says, "It's definitely present. I mean 20% of the people in America live in poverty. A lot of them are children. And you don't see it. But I personally? I wanna see it and what Heifer's doing. Heifer's just starting their project here: the Seeds of Change."
"Seeds of Change" is Heifer's newest way of helping hungry, hurting neighbors in the United States. The project-- based in Appalachia and Arkansas--brings Londergan and other Heifer Staff to Prairie County one day in July.
"I'm trying to get an understanding of what are the root causes. You know--cultural, social, historical-- of poverty in that area. So I can write about that with some kind of, you know, intelligence. And also meeting the beneficiaries of some of the programs." says Londergan.
Face to face time with those beneficiaries are just a part of the reward. Londergan says she has seen the older generation teaching the younger generation how to farm during most of her world travels. "And that's really powerful." she says.
Londergan tries to spend at least one day and night in the villages she visits. She says that helps her get "the full picture."
"It is really incredible because you're in the people's houses most of the time, and they'll feed you [Notes:laughing] And you'll end up dancing and hearing music and it becomes really real. I really like to have conversations because I'm trying to tell stories of the beneficiaries and the people and their families and really bring it home to my readers."
"Her readers" are the thousands of visitors she shares her travels with via her blog called "12 by 12." The title comes from her goal of visiting 12 struggling countries in 12 months in the year 2012. Since January, Betty has been to Nepal, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru, China, Cameroon and Romania.
Perry Jones, Director of Heifer's USA Program, describes Hughes, AR as a "food desert". But, he says it has potential.
"Our goal here in Hughes and where Heifer is working to put the "Seeds of Change" initiative on the ground is to have communities growing what they eat, and eating what they grow. Using local food and sustainable agriculture as an economic driver."
Londergan says, "When you talk about poverty and hunger in a really real sense I think it has more impact...I think we have to get back to the garden in a lot of ways--metaphorically and literally!"
Londergan says the garden is the visible sign of what Heifer is trying to do.
As the high-spirited volunteer says while she's snapping pictures of melons and squash, "I sure do love shooting. And you know--there are all kinds of things that you can do that make you look you're much better than you are as a photographer."
But no photography tricks are needed to capture the true image of poverty. And as this world traveler continues on her global journey, she plants those seeds of change...leaving behind people now more prepared to blossom.