December 11th, 2008
04:32 PM ET

Susan Sarandon: "I saw the choices people are forced to make"

Program Note: CNN’s award-winning Planet in Peril returns this year to examine the conflict between growing populations and natural resources. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lisa Ling travel to the front lines of this worldwide battle.
Watch Planet In Peril: Battle Lines Thursday 9p ET

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/10/art.vert.sarandon.jpg caption="Susan Sarandon, actor and  'Heifer International' supporter" width=292 height=320]

Susan Sarandon
Actress and activist

One thing that could help relieve stress and reduce conflict would be if the poorest people on the planet, the one billion of us living on less than a dollar a day, could have hope for a brighter future - better nutrition, better livelihoods so their kids can have better diets as they grow up, clean water, education, and enough income so they have the few dollars it takes to prevent a child from dying of malaria.

Simple, basic needs being met. This goes to the heart of many of the stresses that lead to strife. One of my favorite charities, Heifer International, is addressing the problem in more than 50 countries around the world, working to help subsistence farmers who are living below the poverty line improve their farm production and have sustainable sources of food. In my trips overseas I saw the choices people are forced to make.

I saw how difficult it is to get a toehold to lift yourself up from poverty because you're always struggling to feed yourself one more day. Heifer provides a toehold. It gives people a dairy cow or goat that helps them feed themselves and have a little income. That's all they need to get the little push to lift themselves up.

And then they become responsible for helping lift up a neighbor through "Passing on the Gift" of offspring of their animals and training to others in their communities.

And they do this while helping the environment and building community. And it costs so little! It's just the best possible solution to the problem of hunger.

Filed under: Planet in Peril • Susan Sarandon
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Greg Hodges

    I say this with a broken heart; but when push comes to shove the wealthy of this world don`t care. When Jesus was asked by a rich young man " What must I do to get to Heaven"; Jesus replied go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor. You know the rest. The rich young man walked away; and Jesus stated "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, then for a rich man to ever enter Heaven. (But with God all things are possible...)

    December 11, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  2. mike

    I agree with joe, how long do we keep throwing good money after bad?
    I have no money left to spend that way.
    My kids are next in line to be part of the worlds poor with all these Trillion dollar Bailouts and Big GOV takeovers, prices here in the US are going to go way up very soon after the GOV gets involved.
    Sorry Susan there is nothing left in the well, I'm broke too.

    December 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  3. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    Wonderful! EVERYONE NEEDS to do what we can, to help the less fortunate.

    Whether its in our Nation, or in some other country, does not matter..... for those of us who are Christians........ JESUS was clear.... "whatsoever you do to the least of these, you have done to ME."

    Thanks to Susan...... and all who give generously.

    December 11, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  4. joe

    How much money do we throw at this problem. These people need guidence and infrastructure. They need crops to grow, they need education on sex and tranmitted disease, condoms and birth control. I remember We are the world a certain song when I was a kid for the same problem. We keep sending money with no real answer to this problem.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  5. duane

    Vegetarians are crazy! Of course we were meant to eat meat…..why else would the animals be made of MEAT! :o)

    December 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  6. wishing

    I know Heifer Project. They are a great organization. Contributions to that organization have a direct, grass roots, positive impact of the standard of living, nutrition and education of children in low income families. Do not hesitate to contribute to this organization.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  7. duane

    Birth control is what they need.....not cows or goats. Let’s fix the USA and worry about our kids and families, if you wealthy actors want to help them go for it. You Hollywood people need to stick to acting as your goofy view of the world and overly simplistic solutions are mostly silly and not well thought out. Goats and cows….oh my! :o)

    December 11, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  8. Andrew

    Mike from Syracuse – excellent post. While I agree with and admire Susan Sarandon's efforts, overpopulation and out-of-control birth rates in third world regions continues to exacerbate the issue. Unfortunately, our government is too concerned with taking some moral high ground to really deal with this issue effectively. I guess we can always count on them for abstinence education.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  9. Joann

    We need to take care of our own 1st, look how many people are losing there homes and jobs. Please take Care of America not other countries.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  10. Rick, Iowa

    The animals are given not for food – but to produce milk, eggs, wool, etc and to multiply – so that the offspring can be given to others in their village – to pass it on. So the gift of one animal can be the beginning of a herd – and they survive. Please give what you can. Peace!

    December 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  11. Angel

    It's simply amazing that a time like this there are people who are advocating giving away more of our money to someone who gives nothing in return. Maybe Susan Sarandon doesn't understand just how financially stressed Americans are! I mean being a millionaire during these times must be great and all, but how about donating to OUR poor, or OUR homeless. Last time I checked all the money we send overseas never makes it back to the states. I mean the United States BORROWS money to give it away in foreign aid. Call me crazy, but basic math says if you don't have enough of something, you shouldn't be able to give it away.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  12. Jim

    If I were poor I would not continue to breed uncontrollably. Birth control (self control) is what is really needed. We are making the problem worse. The resources of this world are not infinite. Look at Haiti, they have chopped down almost ALL of the trees. I do not like to see people suffer, but people have to start acting responsibly.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:38 pm |
  13. Kayci

    I agree completely. I grew up in Arkansas and Heifer's headquarters are there. It's pretty amazing to go to the site and actually learn what they are doing to help the poorest people become self-sufficient. I love Heifer and I think what they do is admirable.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  14. Gary Martin

    I am sure that Sarandon is not going to dump her Benz and get a Celica to feed the poor. I love it when you have celebrities go on their high horse to pitch a cause that they themselves do not TRULY sacrafice for. I think it is sheer arogance to makes themselves look good to the world. To me she is nothing more than a Clooney who drives around in his Porche not willing to TRULY sacrafice.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  15. Tom Gleinser

    Sarandon is just another limosene liberal. How many people could be fed for what her Beverly Hills mansion cost. I'm having trouble keeping my head above water partly because the government is stealing my money to appease Sarandon and her minions.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:34 pm |
  16. Bill

    I love the work you have been doing Susan. However, I feel compelled to mention the poor and destitute that exist right here in America that need help. I think we as Americans need to start looking at our own situation. We are the richest country on earth, but have some 40-50 million poor and uninsured people.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  17. jasper

    it isn't livestock the world's impoverished need,
    it's freedom

    December 11, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  18. Albert, Palo Alto CA

    My wife and I have been supporters of Heifer International for years. We were looking for an organization that would provide a sustainable solution to the poor and not just a one-time food donation. Heifer International does a great service and we will continue to support them and other organizations like them for years to come.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  19. MJ

    Heifer is a wonderful organization, but it's not the only one that does good works...

    Gospel for Asia is a wonderful Christian organization. You can donate a pair of chickens, a water buffalo, a sewing machine, a BioSand water filter and many more animals/things.

    Each gift helps a Dalit (Untouchable) family reverse years of poverty. (Dalit means crushed or broken) In Asia, Dalits are seen as worthless and inferior because they are so poor . A gift of animal/animals can change many lifes today and in the future.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  20. Neda

    I hate the idea of giving animals only to be eaten. I don't mind the eggs and milk, but the little children hugging the lambs and chicks only to eat their friends later is a little disturbing.
    I would donate if they would promote vegetarianism as much nutritionally possible. All life is sacred.

    December 11, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  21. Susan

    It is sad to hear of people in other countries starving and not being able to support themselves. But, I have been hearing this ever since I can remember. Nothing is ever going to change for these people if all we do is give them stuff. This isn't helping them in the long term, only short term. What they all need is an education. It is the only way they will stop starving. And, yes, they do need to learn about birth control. I agree with Mike on that.
    Also, people need to realize that people right here in America are starving as well. While it is good and all to think of other countries and wanting to help, it is just as good to help our own country too.

    December 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  22. Colleen

    I love this charity. You can give a gift of chickens or ducks for $20 or honey bees for $30. Last year the adults in our family did not exchange gifts, but instead everyone donated to Heifer. It felt great, and I know the money just keeps on giving as the recipients then donate to others in their village. Win win-thanks for talking them up Ms. Sarandon.

    Olympia, WA

    December 11, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  23. Carl Justus

    While we give multi-millionaires who have mishandled the finances of our largest corporation, the poor and middle class become poorer and poorer and yet we have people call them lazy and do not want to work.

    When will we become more compassionate and stop the giving away of millions and at least five cases of fund managers they got from 1.3 BILLION TO 2.7 BILLION DOLLARS, YES THAT IS RIGHT BILLION DOLLARS IN A YEAR FOR SALARY.

    December 11, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  24. badcompany

    How many decades must we feed the birds. How long oh Lord must do this before they go out on their own. At some point they need to cut the apron strings and let the bird fly. Maybe the bird is incapable of flight and must be kept in the nest forever. It isn't like this problem poped up yesterday. It has been there for quite some time with little or no resolution.

    December 11, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  25. Terry Maranon Las Vegas, NV

    Thank you, Susan for the work you do . I admire this charity so much.Have received their catalogs for years & this year donating a flock of ducks & geese in lieu of the multitude of holiday gifts I usually dispense. Just finished putting that bit of info in my Christmas letter when I saw your piece on CNN. Happy holidays & keep up the excellent work

    December 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  26. Jackie in Dallas

    One of the better applications of the philosphy of "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." It costs so little to make such a huge difference in a whole family's life.

    This reminds me of the best of all self-help programs, the Peace Corps...

    December 11, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  27. Fred Oswin

    Susan Sarandan
    I have always admired you.
    Now I admire you more.
    Keep up the good work.

    December 11, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
  28. Saeed

    Yes it is classic supply and demand. The reason that these people have more children is because that is the only free suuply of labor they can have to earn more and work more for the combinde family. And these are mostly agrarian economy where more hands means more work and more incom.It is very easy to say things like supply and demand when you live in a developed economy. Even 70/80 years ago people in the west used to have more children becasue of supply of labor. When people have better income and less infant mortality people will not have too many children.

    December 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm |
  29. Lori, California

    The world needs to rely LESS on animals and more on sustainable farming methods. A vegan diet is MUCH more sustainable and leaves no one a victim of slavery. Teaching people to lift themselves up by stepping on the backs of god's other creatures is just wrong. There are so many other ways. 16 pounds of grains creates 1 pound of animal flesh, think about those numbers.
    With efficient and cheap modern agriculture technology one can more than triple the yields form farming. Teach them these things – not to be complicit in further oppression.

    December 11, 2008 at 4:24 pm |
  30. JoeDuck

    Thank you Ms. Sarandon for the outstanding work you do and for using your celebrity to help spread the word about great projects like Heifer International. Although I don't share a lot of your political views that I feel tend to assign too much blame to the USA for the world's troubles, I have great respect for your committment to global welfare.

    December 11, 2008 at 4:22 pm |
  31. Carol B., Virginia

    This is a great charity. One of the educational farms is in MA and we've taken our children there. Schools, churches and scouting groups take trips there, too. It gives people a chance to find out more about the countries it helps, in addition to donating to help the people and livestock. The hand-made textiles and jewelry are beautiful, make nice gifts and help the artisans be self-supporting. Serve International is another great project. Happy holidays.

    December 11, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  32. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I feel bad for the charities right now since a lot more people are not giving (including me) due to the number of people losing their jobs.

    December 11, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  33. Lilibeth

    Hi Susan, your post is so timely...This year my husband and I are giving a water buffalo as a gift through Heifer International. Their website shows how easy it is to do this...you can have members of your family pitch in also.

    A farm animal can sustain a poor family for years, and you're right, it costs so little! This is one of the most feasible solutions to poverty. If it isn't there already, I would like to suggest that the Heifer link be available in the Impact Your World section of the CNN website. This truly is a great charity! Thanks, Susan.

    Edmonds, Washington

    December 11, 2008 at 12:08 pm |
  34. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Susan, This isn't rocket science, it's a classic supply and demand situation. You are approaching it by increasing supply (water, food, etc.). That in turn leads to more people surviving which in turn create even more people demanding basics. Why not work both sides, and reduce demand by trying to control birth rates in areas where there are too many people for the resources. Maybe along with cows and goats, we should provide condoms and sex ed. Until there is ZPG, we are just putting our fingers in the holes in the dike.

    December 11, 2008 at 11:30 am |
  35. Heather,ca

    I just received the catalog in the mail. I love the idea.

    December 11, 2008 at 11:01 am |
  36. Cindy

    More charities need to be like Heifer International. Actually the world could learn from them. Helping the poor and poverty stricken should be the first thing to do on our list. In this day and age with all of our wealth and resources no one on this earth should go hungry, be without or be catching diseases that are preventable. We really let each other down when we look the other way.


    December 11, 2008 at 10:21 am |