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Labor of ‘Love in Action’ has decidedly dairy twist in Bolivia

Sherry Bunting Published on 11 December 2015

For the dairy producers and industry folks involved with the dairy project at Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy in Bolivia, the labor is truly “Love in Action” with a decidedly dairy twist.

The orphanage is located in the town of Guayaramerin, home to 40,000 people in an isolated and poor region of northeast Bolivia, where there are no dairy farms – until now.

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The first seeds for the dairy project at Andrea’s Home were planted in the mind of Pete Hamming when he was on a team in 2007. He then spoke with David Pullen about the dairy project, who communicated with the late Rodney Hawbaker as well as Robin Harchak. Together, this team of Pennsylvania dairy producers and consultants gathered information and brought their idea to Gary and Jerri Zimmerman, co-directors of Love in Action International Ministries (LIAIM).

 Committee

LIAIM started more than 30 years earlier when Gary (a carpenter) and his wife, Jerri (a schoolteacher), followed their calling to continue their mission work while living in southern California. They began building churches in Bolivia and other impoverished areas of Latin America. When the Zimmermans lost their youngest daughter, Andrea, to cancer, their focus shifted to her desire to work more specifically with children “to provide a home with hope for the future.”

Four years later, in 2008, on more than 2 acres of land donated by the non-denominational church in Guayaramerin, Bolivia, the first Andrea’s Home of Hope and Joy (Hogar de Andrea) was born. At about that time, Hawbaker, Pullen, Hamming and Harchak had formed a committee to facilitate a dairy-good future for Andrea’s Home.

Myself a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I learned of LIAIM during a visit last March to Prairieland Dairy in – of all places – Lancaster County, Nebraska. There, I met David and Gloria Rice, who moved from Berks County, Pennsylvania, to Firth, Nebraska, where son Dan and his children are partners in Prairieland.

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 Cows

Rice talked about his travels to Bolivia since 2010 when he became involved with the dairy project – now known as Warm Spring Farm (Finca Aguas de Manantial), so named in honor of Rodney Hawbaker, who died in a tragic farm accident in 2011 at his Warm Spring Dairy near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

“This was Rodney’s passion,” recalls his wife, Karen, who today runs the 160-cow dairy in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and serves on the LIAIM board as well as its dairy committee. Rodney was instrumental in helping design the dairy barn for Andrea’s Home. He spearheaded the initial fundraising and work team through his church, Antrim Brethren in Christ, and a heifer sale in 2009. Kids

“We traveled to Bolivia every few months to work with the children and provide labor for the barn,” says Karen, adding that in the days before the accident that claimed her husband’s life, Rodney had talked about “living each day as if it were your last and making it count for things of eternal value.”

His friends on the LIAIM dairy committee want to see this legacy continue. They are happy to speak with dairy groups and at events to inspire enthusiasm for the dairy plan, which, if successful, can become a model for self-sustaining missions elsewhere.

“When you see the good that is done in these children’s lives with this dairy at the orphanage, it changes you; it stays with you,” Rice said as he put me in touch with Zimmerman, who arranged a meeting with the dairy committee back in Pennsylvania to learn more. Milking

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Andrea’s Home is organized into two-parent/20-child units. In Guayaramerin, there are three units serving 63 children at present, and a fourth is underway, along with building crews being formed for a second Bolivian location.

Meanwhile, the dairy farm at Andrea’s Home received its first heifers and a bull a year ago, with calvings and milking ramping up this fall. To prepare, the home’s director, a veterinarian with a herd of 100 beef cattle, began milking crossbreds and brought his milk to the home.

Underway now is the planning for construction of a dairy processing facility and store. The purpose of the cow-to-consumer dairy is multiplied: Nutrition for the children, opportunities for the children to learn skills, revenue to support the home and 30 full- and part-time jobs for the community.

“We’re ministering to the needs of the orphans but also improving the opportunities in the communities they return to as adults,” Zimmerman explains. When they age out of the home, they will have skills and something to turn to.

Gifted 230 acres of land by the veterinarian serving as the home’s director, Andrea’s Home is in a position to be more self-sustaining with not only the dairy but also adding fish to the springs, planting trees and a garden.

“The hope is for dairy sales to eventually cover a large portion of operating the orphanage, now reliant mostly on donations from individuals and churches from the U.S.,” Zimmerman explains.

To get the dairy processing project off the ground, they are looking for donations in the form of funding, equipment, volunteer crews and especially dairy processing expertise.

“We are looking for others in this compassionate dairy industry with the heart to come down to Bolivia and help with the processing end of what we are working on,” Zimmerman explains. “We want to have the capability to produce milk and also yogurt, butter and ice cream with the whole project providing a source of revenue for the orphanage as well as learning opportunities and work for the orphans.”

“Bolivia is the poorest South American country, and the LIAIM ministry there seeks to reach children with God’s hope for the future and to provide the nutrition of milk while teaching business and industry skills they can learn to be a part of,” Karen says. “We want to raise them and equip them for life. What better way to teach work habits and skills than through dairy?”

“The community is excited because the orphanage and its preparations for the dairy have already influenced the surrounding area with infrastructure improvements and the promise of jobs and a better standard of living,” Zimmerman observes.

As they work to bring love to action, the LIAIM dairy committee notes there are opportunities for others to help and to see their time, talent and treasure come to fruition as the milk flows.

“The gift of milk goes beyond what it provides in nutrition to provide hope for the future of these children and their communities,” Rice adds.

“The kids just love it,” says Hamming, “and we are all anxious to see the whole project move forward.”  PD

To learn more, visit them at their website. Director Gary Zimmerman can be reached by email or contacted at  (719) 440-6979.

Sherry Bunting is a freelance writer based in East Earl, Pennsylvania.

PHOTO 1: The late Rodney Hawbaker with Wilson, one of the children at Andrea’s Home in 2010, where he was instrumental in starting the Bolivia dairy project, which is now entering its next phase as Warm Spring Farm. 

PHOTO 2: The Bolivia dairy project committee met a few months ago near Breezewood, Pennsylvania, to talk about the dairy processing facility. (l-r) Karen Hawbaker, Dave Pullen, Pete Hamming, Robin Harchak and Love in Action International Ministries co-directors Jerri and Gary Zimmerman.

PHOTO 3:  “The goal is to look at feed quality to get cows peaking at 40 pounds a day and to expand to 60 cows,” Hamming explains. 

PHOTO 4:“The children love working with the animals and seeing things grow.” 

PHOTO 5: Robin Harchak during construction of the milking parlor. The challenge will be to convert to more advanced technologies at the processing end. Zimmerman notes that the bagged milk system in use at Prairieland Dairy in Nebraska is one concept. Photos by Sherry Bunting and Karen Hawbaker.

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