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When Rotarian Marilyn Fitzgerald, of Traverse City, MI, was asked to help Indonesian villagers pay for their children’s education, she accepted the challenge. For three years she raised $72,000 so 1200 kids could go to school. Then one day a rice farmer asked her for a Water Buffalo instead.  
At first, she didn’t understand. But when her interpreter explained that with a Water Buffalo, the farmer could triple the amount of rice he could grow and pay for the education of his three children himself and not only for one year but year after year, after year.
For Fitzgerald, it was a lesson in listening and sustainability. It also dawned on her why Rotary International put so much emphasis on the idea of “sustainability”. Marilyn had titled her February 10th talk, to Kingston Rotarians “A Hand Up Toward Sustainability”.
If we do not practice sustainability she said, “We rob people of their dignity and of using their own voice.” Then added when we give help “We want to empower them to take advantage of the opportunities that maybe we can provide.”
She went on to describe other micro-financed activities such as “piglets” and “hens” and how people began looking directly into her eyes when they asked her to cross their children off her list rather than with eyes averted as when they had previously accepted the $60 for their children’s education.  
Marilyn said the experience taught her that if people “became self-sustainable it was the liberation of me and also their own liberation.”
Eventually, Dr Fitzgerald put her story of sustainability into a book titled If I Had a Water Buffalo: How to Microfinance Sustainable Futures. It can be purchased online only, both at Indigo or Amazon for $22.00.