When 60-year-old Cindi Wolk decided to fundraise for International Justice Mission eight years ago, she didn’t foresee the business venture it would lead to—raising and selling cows at her home in Tennessee. Cindi had no previous experience in the beef business, but she did have the land, a creative idea and determination. The rest she would learn.
Awakening to a Global Crisis
In 2007, Cindi read Gary Haugen’s book on sex trafficking titled Just Courage and she remembers lowering her head down on the table and weeping. She cried as she learned that girls were being sold to brothels by their family as an attempt to escape poverty.
“I wanted to go over there. I wanted to be the one kicking down the door. I wanted to grab the girls,” says Cindi. “But I know that’s not the part I can play. So I just looked out that window and said, 'What can I do?'”
Together, Cindi and her husband Bob thought about that question and then "eureka," her acres of unused farmland came to mind. “We are cash poor and land rich,” explains Cindi. “We own 80 acres …. which is hysterical. You see the cars we’re driving. I couldn’t contribute out of our monthly budget.”
But after talking to their financial advisor, she says she was discouraged to learn that selling the land wouldn’t generate as much annual revenue as she’d expected. However, Cindi wasn’t dissuaded. The stories of the girls in the brothels were still in her mind. Instead, she decided to try a different route to raise money: the beef business.
“Heck, this was naivety at work!” says Cindi. “I thought I ought to be able to raise cows and make that much money!”
A YouTube Learning Experience
With no experience in farming or raising cows, Cindi recounts using YouTube videos to learn the basics, including how to dig fence posts and stretch high tensil wire to corral her newly acquired herd.
"I don't know a thing in the world about cows, really, but I was so moved I said, 'We will find a way,'" remarks Cindi with a laugh.
The process wasn't easy and at one point the venture was even scary. Cindi remembers checking the herd one night only to find herself huddling with the cows, cringing at the howls of coyotes nearby.
But the long workdays and unconventional learning strategies paid off. Last year, Cindi says they were able to raise more than $4,000 to support IJM's work.
While she admits her beef business started as a means to raise money, Cindi says it has since become so much more. “This has been a blast … I’ll tell you for sure!” says Cindi, who now insists that raising beef cattle has become her favorite hobby. “It’s been the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life!”
When asked what she would tell others with limited income how they can make a difference across the other side of the world, Cindi is quick to emphasize it’s not about how much money people give.
“Don’t let that fool you. That would be my message,” Cindi says. “It really isn’t about how much you can do. It’s about will you do anything. I would say, don’t be discouraged. Do your pennies worth. I would say, the adventure is worth it!”
You can help the justice movement in countless creative ways, even by donating non-cash items you might have around. Our partnership with iDonate makes your gift-giving easy, so you can make a major impact right away. Learn more at IJM.org/idonate.