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    The Extraordinary Gift of a Goat

    On World Food Day, find out how a Salvation Army project is increasing food security in Zambia. October 16, 2018 by Ruth Hobbis
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Chaanga Secondary School pupils during the goat distribution ceremony

    Imagine there were hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children living in your community. Would you offer to take one or more of them into your home, feed and clothe them and pay for their schooling? What if you were already struggling to meet the needs of your own family?

    In Chaanga, a small town in Zambia, that’s just what the community did. By the end of 2015, more than 900 children in Chaanga were orphans, many having lost their parents to the HIV epidemic. Despite struggling to support large families of their own, the children’s grandparents and neighbours each took in an average of three children and gave them food, shelter and clothing.  

    However, providing these necessities left little extra for so-called luxuries such as education, and the majority of the children had no choice but to drop out of school. Facing the world without the loving support of their parents, and without skills and opportunities for work, the children’s situation seemed hopeless.

    Then came the goats. The Salvation Army, through Gifts of Hope and the Brighter Futures children’s sponsorship program, established a goat empowerment project to give the children a sustainable source of income and a chance to return to school. They may not look like much, but goats are truly a gift that keeps on giving.

    Each child received one or two goats and, with animal husbandry skills training and access to veterinary care, began to raise their small herds. The herds quickly grew and soon goat kids could be seen running around the villages. By selling some of the kids, the children were able to earn some money to buy food, clothes, medicine and other necessities. The nutrition of the entire community drastically improved with the addition of goat milk, cheese and meat into their diets.

    Nothing was wasted—even the goat manure was used to add nutrients to the soil for better quality crops. In a country like Zambia, where farmers make up 55 per cent of employed persons, manure alone is a valuable commodity.

    Goats are one of the most popular items in The Salvation Army’s Gifts of Hope catalogue, and each goat allocated to an orphaned child in Chaanga was the direct result of a donation from an individual in Canada. Our Brighter Futures sponsors are also involved in this project and continue to cover the children’s tuition fees so they can study at Chaanga Secondary School.

    Members of the league of mercy make regular visits to the children to see how they’re doing in school and to provide emotional and spiritual care. In the community, they champion children’s rights by spreading awareness about child abuse and the importance of education.

    Photo of MemoryMemory
    While on their regular visits, they heard the inspiring story of one girl. Desperate to go to school, Memory walked far into the hills each day to gather long grass, which she carried home and used to make brooms. Once she had enough to sell, she travelled two hours on foot to the market to sell them for what little money she could get. With her earnings, she could go to school for only a month, but she was so happy just to be getting an education. Now this young girl is studying at Chaanga Secondary School, is the proud owner of a small herd of goats, and continues to use her entrepreneurial spirit in raising them.

    Thanks to our Gifts of Hope and Brighter Futures donors, children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to set foot in a school now actively participate in their classrooms every day. Their guardians no longer have to worry about being able to afford tuition and examination fees, uniforms, shoes and educational supplies. Our sponsors meet all of these needs, while ensuring that the school continues to be a quality learning environment with enough textbooks for every child and much-needed laboratory equipment.

    Education is a top priority in the Army’s sponsorship program because of its power to help break the cycle of poverty. For each additional year a boy spends in school, his eventual earnings increase by 10 per cent. For girls, eventual earnings can increase by up to 20 per cent. With the opportunity to go to school, children who previously had little hope now have the chance to build a brighter future for themselves thanks to their supportive community, Canadian donors and their wider Salvation Army family.

    In communities like Chaanga, a small herd of goats means a family no longer goes to bed hungry, children can go to school and families can afford clothing, medicine and other basic needs. A source of sustainable income empowers the children to provide for themselves, their loved ones and those in need within their community.

    Today, the future no longer looks so bleak in Chaanga. The orphaned children are growing up happy and healthy, will graduate from high school, and will go on to have bright futures, all thanks to the kindness of their neighbours and the extraordinary gift of a goat.

    Ruth Hobbis is the resource media co-ordinator in the world missions department.

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