105 goats bleat and make noise in a pasture outside a school in Matopos, Zimbabwe. We arrive to see them chasing each other, nervous as we enter the pasture and set up in our different places. Ed and Jodi get ready to vaccinate, handlers are ready to catch goats, and Dave and I get ready to tag goat’s ears with the names of their future owners who are standing by, waiting to see which goats will go home with them.
Outside the fence surrounding the pasture, families wait and some donkey-pulled cards are ready to be loaded with goats because the walk home is long and the carts will make the move easier and faster.
Soon, we develop a rhythm – goats are caught and brought in for vaccination and tagging. I leave Dave to the tagging and start talking to families, hearing over and over again how this project is going to help the children stay in school while helping guardians feed the children for whom they care. Everyone is a winner here and it is thrilling to be a part of this day. It only takes two hours to complete our work here and we move away knowing that something good has happened. Children and adults have hope that they will be self-sufficient, able to care for themselves without need of further external help.
Before leaving,”Siyabonga”, a song about thanks, is sung to our small group by the elderly guardians and children. It makes me smile each time I hear it because I know that with the thanks, we also receive wishes of blessing and joy. Feet stomp and hands clap as they sway and sing and my heart stomps and claps to the rhythms, too.
Thank YOU for being the one to whom we should all sing Siyabonga. Thanks for caring.
Due to an incredibly weak internet connection here in Zimbabwe right now, I can't upload photos, but will do so as soon as i can.
Minenhle is a seven year old girl and Mthokozisi is a nine year old boy. Their parents have passed on and they are now being raised by their grandmother, Grace. They all live in a small village in Zimbabwe called Maphane. Dusty and dry, it is a hard life. But, Grace does well for her grandchildren and thanks to you, they are doing well. Let me tell you why.
In 2012; we gave four hens and one rooster to this family. Of course, prior to this, they had received training on how to care for the animals, along with seeds for a garden. Grace says, “The chicken project has brought some healing to us. We were hurting after the loss of my son and the challenges that came with not having someone who is gainfully employed to support us. My grandchildren enjoy feeding the chickens and I have seen their excitement grow as the flock continues to grow.
We have given back the four chickens and one rooster so that another family can start their own project. What a feeling to be able to help others!!
We have slaughtered eight chickens so far and my grand children enjoy the meat. We are using the manure in our fields, too. My grandchildren say the eggs are tasty and they enjoy them most when we mix them with vegetables from our garden. Our flock has been growing well and at one point we had twenty-one mature chickens. We even sold some eggs to our neighbors because we had plenty.”
This story fills me with wonder - how a small gift can change lives so powerfully. 4 hens and a rooster are responsible for food, manure, funds, excitement in the children, and dignity in having the ability to help others. Wow.
YOU are part of this beauty. You may not know Grace and the children, but rest knowing that your gift has changed their lives and the life of the family they helped.
If you'd like to find out more about our work, please feel free to email me at tweaver@AFCAids.org. I am happy to share!
Reginah is a sixty one year old guardian from Sizeze village. She is looking after and raising the following orphan family:
The family says they have been struggling to make ends meet and that hunger was the major problem that was threatening the whole family since none of the family members is gainfully employed. This family received three female goats in 2012. The goats have given birth and they now have six goats. Reginah says they are using manure in their garden plots and milk in tea. The only problem is that during these past months, rain didn't come in time for the gardens to mature, so the family has been hungry.
Not wanting to eat the goats before a herd has developed (this is part of our contact with the families we help), AFCA has provided the family with fortified porridge during this season of hunger.
Reginah says “The porridge is not just ordinary food. It is the medicine that has healed my family. My grand children have been unwell for some time, but since we started eating the porridge, all of them are very active and well. Thank you to everyone who has given us this gift!”
There are few things that fill my heart as much as a smile of gratitude. Sometimes, they are small, timid smiles that flash across the faces of children who are too shy to offer words. Sometimes, they are wide, gorgeous smiles, full of teeth and usually followed by a crushing hug. Sometimes, they are shared smiles between a grandma and a child for whom she cares, secure that they will be ok now that they have a way to move forward. It doesn't matter which kind of smile is given, they all warm my heart.
This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting families to whom we gave goats last year. They proudly brought the babies to us, holding them gently and getting them ready for vaccinations. Some had 3 kids. Some had 7. It was a miracle, all of it. A miracle that in a dry land, these animals are being born and the herds are growing, providing milk for our children and their guardians.
It was a day for smiles, for sure! We celebrate with the children their well-being and we toast to their prosperity so that they can grow up healthy and strong. We also celebrate YOU and toasat to your own prosperty - thankful for your generosity in providing for the children. We smile widely at you and know that you join us in our joy at watching this project flourish.
If you'd like to visit our programs and would like to visit first hand the children we serve, please email me at tweaver@AFCAids.org. Children like Nwange and his grandma will gladly welcome you to their home and I know they will parade their kids and goats, smiling the entire time.
I had the opportunity to visit some of our projects this summer to see how things are shaking up. It was so neat to be back in Zimbabwe, participating in trainings with guardians and adolescents and watching them as they learn even more on how to care for their goats. We conducted both written and practical trainings and they were great! Vaccinations were done, as well.
After trainings, we all - trainees of all ages and the trainors and I, would sit down to the meal of the day: goat, sadza, some sort of green and hot tea. For the beneficiaries, this was the only meal of the day and probably the only one with meat for a long time. You see, they aren't allowed to eat their goats yet, as they must wait three years before they can kill, barter, sell or eat one of their animals. This is to ensure that their flocks grow big and strong. And, the concept is working because we saw so many baby goats! It was thrilling to see herds growing and to see how healthy the animals are. All in all, the families are expecting this to be a hugely successful venture for them and some are already planning to re-gift some goats to other needy families. Very exciting stuff!
Friends, know that this project is working. It really, really is working.
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