As Billy and Grampa Goat wrap up their visit in Burundi, meet six-year-old Chania with them and see the many ways that goats have helped her family!
Read what motivates goats to be helpful to people around the world … and what makes them—as well as the fathers they're meeting—feel proud.
You probably heard before I did (we’re in a very rural area here): this past weekend, violence returned to Burundi. Since May, there’s been tension in the country’s politics, and just as my grandkid Billy and I were arriving, that tension escalated to the worst violence since the civil war that ended ten years ago (which I mentioned in my last blog entry).
It’s strange to be visiting a country at the exact moment that it’s in the news, to find out that the place we’re in has the possibility of moving back toward war. It’s also strange to hear about it several days after the fact. We’re that remote here in Masasu Hill. And that’s good—I assure you, Kid and I are quite safe here with our cousins, and with Chania and her family.
Chania is six years old and an absolute sweetheart! She’s always smiling and dancing, and is very helpful to her mother when they work with their crops and animals. They take very good care of the goats and cows—the same kind of symbiosis we saw between animals and people in Mongolia. It’s so rewarding to see our cousin goats being helpful and truly lifesaving to these families in other parts of the world.
This little girl’s smile actually becomes a bit painful when I think about it being diminished in any way. She’s happy because she’s healthy and has her family and home and bright dreams for the future. And to put it simply, a lot of that is possible through the goats that World Vision’s Gift Catalog provided. As I wrote earlier, the goat manure helps them grow more and better food that keeps them nourished and with an income for other things they need, too.
I’ve started thinking about other children who haven’t yet reached the health and happiness that Chania’s family has, and what life could have been like for Chania without her goats. The smile she wears now is a good, compelling goal for those of us trying to be helpful. What a motivation for goats!
Yesterday, we had the unexpected opportunity to learn about some of the other things World Vision is doing in Burundi that supplement children’s nutrition, similar to the way goats do: being healthy and nourished is one of the most basic building blocks for wellness.
Beyond goats and manure and growing better crops, World Vision is teaching people how to better nourish their children. One of the crops that people grow here is soy, and soymilk is a crucial element to the special diet that undernourished children are fed to help them recover.
Growing the food (yes, with goat manure) is of course essential, but it only goes so far if people don’t know how to use it for proper nutrition. And this effort is community-wide: the soy feeding program includes the business of making the soymilk (which creates income for the community) in addition to the trainings on how to grow it and feed it to children.
Through this holistic program, in less than two years the number of underweight children here was cut in half! Now that’s something to be proud of.
Chania’s father, Ramadhan, has a good reason to be proud, too. Having used World Vision goats and their manure to grow better crops, he is providing for his family and able to be a good neighbor by sharing that manure with others in the community. He told me how he is proud to have a good reputation with his family and with his neighbors.
“When there are no problems in the household,” he said, “this is something a man should be proud of.”
I spent my career in Seattle—clearing streets of weeds, cleaning up demolition sites, leading hikers into the mountains—proud of having those good jobs, proud of being helpful. My family, being a good father—and grandfather to Billy—are things I realize now that I’ve taken for granted. Never thought to be proud of them. But now as I look back on our visits to both Mongolia and Burundi, I see that those jobs I had been proud of were all for the most important thing: being helpful to my own family.
The fathers we’re meeting on this trip—Boldbaatar in Mongolia, Ramadhan here—work hard to help make come true the big dreams of their children. How wonderful that goats and World Vision can share a small part in that!
Tomorrow, Kid and I move on once again, to the last stop on our journey, Zambia, where we’ll spend Christmas before returning home. Already, this trip has far exceeded my biggest expectations. I can’t wait to share with you what Zambia has in store for us. Come follow along!
Until then, if you want to join us in being helpful, you can give a goat to a family in need of a little help here.
*This post and characters are a work of fiction by Matthew Brennan.
Photos: 2015 Robert Coronado/World Vision