Good morning from Zambia! After traveling from Burundi by riverboat down Lake Tanganyika and then overland by truck, Billy and Grampa Goat have reached their final destination: Moyo, in southern Zambia.
This is a special place indeed—where goats change lives and are even business partners!
Today, my grandkid Billy and I met three goats, Mama, Maria, and Mbuzi. We are in southern Zambia at the home of Lita Munkombwe. Her goats speak Tonga, the language of southern Zambia. But somehow we were able to understand much of what they said. And boy, they have an amazing story.
Mama began telling their story (the first part was pretty hard for Billy to hear). She told us that in 2009, all of the animals in the area perished because of a terrible-sounding disease called “foot and mouth.”
Lita Munkombwe was left with nothing, Mama told us. Her goats were all dead. She had no way to feed her family, especially her dear grandchildren—eight in all. She told us that life was at its most difficult. As she spoke, I tried to picture not being able to take care of Billy. I couldn’t.
Maria picked up the story. A miracle happened, she told us. World Vision staff arrived with five goats and the training that Lita needed in order to raise them. Maria told us that those five goats multiplied into 13 goats. When Billy asked how that happened, I told him that we’ll have that talk when he’s a little older.
With 13 goats, Lita decided to “pay it forward,” as we say in our family. She gave five of her goats to a neighbor that needed their help. Then five more of her goats went to help another person in exchange for fertilizer so Lita could grow maize to feed her hungry family.
Mama told Billy how as the goats continued to multiply (that phrase makes Billy’s ears perk up—he’s such a curious kid), more and more of them became business partners with Lita! She was able to use the money she received for the help the goats will provide to other people to pay school fees so her grandchildren could go back to school.
We watched Lita’s grandson Recent come skipping home from school in his blue school uniform. He hugged his grandmother tight. It made me a little teary. At nine, Recent loves his grandmother so much. It made me think of my Billy and how much we’ve loved traveling together and really getting to spend some quality time just the two of us.
Maria continued the story. After Lita grew maize and sold it, she was able to connect to the World Vision water system with pipes she purchased. That meant that the family had clean water—for the first time! Now they didn’t get sick from dirty water anymore.
Then Mbuzi butted in. She couldn’t help herself, she was so excited. Mbuzi told us how Lita was able to afford a new house for the family. A new house! All because of the gift of a few goats. Incredible.
Then came the most amazing part of the story. Mbuzi told us how across Zambia and southern Africa, people suffer from HIV and AIDS. Lita herself tested positive for the virus. World Vision created a support group for Lita and her HIV positive neighbors so they could farm together and begin a savings group. Five years later, that group is still going strong. They have shed the stigma that used to come with being HIV positive and now live each day thinking of tomorrow.
Without World Vision, the goats, the clean water, and the support group, Lita would not be alive today.
But alive she is. Today there are 37 goats running around her property, including Mama, Maria, and Mbuzi. They make a lot of noise, but they are so much fun to watch when Lita calls them for breakfast. Billy tried running with the pack but got pretty worn out in the warm Zambian sunshine.
Mama says that Lita dreams of owning a cow someday. Cows are so helpful here in plowing large plots of land. But her biggest dream is that other families in her community will receive goats like she did so that their lives will change, too.
Of course, Mama, Maria, and Mbuzi miss the other business partner goats that have left their little community, but with 34 others running around now, it’s hard to miss them too much. And they’ve gone to fulfill their dreams of being helpful!
As I’ve written about before, one thing I hoped to learn on this trip was what it’s like for World Vision goats to be more than helpful to the people around them. To actually be lifesaving. We’ve seen truly life-changing help from goats in Mongolia and Burundi, but now for certain we’ve met goats who are lifesaving!
It was a long day, so we asked if we could stay in the goat shelter with our new friends Mama, Maria, and Mbuzi. I think Mama is making Billy a little homesick for his own mother. And staying in would give me the chance to tell Billy something that’s been on my heart since we began this trip. I’ll write more about that on Christmas Eve!
Provide a business partner to a family in need. Give a goat today!
Photos: 2015 Eugene Lee/World Vision