Today’s challenge: Multiply your joy by giving three people an unexpected compliment today.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” —Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV)
Alive and multiplied
Oscar Alegre had been sick for more than three years with a mysterious illness, and his wife, Elena, was once again driving him to the hospital. Due to severe pain in his left leg, he couldn’t work, which meant that he couldn’t feed his family. World Vision was providing them with food because all four of their sons were sponsored children. Unable to support his wife and sons, and thinking that he might never recover, Oscar tried to commit suicide by throwing himself from the moving car.
Elena pulled him back into the car and saved his life. Her devotion and words of encouragement gave him the strength to go on.
With time, Oscar recovered from what the family now believes was a stroke. But his true recovery began with a most unlikely “prescription” — two piglets provided through the World Vision Gift Catalog. It was a gift that would change the Alegre family forever.
Both Oscar, 44, and Elena, 38, are from the impoverished Chapare province of Bolivia. Neither of them came from stable families, and they married a month after they started dating. After eight years of marriage, they moved to the village of Viloma and purchased a farm.
“Life is easier here than it used to be,” says Oscar. But easier doesn’t mean easy.
Bolivia is one of the poorest and least-developed countries in Latin America. Oscar left school after the sixth grade; Elena only went to first grade. Even today, only 50 percent of Bolivian children complete primary school.
Viloma lies in the Andean foothills about 10 miles from Cochabamba, where World Vision first began working in Bolivia. A small rural town with no paved streets, Viloma only occasionally has running water and electricity.
World Vision’s work in the community benefitted the Alegres first through child sponsorship. But there were more blessings to come. The family was selected to receive two piglets from World Vision. Elena recalls crying when she first saw them, because they were so small.
“I cried because I thought they were going to die,” she says. “We just loved them.”
With that love — and four animal-care training sessions for Oscar — the piglets not only survived but thrived and multiplied. By Christmas 2010, the Alegre family’s pair of piglets had grown to a herd of 90!
Such is the beauty of the gift of piglets. One sow can bear 20 piglets a year. In just six months, the piglets can grow to 200 pounds each, when they are ready for market. Each piglet costs only 60 Bolivianos (U.S. $8) to raise. They sell for 700 Bolivianos (U.S. $100) each.
The Alegres sold several of their pigs that first year. Initially, the profit went to pay for Oscar’s medical care. Today, they are repaying the family’s loan on the farm.
The pigs also gave the family the ability to do something incredible: adopt a little girl.
Arminda was about 5 when the Alegre family heard about her. “That little girl was suffering,” Elena says. “Her mother wanted to give her away to anyone. Even though we didn’t have a lot, we decided to adopt her. God will bless you when you take care of the children.”
Today, Arminda has a dazzling smile and loves to cuddle the baby piglets.
All four of her brothers — Jimmy, 19; Jónathan, 17; Dennis, 14; and Brian, 9 — are good with the pigs. More importantly, they’re all in school. Several are planning to attend college; Brian, in particular, wants to be a lawyer.
Several years ago, this would have been unthinkable. “I remember that we suffered a lot,” Jónathan says. “We didn’t have anything to buy food. I used to go to school really worried because I didn’t know if I would be coming back and if my dad was going to be alive.”
Now, the children can focus on their lessons.
It’s a true blessing for Elena, who barely attended school. “I want them to learn things that will help them in life,” she says. “I don’t want them to be like me.”
Oscar’s dream for his children is to finish school, go to university, “and study whatever they want” — a far cry from when he saw no future for himself or his children and tried to end his life.
In receiving two small piglets that grew beyond all expectations, Oscar and his family have also been given the freedom to dream.
At the top: Brian, 9, Arminda, 7, and Dennis, 14, with piglets. (Photo: ©2011 Jon Warren/World Vision)
Additional reporting by Kari Costanza.
Give one share of a pig today to help boost the income of a family and provide plenty of protein for undernourished children. One sow can produce 20 piglets a year, and within six months a piglet can weigh 200 pounds — and fetch a hefty price at the market.