2 goats for Janet.

Whenever I’m running off my mouth, thinking that my life is stressful, I hope I can remember Janet Dzonzi from Msendaluzi village in Malawi. And just stand in total gratitude for the life I’ve been blessed with.

Janet is 42 and a widow. She has 6 children; the oldest is 25, has finished secondary school and is living in Lilongwe (he doesn’t’ visit home much) and the youngest is 3 year-old Stella.

Janet’s 23-year old daughter lives next door and helps out a lot, but since her husband died, Janet has been struggling to farm her 3 acres of land and plant the soybeans, ground nuts and maize that will feed her family and provide a tiny income ($150 for the year).

Last October, Janet received 2 meat goats as part of Heifer’s Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Project that will reach 1,600 families around Kasungu. One of those goats is pregnant and the other will be bred soon – she’ll pass along those baby kids, and then hopefully have more of her own.

Fred, his mom Janet, and Abigail with their goats & beautiful shed.

These goats mean a great deal to Janet and the future of her family, and they’ve sacrificed to get the animals. The materials to build the goats’ shed cost $17 and Janet had to save up to buy every 5-cent nail. (“That was a hardship,” she says ruefully – and I’m thinking, I will never use that word again.) But when I asked her if it was difficult to raise and breed her goats, she said no, it was actually a “light job.” She’s learned a lot from the Heifer trainings and she’s determined to succeed.

Janet is painfully thin, but she says the family has enough to eat for now. (But I’m worried because runaway inflation in Malawi has caused the price of food to double in the past few months.) The family eats beans twice a month, meat once a month, and their other meals consist of nsima (the national farina-like dish made of corn flour), porridge, paw-paws and mangos. Plus tea.

Janet can’t wait to show me the new energy stove she made with Heifer’s guidance –it cooks twice as fast and uses half the firewood, so now instead of collecting firewood for hours on end, she says the stove has made her a “free woman.”

Janet’s so proud of her energy stove, you can see it!

Janet dreams of having a flock of 20 goats, and with the compounding beauty of reproduction, in a few years that is totally possible. Each goat will sell for about $36, so these animals are money in the bank –as well as food — for this family.

“If I had 10 goats, I’d remove the straw thatch from my house and get a tin roof and put in a cement floor,” Janet says longingly. “And I’d have no problem paying my children’s school fees of $45/year.”

What she’s saving for …

Such modest goals, really. A roof that won’t leak. Money to educate her children. And enough food to keep from being hungry. All possible through the gift of two goats.

Not to put too fine a point on it (okay, I’m going to make the point with no subtlety whatsoever), but at this time of year when buying gifts is what consumes us, here’s a way to turn consumption into a beautiful circle of giving. Give the Heifer gift of a goat, sheep, or yes, a heifer to someone you love and you’ve not only avoided the mall, you’ve honored that person in a really beautiful way.

One big-hearted boy…

I just bought a flock of Heifer chicks for my grandnephew Kieren who at the tender age of 9 has a real heart for the less fortunate. That purchase  made me feel so good, I can’t tell you.

Because I remember Janet. And I remember how as we were leaving, she pulled me in to look at the new baby that had just been born to the young woman next door. Everyone was so excited to welcome this child into the world! He was an utterly perfect little fellow, but it was hard not to wonder if he too would grow up in such difficulty and want.

…helping one brand new boy.

I’m putting my money on a better outcome. Join me???

Categories: Africa, Animals, Children, Heifer International, Hunger, Malawi, Photography, Poverty, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

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27 thoughts on “2 goats for Janet.

  1. Amy

    Brought tears to my eyes! Such incredible work is being done around the globe by Heifer, and Keiran is so grown up!!

    • He’s got an old soul and is so sensitive — I just cannot wait to meet him in person! Ben has GOT to bring them all to Chappy next time, right?!! Love you honey pie, xooxox your auntie B

  2. Susan

    Betty – more tears! We just need really daily to be reminded of our very “first world” existence. Just went and bought five “gifts” for the family – ducks, chickens, and shares of pigs, rabbits and a llama. Thank you!!

    • You are AMAZING Susan — I love that whole farm of stuff you’re responsible for giving!!! Have a beautiful holiday and love to your kiddies, too!!

  3. Absolutely joining you. Sending goats and chicks to John and Jada’s three boys. Safe travels, sweet girl! Love, Bonnie

    • I adore you, Bonnie — and I know your grandsons have learned a LOT about the power & beauty of giving from YOU!! Heard from Theo the other day and he sends his love .. and his longing for Guatemala although the children sound very happy in Holland. We miss you — Happy Holidays honey!!!

  4. Martha Radatz

    I’m totally there!
    I’ve organized a Fair Trade Alternative Gift Fair for this Sunday and Heifer will have a prominent place.
    Here’s hoping flocks of goats are purchased!

    (Janet has to save to buy 5 cent nails?! That will stay with me for quite a while. A “small” thing that kind of puts everything into perspective.)

    • How awesome, Martha — you are amazing with all your organizational skills!! Feel free to print out the blog post & use it as a visual aid to help “sell” Heifer!! I am always poleaxed by some little fact like the 5-cent nail that Janet had to buy one at a time til she had 100 of them. That goat shed will hold 10 goats, though … and I am so hoping that in a few years it will be full of her healthy goats!!

  5. Wow, that puts so much into perspective, Betty. A roof. A floor. Some food. And giving the Heifer gift for Christmas is such a fine idea! Blessings to Janet and her lovely family–and to the newborn in the final photo! And your nephew is sure a cutie!

    • Kieren really does have such a sweet heart, Kathryn — and he wants to help others so much. His mom told me he was positively ELATED by the post and wanted to send it to all his teachers, friends and mates so they could give to Heifer, too. Don’t you love that?? I don’t worry about the future with children like this coming up … and giving to Heifer has always been such a great way to teach philanthropy!! Hugs back, b

  6. Reblogged this on Julie's Chick Lit and commented:
    What this holiday season should really be about. Not cheap big screens.

  7. Deb Morrow Palmer

    God bless !! So happy I had just mailed off my Christmas donation 3 days ago. Thank you for helping me know my money is really helping!! xoxo Hope you are home now and enjoying your loved ones as all our special holidays for this time of year commence!! Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah Happy Kwanza !!!! And may God bless this world with peace and anything to make it better!!! xoxo

  8. Thank you, Betty, for this journey you have undertaken and shared with so many! Yes, Janet’s words and story wrench my heart and jog my perspective once again. I always give Heifer gifts (and other similar ones), but it brings the reality into focus. It feels good to write a check to help others in need ~ but how much closer you bring those others with your stories and wonderful photos! Thank you and thank you again and again. Blessings!

    • Thank YOU Jaybob — and I am deeply honored that you feel that I’ve connected you more deeply with Heifer through my stories — that means so much to me, I can’t tell you! I’ve been so moved by this year of seeing so much poverty and hunger – as well as the possibility to change those entrenched systems through Heifer’s trainings and animals — and it’s been my total privilege to share those stories. Blessings to YOU!

  9. The picture of Janet’s high-energy stove almost knocked me off my chair. What was she cooking on before?

    As EOS asked, is it possible to designate a Heifer gift for a specific person?

    • Julie

      Heifer is doing a wonderful job; but I keep thinking that they might incorporate family planning into their sustainable living program.

      • Actually, Julie, family planning is very much a part of Heifer’s gender equity & family health trainings! It is a tough problem to tackle, given that having big families is such a part of some of these cultures — BUT it has been proven time and again that the best way to reduce the size of families is to educate girls — so they don’t get married so young and start reproducing AND because they have more choices available to them in terms of work, career, future. And Heifer concentrates heavily on that as well!!!

    • I know, sometimes it’s hard to believe the conditions under which these families are living but these homemade stoves really do make a huge difference in firewood consumption (which leads to deforestation AND chomps up hours of a woman’s day) and concentration of heat, which allows them to cook a lot faster. The fact that they can make the stoves by themselves using readily available materials is really important, too, since almost nobody could afford to buy one. As for giving to a specific person, see my reply to EOSR about that — unfortunately (and for some pretty good reasons to do with community balance) the answer is no. I’m so sorry — but I can tell you that you can designate a specific country for a gift at (https://secure1.heifer.org/fund-a-project.html) and ANY gift to Heifer, in my experience, goes to a very good place!!! THANKS for your giving heart, BB!

  10. I can’t believe your year is coming an an end! Welcome home.

  11. Thanks, honey — it will be good to BE home! (but boy will I miss meeting people like Janet)

  12. myelephantring

    I am IN LOVE with reading your posts. Sorry this is the first comment I’ve made saying so. I hope someday to turn my wanderlust into doing something great like what you’re doing.

    • Thanks so much for that comment, MER !! I really appreciate it – and I hope your wanderlust takes you to as many amazing places
      as Heifer has taken me! So happy you are reading!!

  13. Oh Betty. You are doing such good with your blog. Thanks.

  14. Thank YOU Sybil .. I love that you are still reading, o faithful one!!!

  15. Beth

    This just makes me cry. Don’t know how you resisted pulling out your wallet at every stop because I just want to pay for this woman’s children to go to school so she doesn’t have to worry about it! Makes me take a step back from all of my scurrying around buying gifts this week… Thank you for taking us along on this amazing journey…I have so enjoyed each post!

  16. This is so right on! Keep up the great inspiration & mobilizing people to do good. *hugs* Give em heaven!!!

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