Posts Tagged With: Heifer trainings

A beautiful life.

The first thing you notice about Waqi Wunin is how deeply alive she is– with sparkling eyes, a melting smile and a big personality housed in a pixie frame. Which is ironic considering the fact that every day, Waqi confronts her own death.

Waqi has AIDS; she got it from her drug-addicted husband who died in 2010, leaving her a widow with three small children, now 10, 8 and 6.

The good news is that Heifer International started a pig project in Zhaojue County, China in 2006 –and in 2009, Waqi was selected as a Passing on the Gift recipient of two piglets and a sow.

Despite the fact that she was then very ill (with fevers that gravely damaged her hearing), Waqi never missed a single training from Heifer staff and project managers. She learned to build a concrete sty for her pigs, and religiously adopted the habit of cleaning it three times a day to keep it hygienic and insect-free. She learned how to inject her pigs with vaccines and give them medicine so they could survive debilitating diarrhea and minor infections. She learned to raise nutritious forage crops in the fields behind her house and feed her pigs organically. And she learned to keep meticulous breeding records to improve the genetics of her stock.

As a result of her hard work, Waqi is now breeding the most healthy, clean, fertile, and laid-back pigs I’ve ever seen.

And it’s not just my opinion; the whole village of Puti knows that Waqi has the best piglets around. In 2011, she sold 140 piglets for 12,000 yuan ($2,000), plus earned another 4,000 yuan from an abundant rice crop fertilized by her pigs’ manure. All this from an original 2 piglets and a sow from Heifer – a gift that she passed on to a new needy family last year, along with all the teachings and trainings in how to raise good pigs that she generously shares with any neighbors who want to learn.

Waqi is a leader in Puti Village, the Zhaojue government official associated with Heifer’s project told me in admiring wonder. Teaching by the power of her own example, she’s paid off her husband’s debts, sent her children to school, loaned money to others in need, and even though she needs IV treatments three times a week and has to take handfuls of government-supplied medicines daily to stay healthy, she never stops working.  

Looking around her spotless, cheerful household with all its responsibilities of animals, farming and beautiful young children, I know it’s an overwhelming burden for one small healthy woman to manage. When I asked her where she gets the will and energy to prevail–and to give to others — for the first time her smile disappeared and the grief running just below the surface of her life crumpled her face in tears.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to get up in the morning, but thinking of my children forces me to get up and do the work,” she says when she composes herself again and breaks out the twinkling smile each one of her children has inherited. “It’s for my children that I want to go on.”

Waqi’s adorable oldest daughter.

This Mother’s Day you can share the love that Heifer is letting loose in the world by clicking here. ( I know it’s what I’m asking for.)

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, China, Photography, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

African Gothic

Because I can’t WAIT to get started on this blog, even though my first official trip isn’t until January 22 when I leave for Guatemala, I’m writing this post from my Heifer Trial Run in Uganda, in November 2011…which was amazing!

Augustine and Anna Turyamyomwe are part of the same Heifer International Kinkizi Piggery Project as Ruth, whom I wrote about in the last post. Augustine is tall and dignified, with perfect posture, a serious mien, and a dazzling smile. Anna is rather shy, but with a penetrating gaze when she talks.

Anna and her daughter Kenema Berina

Like most families in Uganda, Augustine and Anna have lots of children: 3 boys and 3 girls. Before the Heifer piggery project, they had a plot of land but it was barren, and they never seemed to be able to get ahead of their immediate needs of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. Paying their children’s school fees (about $250/year per child) was a daunting hurdle every year.

Neat as a pin: the latrine, animal sheds and utility rack!

But in the Heifer trainings, they learned some lessons that would change their life. They constructed the sheds necessary to keep their pigs robust and reproducing like .. well, rabbits. They learned to dig a pit latrine far from the house and to grow bananas and nutritious crops like napia grass, that would keep their pigs in the pink of health. And of course, the pigs’ manure could be used to fertilize coffee, beans, and pawpaws that would also be sold for income.

Once the door of possibility opened for Augustine & Anna, they added their own ingenuity, creativity and drive. From raising pigs, coffee and fruit, they branched out to bees. Augustine invented a clever bamboo beehive that he used to coax even more honey out of his hive – and then produced dozens more to sell in the village.

Augustine & Anna's house (new wing is on the left)... see the bees painted on the wall above the bamboo hives!

With the money he and Anna have earned from their pigs, bees, coffee, and bananas, the family is sending all the children to school, and their oldest to university. Augustine was able to bring his mother to live with the family and give her a bed of her own. And they’ve also been able to make a dream come true and build a second wing on their house.In the sitting room, as he and Anna are proud to relate, every member of the family has a place to sit.  They even have a radio (their second most prized possession, besides the Bible).

Sitting in the new sitting room (with the Bible and radio).

“The new wing of our house comes from the Heifer piglets,” says Anna, as George, the Heifer extension worker, and I follow Ugandan protocol and gravely sign our names into the Guest Book that every home, no matter how humble, possesses.I think of my name living on in that simple paper notebook, with its lined columns and beautiful formality. I think of Augustine and Anna sitting proudly in their plain wooden chairs, listening to the radio in this room with their children. And it makes me happy beyond expression that I was here, and I got to sign my name.

Categories: Animals, Heifer International, Poverty, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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