You might recognize this familiar face from our all-new 2020 Best.Gift.Ever catalogue. Meet Abiriya, an 8-year-old who lives in Uganda. She’s in grade one, loves to play with her friends, and wants to be a nurse when she grows up.
As a result of the pandemic, she’s at home, missing her classroom and teachers, but spends her day helping her parents with their family farm of goats - one of whom is also pictured on the cover with her.
Abiriya’s parents, Beatrice and Yusuf, were struggling to pay for the school fees for their five children, and could only afford to put their eldest child through school. That left Abiriya and her other two brothers and sister at home and out of the classroom.
Despite being successful farmers, growing an array of crops from matooke (green banana), rice, beans, potatoes, and simsim (sesame), Abiriya’s parents faced difficulties with a low household income that greatly impacted their quality of life.
THE GREAT GIFT OF A GOAT
Just when things seemed dire, Beatrice and her family received the Best.Gift.Ever gift of a goat which improved their household income. When they received the goats, Beatrice and her family learned how to keep the goat pen clean, how to properly care for their health and wellbeing, vaccination schedules, and how to properly breed them.
“We were given the contact of the local veterinary doctor and taught the best times of day to feed them,” Beatrice told us. Breeding and selling the goats dramatically improved their family’s income, as Beatrice sold goats to afford her children’s school fees. She told us, “This project has changed not only my life, but the lives of my whole family.”
“Goats have helped our family have more money,” Abiriya told us. She loves to help her mom in the goat pen and help the animals graze. With school being out in Uganda, the goats are keeping Abiriya busy. “We feel really good about the goats,” she said.
In addition to raising goats, Beatrice was able to expand her farm to pigs and chickens, which she would sell for extra income, and also consume at home for extra protein. “My children can go to school because I’ve paid their school fees. As a family, we can settle our family disputes because we have enough money.”
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THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19
Like billions of people worldwide, Abiriya, Beatrice and their whole family are adjusting to the devastating effects of the pandemic. Abiriya is out of school, wishing she could return to the classroom. “I am tired of staying at home, I miss my teachers and friends,” Abiriya told us. Even though she’s keeping busy at home by tending to the animals and helping to farm crops, Abiriya’s mother fears for the future of her children’s education.
“This is a lost year for all children. They are falling behind in their reading, and even though the government has resorted to conducting lessons on radios and television, they aren’t accessible for my family. Plus, it’s hard that the children can’t ask their teachers questions,” Beatrice explained.
Despite the inability for Abiriya’s parents to sell their produce in the local market because of the pandemic, because they received the Best.Gift.Ever of a goat, they are managing quite well.
“During the pandemic I was able to acquire more land to increase our farming so I can plant more food for our family to eat, and hopefully sell to make up the income. We got the extra money to buy land because I sold one of my goats,” Beatrice described.
THE BEST GIFT EVER
The gift of a goat goes far beyond just the animal - Abiriya and her siblings are in school (when school is in session), her family’s farm has expanded, and her parents can sell the extra produce grown for additional income all because someone gave a Best.Gift.Ever. These gifts can create huge change for families in Canada and around the world, especially in a time when families need extra support.
Look out for Abiriya’s smiling face on the cover of this year’s Best.Gift.Ever catalogue, and know that the lives of her, her parents, her siblings and many community members in Uganda were all changed because of few goats, thanks to caring Canadians like you.