Village womens’ 1992 request to Heifer International brought gift that keeps giving
As Beatrice Biira was celebrating her graduation from a select US liberal arts college in May 2008 with a degree in international development and gender studies, others were celebrating as well – most especially, 240 families living in Kisinga, a small and remote village in southwestern Uganda, near the border of Zaire and Rwanda. They held a special Mass and feast to celebrate their first college graduate.
In 1992, nine-year-old Beatrice’s wish for even primary schooling seemed unlikely to be met because her family, with a yearly income of less than $1,000, could not afford education for any of their six children. But two events that year helped make her dream a reality. Economist Jeffrey Sachs calls it the “Beatrice theorem” of development economics: small inputs can lead to large outcomes.
First, the women in her village took action to improve life for their children, sending a request for goats to Heifer International, an Arkansas group that has been providing poor families with livestock that will produce income and food since 1944. And, second, in a small Connecticut village only seven miles from Beatrice’s university, children attending Niantic Community Church raised $1,673 to pay for a herd of 12 dairy goats from Heifer’s on-line gifts catalogue to be given to African villagers.
When the goats arrived in Kisinga in 1993, Beatrice’s mother, Evelyn Baluku, received a pregnant goat the family called Mugisa, meaning “Luck” in the Okonzo language. Mugisa soon lived up to her name, producing twins and lots of milk – so much that Beatrice’s family could afford the $60 to send her to school. She was much older than the other first grade students but eager to learn. “Even when I got there, I made sure that I did extra work, extra homework, extra help, how to read, how to write. And I made it pretty quick.” Beatrice breezed through first, second and third grades in three months each, and she and her goat soon became famous.