Try to imagine a world where one goat could change your life. In some countries a goat is a real cash cow.
The gift of a pregnant goat completely changed a young Ugandan girl's life. In 1994, when she was 9-years-old, Beatrice Biira wanted nothing more than to be able to go to school but her family couldn't afford the $60 it cost to send her in their African village of Kisinga.
A Helping Heifer
When Biira got the gift of a goat from an Arkansas-based charity called Heifer Project International, it helped her family raise the money. Now 16, Biira is telling the story of how the goat and the sale of its milk improved her family's life.
"We were able to build a new house with iron sheets as the roof — no more leaks during rainy nights," Biira told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "We also got enough milk and our health improved."
Biira's mother applied for a goat through Heifer after hearing about the project through her village's association for women. She was the first of 12 women in her village to receive a goat and Biira named the animal Mugisa, which means luck in Lukonzo, an African dialect.
When Mugisa gave birth to twins Biira's family gave one of the babies to another needy family. Those who get help from Heifer are obligated through an agreement to help others in their community.
Biira's story is the subject of a new children's book, Beatrice's Goat. A portion of the book proceeds help benefit Heifer. Page McBrier, the author of about 40 children's books, wrote Beatrice's Goat after Heifer announced it was looking to publish a story about how important the gift of a goat can be.
Read to Feed
One of Heifer's most important education projects is Read to Feed. It teaches children in kindergarten through sixth-grade about other cultures. The students ask their families and friends to sponsor them for each book they read. Their whole class then decides on which animal it wants to donate and to which area of the world. At the end of the program, the children send the money to Heifer for the purchase of farm animals for projects all over the world.
The Heifer Project has been around since 1944, providing food and income-producing animals to millions of poor families in 115 countries. The animals serve as living loans. Some project animals include camels, donkeys, elephants, pigs, rabbits and silk worms.
Biira now attends Gayaza High School, nine hours from her family's village. The same girl who could not afford to go to school a few short years ago, speaks seven languages today.