Gahanga residents that are beneficiaries of Own a Goat project initiated by Mary Ann Mcminn have good stores to tell; stories of transforming livelihoods, getting empowered, graduating from perpetual lack and moving away from depending on handouts.
The Own a Goat project was initiated by Ann Mcminn, a 14 years old lady who is currently studying at Southside Christian School in Greenville, South Carolina, USA.
Ann Mcminn with her mother Ms. Phyllis McMinn came to Rwanda in 2012 responding to the invitation of Reach Children of Rwanda International RCRI’s country director, Benjamin Musuhukye. At the time she came with her mother.
In Rwanda she was taken to various parts of the country to visit hundreds of children that RCRI (local NGO) supports across the country. She was moved by hard living conditions of Kane, Gahanga residents that were filled with misery.
Mary Ann Mcminn was impressed and consulted Benjamin on how she could be contributing to positive transformation of their livelihoods. Realizing that livestock can do much more, a goat project to these vulnerable Gahanga residents was prioritized.
Mary Ann Mcminn then initiated a fundraising campaign by engaging her school peers and staff as well as writing letters to family and friends which saw her initiative gaining a large support. She used the money to buy goats for Gahanga residents.
She got the funding to support vulnerable families by writing letters from family members, church members and friends from her school at SouthSide Christian School.
Having a kitchen backyard, promising to rear livestock pledging to make a good use of it till the beneficiary is able to pay medical insurance by 2017 were among criteria to receive goats.
Talking on her commitment to advocate for supporting Gahanga vulnerable residents, Mary Ann Mcminn said; “I felt pity for people that I met experiencing hard life. This pushed me to associate with them and try my best to improve their livelihoods to a better status.”
So far 90 goats have been distributed to Gahanga residents and intend to form a cooperative as a way of developing advanced saving.
The first batch of goat donations was handed to beneficiaries of Kane, Gahanga in Kicukiro district in December 2015 while the second round of donations took place in April 2016.
Gahanga beneficiaries of Own a Goat have lauded the support which saw their lives getting transformed.
“My goat has already given birth to two kids and I am hoping to have at least ten goats by next year. I will sell one goat by May next year so that I can pay Mutuelle for my whole family. This will be the first time the government will not have paid my health insurance” said Mr. Kanamugire a resident of Kane, Gahanga explaining how income from goat farming is contributing to his welfare.
“From my kitchen garden which was a condition to having a goat, I grew enough vegetables which we have enjoyed for the last two months. Where would we have bought fertilizers to put in our garden? We thank God for inspiring this young girl to change our lives,” said Ms. Jeannet, a woman whose child-Esther is now fully sponsored by Mary Ann in School.
Ms. Jeannet wants to build several other small kitchen gardens so that she can plant more vegetables for sale in the neighborhood.
Own a Goat Project is targeting to provide goats to 150 eligible families in Shaba, Kijote from Nyabihu district of Western Province. The process is on track. So far in Shaba, Kijote, Bigogwe sector in Nyabihu district, 40 goats have been distributed almost half of her target.
Commenting on the inception of the project, the country director of Reach Children International Rwanda said:
“Friends in America like Mary Ann have true ambassadors of Rwanda. For the years they have been visiting Rwanda, they see fast transformation and people determined for bright future. I was astonished to hear a young lady asking me what kind of gift would be provided to contribute to the welfare of vulnerable people. This is an ideal tool to fight poverty. We are impressed by her passion and zeal of fundraising but also how she takes time and talks about the Land of a thousand hills".
He explained that the cooperation with the lady will be extended to more projects by 2017-18. For instance, a community goats’ kraal has been constructed in Gahanga so that people will no longer sleep with domestic animals in their homes. The same idea will be initiated in Nyabihu and is expected to improve hygiene in communities.
Beneficiaries are planning to get into a cooperative to make a good use of revenues from sold goats as production increases.