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Heifer International India's project in the Thar Desert is organizing 120 original families into six women's self-help groups. Heifer is also providing two goats and vegetable and fodder seeds and seedlings to each participating family. High-quality bucks will be placed with each of the groups to improve the breeding stock. Training will be provided in Heifer's 12 Cornerstones, self-help group management, improved animal management, gender issues, kitchen gardening and fodder production. Participants will also learn about human health, sanitation and hygiene to improve their health and nutrition. These families will also be trained in how to reduce their vulnerability to and mitigate the effects of droughts.
Following Heifer's Pass on the Gift model, the original self-help groups will form six new groups with new project members and provide training and livestock equal to what they received. This first generation of groups will form and pass on to another generation of six groups. A total of 240 families will benefit from Passing on the Gift.
Project participant Sayra Devi lives with her husband and their 10 children in a thatched house of two rooms and a kitchen. Her eldest son is married and has two children who also live with them. Devi's husband farms and earns a meager income as a laborer, along with their two oldest sons. This money goes toward the expenses of the entire family.
Devi is illiterate and always stayed home, always wore veils and had no exposure to the outside world. Because of her unawareness, she had 10 children, which she realizes is one of the major reasons for their poverty. However, since she has become a part of the Heifer-formed self-help group, she has gained confidence and increased her interactions with the women in the village and beyond. The various trainings have added to her growing strength.
The 12 Cornerstones, she says, helped her develop a different perspective on her life. She now maintains hygiene and sanitation at home and has begun sending her children to school. She speaks up in meetings and does not hesitate to answer questions. She regrets her lack of awareness and understanding of gender equity when she was younger, but she adds she will not let it repeat with her children.
In addition to her personal growth and understanding, she now understands that her livestock need to be looked after. She has increased not just their lifespan but also their numbers. "The two goats I received have had three kids. Now I ensure good care, shelter and nutrition for them. I regularly have them checked up for any health problems. This has brought me to the point that at least I have something to help me in a time of emergency. It is a great mental relief, when our monthly income is so uncertain. I also grow vegetables in a little patch at home, lowering our expenses. Feeding a family as large as mine can be taxing, both financially and mentally. The best part is that the milk and vegetables give us a good supplement for our required nutrition."