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Fred and Florence from Coo Pe, Uganda, met in a displacement camp, where they'd both fled to avoid being captured by rebels during Uganda's civil war. Both had lost family members, and Fred was even recovering from being shot himself. With no land, resources or employment in the camp, caring for their young children was nearly impossible.
When peace talks began in 2006 they were among the first to leave the camp. The family moved back to Fred's parents land, but had to completely restart the farm. They began by planting: cassava, maize, beans and sweet potatoes, but farming wasn't easy. Fred was a young boy when he moved to the camp and did not have knowledge or experience in farming.
Twice a day they could eat vegetables and beans, and 3 times per month they had a little meat, but these meals weren't balanced and it was never enough. It seemed like they were always hungry. "If you visited us before you would have seen the children dressed in rags and crying for food," said Fred.
Fortunately, on April 23, 2010, they received a Friesian cow from Heifer International. Since her arrival, the cow has produced 2 bull calves and lots of milk. "Before my children didn't even know what milk looked like," said Florence. "This cow has made my family happy." When the bulls are old enough they will be sold and the money will be used to buy a heifer that can be passed on to another family. In addition to a cow, their family also received seeds and medicines for tick control.
Every Heifer recipient also receives training. Fred participated in a variety of trainings, including: livestock management, environmental protection, soil and water conservation, gender and HIV awareness, vegetable growing, hygiene, and Heifer's Cornerstones. While Fred doesn't have a favorite Cornerstone, "For me they are all important," he said. He is a big believer in Passing on the Gift. "The first step in Passing on the Gift is passing on your knowledge to someone else. Your neighbor needs to have the knowledge that you have acquired so their life can also be changed," he said.
Before this project Fred and Florence owned no animals. Now they have 31 animals including goats and chickens and they have lots of manure. "The manure has helped me in my vegetable garden and on my fruit trees," said Fred. The orange and mango trees Fred planted were barely growing and produced no fruit until he started using manure, and they have tripled their onion harvest.
Now they are able to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and they get lots of protein from milk, beans and peanuts. They eat 3 meals per day and a typical meal is sweet potatoes and vegetables with milk. Eating properly has improved the children's health. "The milk they are taking now is boosting their immune system," said Florence. "The problem of malnutrition is no longer there," said Fred.
The biggest impact of this project has been the dramatic increase in their income. "This project has really helped to fight poverty in my family," said Fred. Fred sells the extra milk, onions, maize, okra and eggplant. They have used this new income to pay for food, school fees for all 4 children, buy a bicycle, chairs, and increase the number of animals on the farm. Education is very important to Fred and Florence, that's why they send all of their children to school. "A person who is educated has a lot of information and can get a good job," said Fred.
Thanks to Heifer International life is much better and their children have a bright future. "I'm now trying to forget the past," said Fred. "The worries we had and the pain we felt is going. The bitterness is gone."
"I want to say thank you to Heifer because your support has really helped me," said Fred. "Your support has not been in vain." Unfortunately, there are many families that need Heifer's help. "The people who were affected by the war are too many," he said. "Heifer is currently able to help a small portion of the total number affected." He added, "If there was more support, then more people could be helped out of this dire situation."
In Fred's opinion, when donors choose to support Heifer International they are giving to a unique organization. "When I compare Heifer with other organizations I see a very big difference in sustainability," said Fred. "The people that Heifer trains can sustain themselves and become totally independent."