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Being a woman and an independent mother means having a life with many responsibilities and few opportunities, especially in the Andes. Farming and raising livestock, often without technical know-how, do not provide families with an adequate standard of living, especially families headed by single women.
Nevertheless, some opportunities can turn men's and women's lives around. That happened to Victoria Medrano Campos, a 48-year-old farm woman who was born and raised in the community of San Pedro de Pillao in the Pasco Region in central Peru. Her words and deeds show that she is a wise, responsible woman who is appreciated by the other members of her community because of the good example she sets.
"Farming is hard work and there is little profit, but thanks be to God, Heifer came with a plan that changed my life," Victoria says enthusiastically.
Victoria, who has three daughters, saw the project, "Capacity Building and Food Sovereignty in Farming Communities in Pasco" implemented by Heifer Peru and Separ, as a valuable opportunity to learn more about caring for her animals and making better use of her land. She and other members of her community began participating in the project in April 2008.
"Since I decided to participate in this project, I have taken it very seriously and I haven't missed a single workshop. Because of the great effort I made, they sent me to Cusco to share my knowledge with people from different parts of southern Peru. We all shared our experiences."
The personal development workshops helped Victoria recognize and value her skills and talents. She also learned to love her neighbors and to treat her animals differently.
"I am very grateful, and I wish Heifer and Separ would never leave. As a single mother, I thought I had little chance of getting ahead, but they made me understand that wasn't true."
Before participating in the project, she did not care for her animals appropriately and did not take the greatest advantage of her land or the natural fertilizer her animals provided. With training, she and other community members learned to keep their animals clean and healthy, give them medication and feed them with good fodder. This was taught in introductory workshops before the farmers became participants and received sheep.
"Now I talk to my animals. I ask them if they're hungry. My sheep love me, and as soon as they hear me come home, they start crying so I'll go see them."
Victoria is a courageous woman who has shown she is able to support her family. Because of her knowledge, and with the support of other farmers in her community, she was chosen to be trained as a local outreach worker. She has finished the training and has begun to share what she has learned. She says she wants to share her knowledge with as many people as possible, so they can also practice the techniques that helped her change her life.
She is very proud, because her family is among those who have the first lambs. Five have been born and are ready to be shared with other farmers in her community.
"I am sure I will do much better as the years go by. I am happy to have shown that I can accomplish the things I set out to do." Victoria's experience gives us strength and courage.