Editor’s Note: A commitment to empower women is embedded in Heifer International’s core values for sustainable development. In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, this week we’re sharing the stories of Heifer participants who take the gifts of animals and training and run with them to extraordinary results for themselves and their communities. Through hard work and innovations, each woman secures her rightful place in the family, the marketplace and the world. One of Heifer International’s ‘greatest successstories, Beatrice Biira, today begins a new chapter in her and in Heifer’s effort toengage more individuals in the campaign to end hunger and poverty.
BeatriceBiira, whose life was forever changed by the simple gift of a goat from HeiferInternational, as told in three videos produced by Dick Young Productions andin the best-selling children’s book, “Beatrice’s Goat,” by Page McBrier, isbeginning a new chapter of her life—as a Community Engagement Officer for thehunger and poverty ending organization.
“BeatriceBiira is one of Heifer International’s greatest success stories,” said Pierre Ferrari,Heifer’s president and CEO. “Her path, from her village in Uganda to hergraduation from Connecticut College and The Clinton School of Public Service,in Little Rock, Arkansas, and now back to Heifer International is, for us, atrue homecoming.
“Andthough many of us who work here can recount the stories we have experienced inthe field, few of us can tell them as Beatrice can, as one who lived it and nowhas the chance to give back, to help other girls fulfill dreams,” said Ferrari.
Asa Community Engagement Officer, Biira will support events in New York City andthe greater New York area to help increase awareness of Heifer Internationaland its work and to engage and nurture volunteers and volunteer groups. Shewill also represent Heifer International at public and private events, andengage with major donors and other audiences of influence.
“I am so pleased by my new role with HeiferInternational,” said Biira. “My journey began with Mugisa (which means Luck inLukonzo language), the goat my family received, but it was Heifer’s trainingthat gave me the tools I needed to make my own way. Moving from the village school in Kisingavillage to Gayaza High School in Kampala helped fulfill my dreams. Heifer friends supported me in every part ofthis journey. My first experience in theU.S. was attending Northfield-Mt. Herman School for a transitional year. It was so rewarding that after thateducational experience I was admitted to many colleges in the U.S.”
In an interview with the CBS news show, “60 Minutes,”Biira once said her dream was to see herself helping others, “maybe a farm withcows or goats, and giving those children milk. And I’d love to see them gethealthier, all by my work.” Now, she says, “I can do that, I can live thatdream.”
When Biira first learned about Heifer International, shewas a young girl performing adult chores and responsibilities in her village ofKisinga. She had little to eat and little hope, but she yearned to go to school,to learn, but her family could not afford the school fees. And school, at thetime, was largely exclusive to boys.
Then, Heifer gave 12 goats to 12 families in Kisinga, andBiira’s family was fortunate to be among them. Soon, Biira’s mother was able tosell enough goats’ milk to send her to the local school.
From there, she won a scholarship to a high school inKampala, Uganda’s capital. Then, she went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree fromConnecticut College, and her Master’s from the Clinton School.
Heifer supporters first met Beatrice at the 1998Conference on World Hunger when Dick Young premiered “The Promise” andintroduced “the little girl in the red dress.’ It was not long after the conference when she was asked by Simon andSchuster to do a book tour for “Beatrice’s Goat” and she visited 13 states anddid 128 presentations in 40 days, including an interview with Charlie Gibson on“Good Morning America.”
The last query from Gibson was “Beatrice, I understand youlike pizza?” “I do,” she replied, “but Ilike goat’s milk best.” Hercommunication gifts are well known and in March 2011 she was a keynote speakerat the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference on Sustainability.
Prior to joining Heifer International, she worked with TheMillennium Promise Alliance Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to ending extremepoverty through implementation of the Millennium Development Goals,international development goals adopted by the United Nations and a host ofinternational organizations to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce childmortality and prevent disease epidemics. She was the Program Associate for the Connect to Learn Global EducationInitiative.
Biira’s story has been featured in TheNew York Times and People magazine, and on The Oprah WinfreyShow. She is also featured in the book “Half the Sky,” byNicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, as well in several of Kristof’s columns in The New York Times.
“No one better understands the power of Heifer’sCornerstone of Passing on the Gift than Beatrice,” said Ferrari, referring toHeifer’s requirement that a family that receives an animal pass on the firstfemale offspring of that animal, along with training in its care, to anotherfamily in need. “Now, she is fulfilling that promise, passing on her own gifts,with us at Heifer and with the families we help.
“Itis the perfect fit.”