Christine Makahumure lost everything in the horrible genocidal war that ravaged Rwanda in 1994. When her family tried to flee the fighting, they were caught in a crossfire, and Christine watched in horror as her husband and son were shot down before her eyes.
For years afterward, Christine, her daughter Catherine, and her parents lived a life of barest subsistence. The family would shut themselves indoors from sunset to late morning the following day, due to lack of money, activity or friends. They never dared to hope for anything more in life.
But one day, Christine heard about an organization that was giving out cows. With little else to hope for, she applied for help. And soon after, Christine received her cow from Heifer International.
Christine's humble home quickly became the center of the village's attention, with a steady stream of neighbors and local officials coming by to see her cow from Heifer International. Her cow was treated so royally, in fact, that Christine named her "Royal Bride."
Thanks to the nutritious milk Royal Bride provided, the health of Christine's daughter and parents improved dramatically. And with the money she gained from selling Royal Bride's milk, Christine was able to buy her parents a small home of their own.
Christine gave her first calf to a neighbor, fulfilling her Heifer commitment of Passing on the Gift. But she didn't stop there. She gave her neighbors the money they needed to buy a shed, so that they too could apply for a cow from Heifer. Most amazingly, Christine also adopted four local children who had been orphaned by the war.
Christine is living proof of the life-changing difference an animal from Heifer can make in a community in desperate need of healing.
This Cows for Peace Project in Rwanda does more than just bring cows to the area. Heifer's field staff introduce zero-grazing technology, so that participants can learn how to protect their land while managing their new livestock. Heifer staff also import improved breeds of cattle to ensure better offspring.
But perhaps most importantly, the Heifer cows have become rallying points of communal togetherness. As with Christine's neighbors, different population groups now work together in "Family-Cow Cooperatives" that foster understanding and share knowledge.
In Rwanda, where only a decade ago neighbors were killing each other, this is a miraculous achievement.