Written by Marleen New, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
Fire couldn't diminish the hope and spirit of the Zambian women
Disturbing news greeted us this morning as we prepared to leave our hotel for the hand-over ceremonies. The structure that the farmers head built for the celebration had burned to the ground the night before!
Zambia is in the midst of the dry season, with no rain since early May, and wild fires are a common occurrence. It seems as if they pop up regularly - you even notice the haze as you fly in. Imagine planning for a big party, with all of the work and preparation that goes into the event and at the last minute, all of your work goes up in smoke - literally! It was heartbreaking to hear, and we hurried to the site to see if we could take part in the clean-up.
The hand-over of animals.
The hand-over ceremony that we were here to see was for the Go Women Group in the Kanyenda Community. They had selected 20 of their members who would receive the first of the animals - 7 goats apiece. In preparation the families had constructed an enclosure about half the size of a football field made entirely of thatch. The fire had reduced it to char but we arrived to smiles, cheers, hugs and a lot of jubilant dancing. The fire had not diminished their enthusiasm - they were ready to roll!
Sturdy new barn with raised floor. Ready to receive their goats!
The hand-over ceremony began with pomp and circumstance and all protocol observed. There were lots of government officials and dignitaries to greet, prayers and singing of the national anthem - the Zambian anthem is beautiful, by the way!
The speeches by the farmers were touching and memorable. Today marked the beginning of a new life for these families and it was an honor to witness the occasion. For these new members of the Heifer family, just standing and addressing a large crowd with dignitaries and visitors from far away was a significant thing. Their words inspired. "We are seeds. But don't look at the seed as a small thing. It has a lot of wisdom inside and soon it will grow and become a strong tree providing shade to others".
One woman almost brought me to tears when she told me, "We never knew that people from all over the world would hear our simple voices. This is a day I will remember all my life." I'd challenge anyone to NOT be moved by that comment!
The crowd sang to us as we departed at the end of the day and the words seemed quite fitting considering how the day had started - "Everywhere we go it's like a fire, the work of Heifer is flaming like a fire. Elanco has started a fire and we will keep it going."
But it wasn't the fire that warmed our hearts today . . .