Story by: Marina Kazaryan, Project Assistant, Heifer Georgia
When you enter Kazbegi, the mountains will leave you spellbound the very first minute. They surround the place, protecting it from all winds. People of Kazbegi resemble the mountains they live in not speaking much, strong-willed and not dropping their head in the face of hardships.
"It was such a hard blow for me when my husband passed away," remembers Nina Badashvili. "After he was gone, I was left with three small kids on my hands and no source to provide for them." At that time, the region's economic situation, like the entire country, was severely damaged, following the aftermath of the Soviet Union breakdown. Many families were left unemployed and with no clear prospects for the future. "In some households, men would go to Tbilisi or Vladikavkaz (now in Russian Federation) to find a job there," says Nina. "I couldn't afford even that, because there was no one I could leave my children with."
Nina's only option was to sell milk and dairy products from her family's single cow at the market in Vladikavkaz, which, though only 45 km away, was on the other side of the border. Nina would get a ride to Vladikavkaz and spend the whole day at the market trying to sell as much as she could in order to buy flour, oil and salt. "I returned home in the dark," Nina recalls. "Sometimes there would be no car returning to Kazbegi the same evening, and I had to stay overnight in Vladikavkaz. My children were alone at home, and though I knew I could rely on my elder daughter to take care of them, she was but a child herself." But even this source of income was not permanent. After several years, Nina's children grew up. It was time to think of their future. "I wanted to give them the best I could, to make sure they find their way in this world," she adds. "I wanted them to have good education, so I had to sell the cow to save some money."
Today, Nina's eldest daughter is a mother. After separating from her husband, she and her six-year-old son Luka moved in with Nina. "Thank God, this time we don't have to go through the same hardships," Nina smiles. Their situation is smoother because Nina joined a Heifer project implemented in Kazbegi. She learned about it from the chairman of the local farmers association and immediately saw it as her chance to help Nato raise Luka. After appropriate trainings, the family received a nice, healthy heifer. "Now we have milk and cheese every day; together with homemade bread, this is a perfect meal for a mountain dweller," smiles Nina. She says it didn't take long to see the positive effects of such a diet, as Luka is growing strong and healthy from sufficient milk and milk products. Since the border between Kazbegi and Russia is closed to Georgian citizens, following the escalation of the Georgian-Russian conflict, Nato sells surplus milk in the local market. In addition, dairy products are in great demand among local and foreign tourists who come to Kazbegi for skiing; therefore, the price for these products, especially cheese, is rather high here. "We still manage to save up bit-by-bit," says Nato. "Last winter, we had a gas oven installed for heating and are now saved from severe Kazbegi winters. This was our dream that finally came true." Together, Nina and Nato take care of their household, which, besides the heifer, also includes a pig. "I was always close with my mother, and participation in Heifer project together only made these ties stronger," says Nato.
"I think this is such great and useful work that Heifer International is doing," says Nina. "The decision to join the project was the most correct I could have made. I can't thank enough Heifer's generous donors and American people for conducting this project and giving me, among other people, the possibility to take good care of my family. I'm looking forward to passing on the heifer to another family this year. I hope the new family will take good care of it. I'm ready to help them in any way."
This Mother's Day, honor your mother and help more mothers like Nina and Nato build lives of self-sufficiency with an alternative Mother's Day gift from Heifer.