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In honor of International Women’s Day, this week we’re sharing the stories of the amazing women Heifer works with who have taken the gifts of animals and training and run with them, leading to extraordinary results for themselves and their communities. Today we’re bringing back one of our most moving stories.

This stirring mini-documentary by Ripple Effect Images tells the story of 64-year-old Sofia Arivilca. Homeless for most of her life, Sofia built her first home of her own with the help of her community and Heifer International's Healthy Homes initiative.

If you want to support Heifer's efforts to empower women like Sofia, donate here.

Sofia Arivilca was homeless for most of her 64 years. Born to a poor family in the highlands of Puno, Sofia was dragged from place to place by her wandering father. They eventually ended up in the Amazon, far from the family and world she knew. At 25, she married an older man who soon began to beat her.

She tolerated the abuse because she had nowhere else to go, no family to welcome her home, no friends to comfort her. She was isolated, lonely and scared. Sofia finally found the courage to leave. She fled her marriage and spent years begging, working for food and housing at any job she could get. She often slept outside or with animals that she tended for others, as she made her way back to the highlands where she was born.

Rejected by her family, she accepted the kindness of neighbors and women who understood her situation. It was after many years struggling to find a home and work in Puno that she finally learned about the Healthy Homes program created by Heifer International.

The Healthy Homes program is a unique program. By redesigning kitchens for more hygienic storage, installing improved stoves, providing appropriate sanitation facilities and teaching women how to use natural methods to keep food cool, the Healthy Homes program lowers the prevalence of food-borne illnesses, improves sanitation, keeps people warm during harsh winters and decreases the need to haul firewood.

Stay tuned this week for more stories of the incredible women with whom Heifer works and to learn more about how our projects are designed to empower them. 

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