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Twas the day before Christmas and the good doctor and nurse played Santa on their way down the mountain after clinic.  Last year, we had some wonderful visitors here in December who made up gift bags of clothing and toys that we distributed to about 100 children who lived in homes along the road we take back and forth to clinic.  Well, this year we didn’t have Santa’s elves to help us out, so Cherlieand I were left to our own devices, short on time and lacking in creativity.  There were some large stuffed animals that had been sent down to us by some generous partners, sitting in bags in our clinic conference room.  They actually were a little irritating to me because they were big and took up a lot of room and we couldn’t really give them out to our clinic patients without causing some jealousy (we usually give out small beanies or small toy cars to our young patients, not big animals like these).  So, for months the animals have been waiting patiently for a chance to bless someone’s little life.

Well, that chance came today when I received a visit from one of my favorite little 7-year old boys.  He’s been coming to the clinic since he was an infant and waves to us on his way to school every day.  I was smitten with him years ago.  Today he came in with his mother for a consultation and I realized I had to come up with a wonderful Christmas gift for him since it was the day before Christmas!  What a dilemma!  I couldn’t just run out to the local Walmart, so I visited the conference room instead.  There, I saw the stuffed animals, sitting in plastic bags, bursting with pride at the thought of going home with one of my favorite boys!  And, go home they did, six of them actually, one for each of the children in the home.  

Emmanuel holding his new stuffed animal

 Well, now that the idea was in my head, all the children who came to clinic today received a large stuffed animal.  

Another young patient with her new stuffed friend.

At the end of the day, we filled the car with the rest of the stuffed animals and gave them out to our other little friends along the road down from the clinic.  They were thrilled with the gifts and I was glad to have the opportunity of giving them away for a good cause. 

Cousins from three families are all smiles!

Another little friend of ours with a stuffed animal almost as tall as she is!

 So, the moral of our story today is twofold:  what may be an irritation to us can turn into a wonderful blessing and eventually everything that comes to us to be given away is done so, in the right context and through the right relationships.  Thanks to our partners for making gifts possible.  

 Cherlie and I and our staff wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!

Last April, at our annual fundraising banquet in Milwaukee, we announced the start of a new Goat Program. The program is designed to help rural families generate income to support themselves and their children.  The response to our request for funding was overwhelming!  Everyone wanted to buy a goat or two or three!  As a result, we quickly began making plans to initiate the program in four communities near our outpatient clinic in Gatineau.  The communities we chose were Duchene, Gatineau, Nouvelette and Fraise, the latter two being communities where we have our Community Promoters and Water and Sanitation program.  All four are communities in which we’ve built latrines. Each of the four communities is well-organized and has leadership within, making them ideal places to begin this new and exciting Goat Program!

The first step was to have the communities set up a committee that will provide oversight of the program.  The committees then chose two people to take responsibility as supervisors of the program, keeping all of the statistics and managing the day-to-day operations of the program.  The supervisors will report to Gemi and Viel, our Community Coordinators, and then to Cherlie and me.  Each of the four committees chose 25 families to receive two female goats each. They also chose two other families to care for the two bucks that will be used for breeding.

In August, in collaboration with our partners from Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, we held training sessions for the goat recipient families in each of the communities.  We taught them about caring for the goats and trained them on Biblically-based business principles.  After this, the families began to get ready to receive the goats, building pens and shelters for the two bucks that will be used for breeding, and preparing their yards to receive the female goats.

When Cherlie and I got back from our trip to the U.S. in November, we met with Gemi and Viel to plan our goat purchasing strategy.  A couple of weeks ago, we put that strategy into operation!  Each day of the week, a different community in the area holds a market where agricultural products and animals, such as sheep, goats and pigs, are sold.  Gemi and Viel went with our veterinary technician, Bruni Chevalier, and supervisors from one of the four communities to a different market each day of the week, purchasing goats for their specific community that day.  On Tuesdays, there is a market in Leon and Nouvelette is the community that is closest to Leon.  So, the “team” went from Nouvelette to Leon to purchase female goats for families in Leon.

Leading the goatsTeam members lead goats home from the market in Leon to Nouvelette

The goats were led home by the team members, who had to walk up and down the mountain paths and sometimes cross streams and creeks.  Some of the goats didn’t seem too excited about jumping across the water!

Cross whatYou want me to cross what?  To go where?

Wednesday is market day in Marfranc, which is closest to Fraise, so on Wednesday a team went from Fraise to the market in Marfranc. Marfranc is a large market and the team was able to purchase about 25 goats in one day!

Marfran herdGoats all standing around in Marfranc market

Marfran1Beautiful female goats!

The purchase of each goat has to be registered by an official who sits in the market area. Each goat is given a registration number and paperwork to prove ownership.  This paperwork allows the new owner to bring the goat to his/her own community.  Theft of animals is common here, so the paperwork is necessary to prove that the new owner legally purchased the animal.

registrationThe registration official at the Marfranc market registers all the goats.

Once the goats are purchased, they are placed with their new owners who begin to care for them.  Thus far, almost 70 goats have been purchased by Gemi and his team.  Medications for worms and parasites were purchased also and are being given to the new goats by Bruni, our veterinary technician.  We want the females to be in top shape when breeding begins early next year.

MedsMedications that were purchased for the newly acquired goats.

We want to thank all of our donors and supporters for this wonderful start to our new Goat Program! We especially thank Wade McGuinn and our partners from Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church as well as Dr. Nancy Willerton from Denver, Colorado, for their expertise and assistance with this program.  If you haven’t already, you can still buy a goat or two or three!  Each female costs about $50 and the breeding males cost $200.  Pray with us for continued success in the program.