What is one of the most practical things a Canadian Anglican can do to help a family struggling with AIDS in eastern Africa?
Give them a goat.
Goats can be life-changing for people living with AIDS in parts of Africa, says Simon Chambers, communications co-ordinator for The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF).
AIDS is no longer a death sentence for those who have access to antiretroviral drugs. But these drugs are extremely hard on the body, and can do serious damage if patients on antiretroviral regimens do not get enough food, says Chambers.
Because goat’s milk is highly nutritious, a goat can help a family dealing with AIDS stay strong enough that the drugs can take effect.
The Anglican Church of Canada’s gift guide, Gifts for Mission, enables Anglicans-through PWRDF-to donate $80. Matched with government funds, it is enough to provide a dairy goat to a family living with AIDS. A new addition to the program this year also allows donors to purchase a cow for an African farmer for $140.
The project is part of a four-year initiative to bolster maternal and newborn health in Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Mozambique, Chambers says. The Canadian government has agreed to fund matching donations from Canadians by a factor of 15-85, which means that for every dollar given, the government will contribute six.
Most of the goats will go to the diocese of Masasi in Tanzania, which has already been using them as part of a development plan for several years, says Chambers.
One of the more creative aspects about the diocese of Masasi’s approach, Chambers noted, is a pay-it-forward feature designed to build up the entire community.
If a family is given two goats and the goats produce offspring, the firstborn is given to another family in the community that is in need. While they are allowed to keep any future offspring, this feature encourages recipients to also become givers.
“We think [this] really makes [the project] community-based rather than individual-based,” said Chambers. “The community decides who are the people in the most need, and then they are the ones who are the initial beneficiaries. But then those people are giving back into the community, so that more families are able to benefit from the program over time.”
The project also helps these communities in more indirect ways: because the livestock is purchased by PWRDF partners working on the ground in places like Tanzania and Burundi, the money raised stimulates the local economies of affected communities.
Chambers noted that, like all PWRDF programs, the gift guide is based around the needs expressed by partners like the diocese of Masasi.
“Every item in the gift guide from PWRDF is something that our partners have told us needs to be part of the projects we are doing,” he said. “All of our partners are community-based…know the people in the communities, and they know what the needs are.”
Because PWRDF connects donors to groups like parishes and dioceses that are not only active in but are part of the communities facing need, Chambers explained, there is a strong sense of continuity between projects.
“We are in the community for the long haul,” he said. “It’s not just looking at the short term; it’s looking at the long term.”