At 10 years old, Dennis had already survived the loss of his mother, malnutrition and neglect. But today at 15 years, his and his brother’s lives have been changed by a simple gift – a gift of goats.
In 2008, George found himself in his 60’s, widowed and left with two children, aged 10 and 8 years. His wife had died when his youngest was only 8 months old. Having no means himself, the baby and his older brother Dennis, were sent to be cared for by George’s sisters.
However, when the brothers were returned, his once robust babes were so malnourished that the owner of the land on which they are squatters, provided free milk and medical care in an act of mercy for the family. The land owner then hired George to care of his own crops, but in exchange for living on the land.
Dennis lives with his father George and his brother in a home of two rooms of mud, stick and old iron sheeting. The father shares a mat with his children under the one mosquito net they own to save them from the ravishes of malaria. The second room is used for ancestral worship, a less than antique net drapes loosely over the doorway, dragging on the dirt floor of his home and providing a separation to what George holds sacred.
This small family will harvest what produce the wild pigs have left them from their small garden – mostly beans- and sell them to pay for school fees and basic necessities. But the income is never enough.
In late 2008, Dennis and his family were given two goats from Salama SHIELD Foundation. Dennis’ chest was swollen with pride at his new possessions. George has dreamt of having a herd of goats one day as something to leave to his children. He knows his days with them are numbered.
George and Dennis both know that these goats will provide offspring, and one day meat to the family, and for George – a longed for inheritance for his sons.
Dennis Assimwe is today 15 years old and his goats have multiplied enough that four goats have been sold over the past two years. The goats were sold by George to provide school fees and supplies for Dennis and his brother; a dowry for a new wife; and bedding for each of his sons, so they no longer had to share blankets with their father. The goats have all since been replaced by new offspring. The herd and Dennis’ inheritance is growing.
Dennis’ new stepmother cares well for her two stepsons, treating them as her own biological children. And although the newer bedding is already showing signs of wear and needs replacing soon, the family now has collateral for future expenses and schooling. They continue to grow and harvest beans to sustain themselves through the dry months.
George has given up his second and sacred room of the home, to keep the goats safe and secure. Although he has been encouraged for the sake of the children’s health, to construct a pen outside, his age is now slowing him down. He is no longer able to work.
Dennis and his family now have collateral, enough money for food, school fees and clothing and a brighter future.