How can an incubator change lives? What does it mean to a Congolese to be given an animal start-up? Will it really have that much of an impact? Why does it matter? How do animals improve someone’s quality of life?
Imagine living in a place where a good wage is $3.00 a day. If you even manage to have a reliable employer that actually pays you for your work, having health coverage is even more rare. Now add lack of birth control and a very large family into that scenario (we’re talking like sometimes 8 or more children) and the likelihood of someone going hungry jumps dramatically. But what if you were given the chance to start your own animal business and feed your family? This is where the animal miro-loan program can help.
For example the “median” salary in the US is about $51,000 a year meaning about $196 per working day. So in “relative” terms we will say that $3.00 here is equal to $196 for the following statements (or $1 =$65.33).
Let’s look at eggs. Eggs are highly nutritious, containing many of the vitamins and minerals a person needs every day and contain a lot of protein as well. They could be a vital source of improved nutrition if they were not so expensive here. Eggs cost anywhere from 200-300 Congolese Francs per egg, which is about 21-32 cents per egg. Not expensive for us it may seem but for a Congolese it’s like paying $13.71-$20.90 per egg. No wonder they don’t eat many eggs, I wouldn’t be able to either at that price. If they had egg-laying hens however they would be able to sell some to pay for feed and use the rest to feed their family. Imagine walking out to collect $20 bills everyday instead of eggs . . .
Since we’ve talked a little about eggs let’s look at the source – the chickens themselves. Animals here are used almost as a “savings account” because they are worth a lot of money and when you sell them, you get a large chunk of money all at once in comparison to selling a few vegetables. It is also the reason that disease killing all of your animals here can be cause for ruin – kind of like that stock market crash a while back. Chickens here sell anywhere from $3.00 for the very young all the way to $12.00 for an adult good-sized rooster. Hens average $6.00-$8.00 at the market. That means their $6.00-$12.00 chickens are in relative terms worth from $391.98-$783.96. That’s why being given a start up flock can mean a changed life and a very different future.
Now all of this may seem a little dramatic but it’s only for some perspective. Perspective into why giving someone some animals can dramatically change their life for the better. Why it could set up their future to look very different. They would not only be able to consume some of the animal products produced by the program but it would give them another source of income to purchase the other needed items to feed their families or keep them healthy.
Many people will sell a chicken, for example, to pay for a hospital bill. With a growing flock of them, you wouldn’t need to worry about being able to pay your bill and would feel more free to go to the hospital when you needed to; some people don’t go to the hospital until it is already too late because of this. Imagine avoiding health care that you desperately need because you are so worried about not being able to pay for it and then it’s too late by the time you go. A flock of chickens could be enough peace of mind to avoid a life-threatening health situation. I’m not trying to con up the slogan that “Chickens save lives,” I’m just pointing out that they do improve them, even if it’s just peace of mind to make wise decisions.
My vision has been to create a self-sustaining animal micro-loan program. The idea is that the participants are given an animal “start-up package” as a loan in which they have to pay back the loan in animals, which goes back into the program to facilitate even more families receiving aid. For example, if a family is given a breeding trio of healthy rabbits, they will be expected to raise up and give back healthy rabbits as payment. Then those healthy rabbits can be given to the next family to start their own rabbit program and so on.
This was my vision but I was facing many large obstacles to even think about beginning. One of the biggest ones that I’m working on is a language barrier. I know enough French to “get-by” but not have in-depth conversations about raising animals and trying to sort through potential canidates for receiving the animals. I also am very new here and do not know how to navigate all of the ins and outs of culture here. And another is I’m a mother; I have our home to look after and our son to care for. When will I find the time to sort through applications, interview people, educate them on raising animals, and most of all follow-up with the families for how things are going and paying back their loans so the program can continue? These were some of the major obstacles I didn’t know how I was going to overcome.
That is where God brought things together, in His good time. In my last post I described the Spiritual Warfare that we have been facing over the last couple of months. When you have a ministry that is going to center around animals, having your animals repeatedly wiped out is a big deal. It was devastating but God also used it for good. It made me slow down and rely on Him to bring things about. When He did they fit so perfectly together it amazed me.
A friend of mine, Anna, who works up at the hospital as a nurse arranged for me to have a meeting with the two men from the hospital’s malnutrition program to see if we might work together for a mutual goal. I had considered working with the program before but had no idea how to make that come about myself. Anna works at the hospital and knows the two men so she was able to arrange an actual meeting with them for me.
Anna, her husband Patrick, and the two men, Noe and Esdras, came over for tea in the beginning of March to discuss the joining of forces on this new animal program. They shared with me what they do in the program now and I shared with them my vision for starting this animal micro-loan program and my desires in how I would like to be a part. Because of my stated limitations and obstacles above, I desire to be the facilitator who does the background work; I am not able to be the one interviewing and interacting directly with families a whole lot because of language restrictions and trying to navigate the cultural and social waters is not possible right now. I wanted to be the one to provide information, provide the animals, give support and work on the details of the program. With the gifts God has given me I wanted to be the “supplier” and “administrator” so to speak.
This fit perfectly with what Esdras and Noe wanted and are able to do. They know the culture (it is theirs after all) with all of its in and outs- like which tribes already know more about taking care of animals and which ones might need more education and how to get people to invest in their future and pay back their loan instead of living in the here and now and just eating the animals. They speak multiple languages well including both French and Swahili along with other tribal tongues (Noe speaks a little English too but most of our communication will be in French until I can get more of a handle on Swahili myself) allowing them to communicate easily. They also know the families well that we will be working with – giving us precious insight into the families that will be good candidates for receiving the animals.
The two pieces of the puzzle fit together so perfectly, God amazes me continually.
So now what? Our family has a few weeks here before we leave for some much needed vacation time and a “rest furlough” where we will get to see friends and family, get some rest hopefully and then come back here refreshed and ready to go on. This gives us the opportunity to purchase some things and then bring them back with us in our luggage. A few of the things that I am planning on bringing back with me are incubators. I’ve bought one for personal use here on our homestead (seriously if we want to eat any poultry it will pay itself off in less than two hatchings with $8-$12 per bird) and am planning on purchasing other incubators to provide a steady supply of chicks for our animal micro-loan program.
The incubator that I have researched and selected is the Brinsea Octagon 20 Advance. If our program continues to grow and the need and finances are there, I would like to even save up for a larger one or several more small ones to be shipped to us. These incubators from my research and much forum-readings have been the clear winner. They are not cheap but they are reliable and dependable, which is rather a must in isolated parts of Congo don’t ya think? If you would like to help finance some incubators or part of one please let me know! The more support our program receives the more families we can help in the future.
Another item which I am looking into purchasing and bringing along with us is a brooder. The Brinsea Ecoglow 50 Brooder to be exact. When you hatch chicks you use a brooder afterwards to keep them warm until their adult feathers come in. Yes, we live in the tropics, but it can still get chilly here during the night, early mornings and when we have thunderstorms (which is often, sometimes even 3 times a day). This is another expense I’m looking for help on if you are interested in being involved in this ministry financially.
So with looking to the future we will be bringing an incubator back with us for the program, after our mini rest furlough, and will be able to begin the program almost immediately following our arrival. The chicks will have to be hatched, cataloged and raised for a few months before the first family can receive their chickens but this is going to give Noe and Esdras time to select some of the first families, educate them on raising chickens, and help the families prepare for the chickens’ arrival. Hopefully before the end of the year, sometime in the fall, the first families will be ready to receive the first chicks.
So that is the vision and God’s provision all in one. The ministry He laid on my heart, He has brought about in His timing. Our animal mico-loan program will begin and then grow; we will learn and change things along the way to better how we serve the families and be better for it. Please be in prayer for our future program and ministry here during this foundational time and for us to continue to be more effective in the future. If you are interested in helping financially to help us purchase incubators and a brooder, you are welcome to message me for details through our Facebook page.