Sometimes, miracles come with goatees and feathers. That’s the case with the Cameroon Goat & Chicken Fund, a unique mission that connects Milwaukee’s St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care with the people of West Africa through the powerful gift of livestock.
This outreach program was started in 2003 by Sr. Edna Lonergan, St. Ann Center’s president. Donors to the fund provide money needed to purchase goats, chickens and piglets. The animals are raised in Cameroon on farms run by the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis and distributed to families in need. When the livestock reproduce, their offspring are returned to the Sisters to give to another family. The livestock offer the families an ongoing food source of eggs, milk and cheese. The families can sell whatever products they can’t consume themselves, providing them with additional income that can help them for decades and bring hope for generations.
St. Ann Center’s primary mission is to connect the generations, and the Cameroon fund extends that mission globally.
Tragically, the spread of malaria, HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses have taken the lives of many young adults in Cameroon, leaving grandparents and even great-grandparents to bring up their young grandchildren. The livestock program ensures the elders can bring fresh food to the table.
Every other year, Sr. Edna and a small group of staff and volunteers travel more than 7,600 miles to visit the Tertiary Sisters and witness the goat and chicken program in action. The most recent trip in October took them to the impoverished villages of Shisong and Bafut, where the Tertiary Sisters are doing amazing work. Some families are surviving on less than $100 a year, without sufficient food, shelter, education or health care. In response, the Sisters started a vocational school that teaches cooking, sewing, mechanical and computer skills, and have also delivered medical care through their hospital in Shisong.
The recent trip was the first for Sr. Margaret Kruse, St. Ann Center’s director of Spirituality Services, and helped her see how similar all people are. “At the core, we all want the best for our families,” she said. “In Africa, I became aware that in the midst of poverty there is still a sense of hope and joy in the people.”
In Cameroon, she noted, “people live with a purpose–they work hard to take care of their families and do whatever it takes.”
At St. Ann Center, Sr. Margaret sees adult clients who are in some ways dependent, due to physical or cognitive limitation. “But there is still a sense of joy, happiness and gratefulness to be here,” she observed. “In every corner of life, one can find a form of poverty; however, it is how we look at life that makes a difference.”
Want to help make that difference? St. Ann Center is already preparing for the next trip to Cameroon, in 2018!
By Heidy Vargas