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Orphans as agents for change

Abstract

Transformative experiences can happen at unexpected times, in unexpected ways. This paper tells the story of how a gift of a goat can lead to the transformation of a life. Many organisations globally are engaged in a struggle to overcome poverty and injustice by providing livestock as a means for transformation. The animals in themselves are not enough for the transformed lives; they can be a valuable starting point. In the Uluguru Mountains in Tanzania, a Tanzanian and a Norwegian together took one such initiative in order to support teen-age orphans, one of the most vulnerable groups in the community who were struggling to survive. As practitioners and researchers, the four authors had been taking part in the development of the Mgeta Orphan Education Foundation (MOEF), which had developed through action learning/action research. Selected students received a goat and training, and the opportunity to join and develop a network of orphans throughout the region. In this article, we discuss the benefits and challenges the orphaned youngsters face when joining the foundation. How do they benefit from having the goat and what are the challenges, how do they learn and how do they contribute to fellow farmers in their communities? We claim that many of the students have experienced transformation, and provide examples to give evidence of this claim. However, the students are not the only ones who are transforming; so are we who, as co-researchers, have had the opportunity to play a role in and witness their efforts.

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