It is two weeks until Mother’s Day, May 8. Fox News Channel invited our foundation, which operates in South Sudan, for a segment on our charity. Our organization was originally known as Goats for the Old Goat and is now known as the GEMS Development Foundation.
I began giving away goats in South Sudan when it was still part of Sudan. It was controlled by the predominately Arab north, and it became its own country (the world’s newest) in July 2011.
Much has been made about how violent South Sudan is, the internal refugees and other issues; however, South Sudan is recovering from years of abuse and slavery by Sudan. That kind of recovery, as anyone who has friends or relatives with post-traumatic stress knows, can take years. Now imagine an entire country, an entire group of people, who have experienced lack of freedom and, in many cases, slavery because they were Christian and the “north” was Muslim.
South Sudan has experienced genocide from the North, and our own State Department says it is the largest genocide since the end of World War II. The State Department says it is a larger genocide than Rwanda and Cambodia combined!
Cows are considered the measure of wealth. In fact, in parts of South Sudan, women are married by men giving cows to the brides’ families, a reverse of the traditional dowry.
Cows, however, are not goats. First, cows are expensive and, because of the costs, it is hard for families to purchase them. Cows’ milk also needs to be pasteurized. That is why we push for goats.
As we all know, goats eat anything and can graze in the bush, eat leaves and find nutrition almost anywhere. Their milk does not need to be pasteurized. Many parts of South Sudan have children with the all-too-familiar red hair, a major sign of malnutrition. We found that by giving a she-goat to a school child (and by doing that, their family) that milk can be consumer, and the she-goat usually has two kids per year. One of these goats can be sold at market, thereby providing money for a child to go to school and purchase a school uniform. The other kid can be kept to provide milk for the child. It is a win- win. The goats we give do not get eaten; they provide nutrition, and the child can attend school.
We also make a product that helps women sustain themselves and their families. We make lovely crystal hearts from real Swarovski crystals. These are made by women in our post-traumatic stress program. All of the women have seen someone killed in front of them, and some were in slavery. The post-trauma stress program helps women connect to each other, receive treatment and earn a living. It is not charity; it is a way women get better and take care of themselves and their families.
What is so amazing is that Americans coming together can help a country thousands of miles away. Our program on Fox News Channel not only had the anchors participate, but also GEMS Development Foundation’s Darrin Peterson and Fox News Channel’s Peter Johnson Jr.
Peter is a Catholic whose wife, Blanche, will be honored this week for her amazing work for Catholic Big Sisters & Big Brothers. He and Blanche have been there for countless individuals and families for years.
We also had our board member and soon-to-be board president, Darrin Peterson. Darrin served for many years as Mormon bishop. I was raised Jewish. However different our religious affiliations and upbringing has been, we all agree on the need in South Sudan.
Peter Johnson pointed out that we are all good Americans. In the insanity that has racked our country in this campaign year, we forget how generous and caring Americans are. We have a culture of giving and caring. I have found that, when asked, Americans as a group open their hearts and their pocketbooks. We have an unusual country. Very few countries can put people together who have different religions and different political points of view agreeing on how to help. As Americans we are experts at that.
Although, many criticize our political process, believing we should not be exporting our brand of democracy, it is our brand of giving that should be a model to the world.
We might have different political ideologies, or religious views and religious backgrounds, but we all agree on how to help. That is what makes us so unique and why charities such as Goats for the Old Goat/GEMS Development Foundation can thrive.
Media wishing to interview Ellen Ratner, please contact [email protected].