Chicken power

Dec 07, 2018
This summer, I got to witness first-hand what most generous Canadians don’t have a chance to see - chickens provided by World Vision’s Gift Catalogue being distributed to Ethiopian families in need. It was incredible.
Before I set off on this mission to Ethiopia for World Vision, I have to admit, I didn’t spend much time thinking about chickens. That trip to Ethiopia changed my perspective. I have now come to realize that chickens are feathery, little, clucking, head-bobbing miracles on two legs.

Some of the birds gifted by generous Canadian donors made their way into the life of eight-year-old Sabontu, who lives in a farm town in eastern Ethiopia.  I was glad to see how her family welcomed these feathered friends into their midst and can now look forward to a brighter future.

Sabontu and her family of eight have been living in a small, one-room home. Her father works as a labourer and her mom washes clothes for a living. But the work has been inconsistent.

Sabontu’s parents work hard, but they barely make enough to put food on the table and are often forced to skip meals. In cases like this, paying for school supplies to support an education can be the first thing cut from the family budget. The family lives in extreme poverty and World Vision has identified them as some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Sabontu is registered to be part of the child sponsorship program along with dozens of other children in the neighbourhood.

Sabontu, 8 has been identified by her community as one of the most vulnerable children in her community. Tulo, Ethiopia. Photo: Brett Tarver.

This is where generous donations to last year’s gift catalogue enter the story. Local World Vision staff partner with community members to identify families, such as Sabontu’s, in the greatest need.  

After Canadian donations were tallied up, the funds were sent to places all around the world. World Vision Ethiopia staff used the money to buy thousands of baby chicks from a hatchery. The chicks were then transported to special farms that provide highly nutritious feed, veterinary care and lots of space to move around. It was critical that these chicks grow up to be healthy, happy chickens.

We were there at just the right time to hop on to this miraculous journey. Our first stop was at one of the local farms where Gift Catalogue chickens were ready to be taken to their new homes. The indoor/outdoor coop was a sea of feathers. The chickens moved around energetically and eyed me closely. But these Ethiopian chickens didn’t seem to mind a little hug from a strange Canadian to help send them on their way.

Canadian love for Ethiopian chickens. Jeju, Ethiopia. Photo: World Vision

It was time. Chickens were loaded into special carrying cases and we went for a ride along. Sabontu’s family was about to get a little bigger. And these new family members were going to pull a lot more than their own weight.

Chickens bought by Canadians through the Gift Catalogue being loaded up for delivery to families in need. Tulo, Ethiopia. Photo: Brett Tarver

When we pulled up to Sabontu’s home with the chickens, the family came out to greet us. So did all their neighbours. It felt like the whole town showed up. The smiles and excited shouting was simply overwhelming. In fact, it was sheer bedlam as the neighbourhood kids jumped up and down and broke out into song. It was a miraculous moment.

Sabontu and her family moments after receiving chickens generously donated by Canadians from World Vision’s Gift Catalogue. Tulo, Ethiopia. Photo: Dennis Prescott.

Sabontu’s life was suddenly transformed. Her impoverished family now had access to a healthier and more diversified diet, thanks to the protein in the eggs. And they also had a new source of income: the opportunity to sell extra eggs in the market could help the family afford basic essentials such as school supplies to keep Sabontu in school. I felt a lot more hope for her future as we said our goodbye’s.

Since my visit I was thrilled to learn that a Canadian has sponsored Sabontu. Canadians teaming up, giving chickens and sponsoring children to hatch a better tomorrow. Talk about a recipe for success!

Bethelhem, 4, holding a clutch of eggs. Her family’s chickens provide a valuable source of both nutrition and income. Jeju, Ethiopia. Photo: Dennis Prescott.  

By Brett Tarver