Thursday, 17 March 2016

"You have to understand about goats"

came the e-mail message to me. And yes, what followed did make me understand a little more about goats...and children...and village life.
But I am writing this for Joanna Cannon who wrote "The trouble with goats and sheep" and anyone who has read it. Borough Press is donating goats to Africa because of Jo's book so I am writing about real life a village... in Africa.
I have a friend who runs a centre for unaccompanied children in Africa. It is a place which has seen many ups and downs - from over 600 children at the height of the war between the Hutu and Tutsi in neighbouring Burundi to around 130 at present. (The original plan was for 60 children.) 
And of course children need to be fed. This leads to things like vegetable gardens - and goats. 
Ah yes. Goats. 
      "The goats got into the vegetables again."
      "More trouble with the goats."
      "The goats knocked the fence down again."
      "The goats chewed through that too..."
And so it went on in e-mails from my friend. I could hear her frustration. They had tried everything they could think of but keeping goats next to a supply of nice, fresh, food was just too much.
So, we raised still more money. This time the wonderful women in my knitting guild raised it by buying wool that had been given to me for that purpose. And some of them simply donated some money as well. I put the money in the bank account we have for my friend. I advised the man in Belgium who looks after their financial affairs. Discussions went backwards and forwards and...that piece of land next to the church...the one someone was willing to sell them for a very reasonable price? Yes!
The older boys and the priest and the man who drives the lorry all set about building... a fence. 
They moved the goats. That, the children told me in their e-mail was something of an adventure in itself. One of the goats decided to take a little side trip and the others followed.
Eventually they herded the goats into their new home. Everyone admired the sight of the goats. The villagers were equally delighted. There would be no-more-trouble-with-the-goats.   
Next friend looked out the door to survey the weather...and saw the goats. The goats should have been at the other end of the the enclosure next to the church. Instead they greeted her in their usual friendly way.
        "The goats were bad. The goats must go to church."  I had a vision of the goats filing into church behind everyone else.
So, what to do?
My friend went to inspect the situation...followed by one of the goats.  No, no mischief maker had opened the gate. The goats had simply jumped the fence. She could see the place where they had done it.
She went back, roused some of the older children and they took five errant goats back to their new home.
They have now made the fence a little higher...and stronger. The youngest children have decided the goats need to be walked each day...away from the vegetable patch. 
       "You have to understand about goats," they told me, "Goats get sad without us."
Perhaps they do.

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