By Aaron Thacher, program manager for livestock and livelihoods programs in Niger
Idrissa proudly stands next to the little mud roost he has built for his pigeons. Idrissa is 12 years old and is an orphan from the village of Boukari Koira in northwest Niger.
Idrissa lost his mother and father and now lives with an aunt in a 12-member household. Although there is often not enough food to eat at home, he was able to enroll in school this year.
Samaritan’s Purse Niger selected Idrissa and other young orphans who are enrolled in primary school to receive 10 pigeons each in the Pigeons for Orphans Education Project. Fifty-four girls and 38 boys will benefit from the program, encouraging them to attend school and have money for school supplies and uniforms.
Pigeons are able to produce two young every six weeks, and income is generated as the offspring are sold. The proceeds are used to purchase a new school uniform each year, and essential supplies such as pencils, notebooks and textbooks. The birds are also a valuable source of protein for the young students who may only eat meat once or twice a month.
In Niger, where only about 25 percent of primary school-aged boys and girls are in school, this project is very welcome for orphans who are less likely to attend school than other children who are generally better off financially.
“I am so glad to finally be raising an animal of my own for the first time,” said Sakina, a 10-year-old girl being raised by her single mother. “I used to have nothing. Thank you, Samaritan’s Purse!”
A welcome outcome of the Pigeons for Orphans Education Project has been the increased level of confidence and respect the children receive from their peers. Orphans are often treated as outcasts and a burden to society, making it hard for them to make friends and to succeed.
“Since I have my pigeons, I have more worth and respect among people,”Idrissa said. “I used to not have any friends, but today I have many friends who are willing to spend the day with me.”
Samaritan’s Purse has other livestock programs in the region, including goat, cow, sheep and poultry distributions, as well as quality veterinary care services to the villages. All of the programs provide ways to not only provide practical help to vulnerable people, but are tangible expressions of God’s love in a region where evangelism can be difficult. Please pray for the orphans we are reaching through the pigeon project, and for all we are helping.