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Renita Jablonski: Holiday shopping. Maybe some concert or theater tickets, sweaters, iPods — come on, how about something a little more meaningful, creative? After flipping through catalogs from charitable groups like Oxfam and Heifer International, Gretchen Wilson went to a remote African village and found a few gift options you probably won’t find primly wrapped under a Christmas tree.
Gretchen Wilson: Mamanuel Rampai lives amid the green hills of Lesotho, a small country in Southern Africa. She’s far from electricity, roads . . . and jobs. Until recently, she had virtually no cash income to support her seven children. But last year, she got an unexpected gift:
[Sound of a pig]
Pinki, a healthy female pig. For $195, a charitable American shopper bought a friend or family member a pig named Pinki for Rampai. Pinki now has 11 profit-making piglets.
Mamanuel Rampai: Pinki! Pinki! Pinki!
It’s not just an exercise in farming. It’s a money-making tool. The idea is that small grants of income-generating animals can help people out of poverty. These charitable gift cards buy cows in Bolivia, chicks in India and in this case, piglets in Lesotho.
Rampai (voice of interpreter): I sell piglets for $25 each, and young pigs for more than $150.
A lot of money for the 10 families in this village, who received these pigs from World Vision last year. Average per-capita income here is $100 a year.
And these benefits trickle down. Some piglets go to needy neighbors. And some of the cash the group earns supports five AIDS orphans. The rest is split between them.
The village chief says these are the area’s first entrepreneurs:
Chief Mathato Leluma (voice of interpreter): They way they are regularly feeding the pigs, and even fetching water from far away, it shows they are determined to make it a success.
Rampai says she wishes she could tell the American shopper who made this possible how much this has changed her life. She can now afford to send her children to school, where her eldest daughter is a high school senior.
Rampai (interpreter): My hope is next year, she’ll go to college.
World Vision says gift catalog donations have climbed by 160 percent in the last three years. This year, it hopes to raise $23 million. Here in Lesotho, visions of dairy goats are dancing in their heads.
In the village of Turupu, Lesotho, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.
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