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Let's get Loko that cow

This Sunday I asked some our girls and young women to tell us a little bit about the opportunities they have and what they hope for their future.

Kate, Grace, Margot, Rachel, Grace, Ashia-Gabriel, Mary, Rose and Cynthia all spoke of school, of exams and of the opportunities they have to go to college and university.  They also mentioned other opportunities which are taken for granted: the opportunity to go to the theatre, to take part in drama and sport, to read many books, to learn to play instruments and have music lessons.  Three were interested in becoming teachers, the others were interested in IT, law, sport, writing, psychotherapy and flying as careers.

The reason I asked these young women to speak to us is because this is Christian Aid week and Christian Aid works by helping the very poorest in a community, those with the least hope and the fewest opportunities and in most communities this group will be the girls and young women. 

 Particularly the young women who are on their own – the widows.  
Loko lives in the Borena community in Ethiopia, her husband is dead and, to feed her 6 children, she gathers and sells firewood.  Her picture is on our notice sheet.  These are her words:

“The worst thing about collecting firewood is being all alone.
I walk 8 hours to get to the mountain where there is good wood.  I pray to God as I walk “Please God, open the path in front of me”.
I collect wood for 4 days and I sell the wood at market for 3 days.  With one day’s load I can earn  35 birr (this is about £1).   
It is difficult to collect firewood.  There are wild animals, like hyenas, cheetahs and snakes.  It is scary.  I feel very alone.
If no one buys my wood.  I have to come home without buying anything for my family.
In a normal day we’ll eat once, ground and boiled maize.
Even when I don’t eat I have to find the energy to collect firewood.  What else can I do? If I cannot my children will die and I will die because no one can live without eating and drinking. 
The lives of Borena women are very difficult when compared to men.  Women have to build the house, collect wood, fetch water, prepare the food.  The men look after their cattle they come back home and say “Bring me something to eat”.

It really makes a difference whether you have cattle or not.  Even if you only have one cow people say “At least she has a cow”.  If I don’t have an animal of my own I cannot even speak in community meetings.  No one will allow me. 

With a cow I could sell milk and butter.  My children would have milk to drink.
My hope for the future rests in God.  I pray that God will never let my children face the hard life I am facing.”

Adi is also a widow, she has 8 children, but Adi has a cow – so Adi is able to hope for something a little bigger than Loko.

These are her words:
“Your life is totally different when you have livestock.  Before, others looked down on me.  I didn’t have equal status.  Now the livestock are named after me, no one else.  It is my cow.  
With more investment from the widow’s self-help group I hope to be able to start a shop.  Before we didn’t know about business but we got skills training with the project.  Now I can see my environment differently.  I can see opportunities.”

Our girls and young women can see many opportunities, they have high hopes. Loko does not hope for such things but she does hope for something: that she and her children will have food security and that she will no longer be voiceless in her community. What she hopes for is a cow.  A cow that she can name, that is hers and no one elses.  A cow that will change her life the way Adi’s cow is changing hers.  A cow that costs £150 
In this morning’s readings we heard the same word over and over, 14 times in all: the word love, there’s a whole lot of loving going on:  

God loves us, Jesus loves us, we love God, and, because the one who loves the parent also loves the child, we also love the children of God … don’t we?

Loko is a child of God.  

Loko needs our love, she needs it badly, and she needs it in the shape of a cow.  

A cow that costs £150.

Let’s get Loko that cow.     

Ps After the service we held a bake sale selling biscuits, bread and cakes that our congregation had baked.  Ashia-Gabriel and Grace ran the sale and didn’t stop until everything was sold (they are very persuasive).  Our Sunday School made a huge drawing showing the journey that Loko must make to collect wood and showing Adi safely in the village with her cow.  They asked the congregation to stick coins to the path.  At the time of posting we don’t have a final figure but it is DEFINITELY more than one cow’s worth.