Philister Randiki and her family were in a situation so hopeless that Heifer made an exception by giving them two animals, but when she was asked if there was anything too painful to talk about, Philister said with a smile, "There is nothing that can defeat me."
At 72, Philister was the first of four wives to a husband who died of AIDS. The other wives also died of AIDS, leaving 10 sons, six of whom have died of AIDS along with their wives and three of their children.
Philister was left to care for the 18 surviving children.
"All the orphans, even the ones who left, are coming back to me," Philister said. "Love and the force of love is so strong."
But before Heifer appeared, Philister admitted that she was scared and confused about caring for so many children.
"We were starving and could barely manage to put one meal on the table," she said. "We gave the children porridge, but it was dry and had no nutrients."
With the gift of their dairy cows, Philister's family began receiving up to 20 liters of milk a day. They consume half and sell the other half to buy food."I would not be alive today without this gift," she said. "Before Heifer I was sick and worn out from trying to care for my family alone. Now there is food and money and my sons and daughters have returned."
Philister recently died of recurrent malaria, still the number one killer in sub-Saharan Africa. But her family is still together. Those who have survived are caring for each other. They are learning how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and are sharing their story with others.
Give to Heifer International and you are giving a gift that continues on throughout the years, affecting not only one person, but so many. Heifer International does so much more than put food in the mouths of hungry people. Heifer helps people feed themselves.
The goal of every Heifer project is sustainability – project partners achieving self-reliance.
And year after year, as partner families “pass on the gift” of knowledge and one or more of their animals’ offspring to others in need, they become links in a network of hope, dignity and self-reliance that helps hundreds of others care for themselves.