KALISPELL — Third-graders at Peterson Elementary School have been saving their money to buy a cow.
Students started saving in the fall by doing chores: mowing lawns, raking leaves, washing dishes, cleaning rooms and stacking wood. One student even brought in $50 in birthday money.
Their goal is to cover the cost of a $300 cow.
They were $47.70 away from their goal three weeks before Kalispell resident Suzie Vaughan travels to Kenya to purchase a cow and give it to a family in a special ceremony in the city of Bomet.
Third-grade teacher Kim Lister started the project to help teach her class about sustainable income and acts of charity. Vaughan is a friend who travels often to Africa accompanying her husband, Read, a diagnostic radiology doctor who is helping teach African doctors about radiology.
“They couldn’t ask for a donation. They had to earn the money or it had to be a sacrifice on their part, it had to come from them. The whole thing is, these kids are able to be world-changers from here,” Lister said, pointing to her heart.
Vaughan visited Lister’s third-grade classroom recently to share photos of the African landscape, people, houses, food, clothing and cows.
She also showed photos of school gardens Kenyan children maintained to sell produce at the market. This year, the Kenyan schoolchildren purchased a volleyball with garden sales and are planning to buy a net next year.
Lister asked students how a cow could be more sustainable than, for example, sending over a prepared meal to a family.
Trey Hanson suggested if the cow had a calf it could be given to another family. Connor Bullins provided another idea: “Another thing is that they won’t just get milk for one day, they’ll keep getting milk, and milk, and milk every single day.”
Other students noted that the milk could be turned into other products such as cheese. Vaughan added that selling the milk at 35 cents a quart would provide the family with income and held up a water bottle for students to get an idea of how much milk that would be. She said the cows usually provide from two to six quarts of
The group began discussing the chores that African children have to do to keep the cow healthy, such as milking it and traveling miles with the cow to protect it from predators while it grazes. Sometimes, she said, to maintain the cow’s weight and energy, they cut grass and bring it back.
“With your money I’ll travel to this place and we’ll pick out your cow. I told the people ahead of time and community leaders are finding out who would be a good family,” Vaughan said.
Next will be the cow-giving ceremony. Vaughan has been involved in a ceremony before after donating a cow last year.
“Lots of people will come around to gather for that. The cow will have a rope tied around its hoof and I’ll hold one end of that rope and give it to the new owner of the cow, so it’s a ceremony they’re thankful for. Afterward, we’ll probably be invited to that family’s home and eat some suka mawiki (plant-based food) and ugali (cornmeal mush) as their way of saying thank you. Maybe I’ll suggest they name the cow Peterson,” Vaughan said to the students’ delight.