Amazing Kids! Magazine

Gathering Goodness

By Aubrey Brown, age 13, Findlay, OH

Reja stood on a stone path on the way to the watering hole. Her feet were rough with calluses and tiny stones dug into her heels where shoes should have been. The only protection she had against the harsh African sun was a simple tee-shirt that was so large it doubled as a dress. In her hands she carried the plastic jugs that had been used over and over by her family. It was Reja’s job to walk three miles each day to fill the jugs with water to be used by her family. She was the oldest of four children and she knew it was her responsibility to help with the needs of the family, but her mind was in a different place.

Each morning as she started on that stone path three other girls her age would pass her headed the opposite direction. They wore thin sandals and beautiful white shirts tucked into navy blue skirts. They carried books. Reja imagined that these books were treasures filled with the wonders of the world and she was right. At 11 years old, Reja longed to go to school. School for Reja’s family was a luxury that her family simply could not afford. It wasn’t that they didn’t want her to have an education; they simply didn’t have the money to afford it.

Across the globe another young girl was also gathering for her family. Aubrey, with basket in hand, headed to the barn and ever so gently slid her hand under the warm body of a mother hen. The prize she collected would nourish her family and, at certain times of the year, create new baby chicks to increase the flock. Aubrey’s family always had plenty of eggs to share. Her dependable chickens regularly gave eggs enough for her family and even the neighbors that lived down the road. In school, Aubrey learned of children around the world who didn’t have the opportunity of an education, the chance at a better life, or even the possibility to be what they might dream. With that, an idea was hatched.

Before long Aubrey had done her research and found that her extra egg money may be able to help another child like her. Daily she collected eggs, packaged them, and sold them for a fair price to anyone who would have them. She even advertised her project at the chicken shows she attended. She set out a change jar to collect spare change from those willing to contribute. Soon poultry breeders from across the United States were donating to Aubrey’s project. If she could raise the money, she could make a difference for another child. “Change for Chicks” was born.

Through her 4-H club, Aubrey raised and exhibited chickens. She had become quite a young expert about how to raise and exhibit fancy show birds; but often people would ask what purpose, if you don’t eat them, did her birds serve? Showing her chickens at poultry shows was just a hobby, but the question did make her think. With the help of a global, charitable organization Aubrey discovered that she could collect money that in turn would be used around the world to provide deserving families with animals to raise, animals that specifically fit their environment. The humanitarian group would also be sure to educate the family in the care and maintenance of the animals and give specific instructions so that eventually the gift would be passed to others. Aubrey’s love for chickens and her giving spirit made this a perfect fit.

The very next spring while Reja was walking along the stone path for water, she saw a swirl of dust in the distance that announced a visitor. With great excitement Reja ran home, forgetting all about her water jugs and with an excited shrill told her family that their special day had finally arrived. Inside that truck were supplies, tarps for protection, troughs for feed, canisters for water, satchels of feed, and a tiny box. Without thinking about the tiny stones in her heels or her tattered tee shirt dress, Reja got right to work setting posts, hanging tarps, and unloading the rest of the truck. The truck driver had lots of information to share and Reja and her family eagerly sat in a circle on the dusty floor of their home to hear the instructions that would soon change their lives.

The tiny box was lowered from the truck and before you could blink there were 50 of the most precious treasures running about under the protection of that tarp. The chicks had arrived. Each one was different. Some were the softest color of yellow like fall leaves in America’s Midwest. Others were tan like the dust on the road to the watering hole in Africa. There were a few who were jet black like the night sky that blankets the Earth. They were all perfect.

Reja still gathered the water for her family but she spent her afternoons tending to the new flock, and before she knew it there were eggs, many, many eggs. The new flock was producing eggs that her family could eat and more eggs that her family could sell. For the first time her family was able to make a profit and save to buy the things they needed most. The chickens also produced chicks to grow the flock and the older birds were slaughtered for meat. Nothing was wasted. Reja’s family even gave chicks to neighboring families so that they too would be able to have healthier meals and money for goods. One at a time the eggs were changing her village.

News spread back to Ohio where Aubrey, at home with her flock, learned that Reja was finally able to start school because at last, her family could afford it. Those precious few moments of extra time spent gathering had made the difference for one family. Gathering eggs had taken on a whole new meaning. Aubrey’s “Change for Chicks” project was able to buy five flocks for different families that year and she could only imagine what she and her chickens could do in the years to come.

Reja still travels her stone path to the watering hole, but now she does her chores after a day at school. With the added income of the chickens and eggs, her community soon hopes to dig a well for water right near their homes. Today she wears a crisp white shirt tucked into a navy blue skirt and her callused feet have been covered with a pair of sandals. Her younger sister starts school next year and her parents are delighted to know that their children will receive the education that they never got to. Reja now dreams of being a veterinarian, and it all started with chickens.

Too often we do our daily chores without thinking. What good are these extra eggs? We will never be able to eat all the vegetables from our overflowing garden. I love to bake but I really shouldn’t eat all this…Is recycling really worth it? If we take the time to think, eggs, vegetables, baked goods, and even recycled items can be the difference. If one young girl in the middle of Ohio can change the life of a family, or even a community—just imagine the possibilities.

Two young girls across the globe doing their chores, Reja gathering water and Aubrey gathering eggs both helping to nourish the needs of their family. The books Reja would read were like the eggs Aubrey collected, treasure chests filled with the wonders of the world. Two very different girls with a vast ocean between them, but both very connected, gathering goodness one egg at a time.