By Oscar Wolfe
Yirgalemau (Yirga) Reminick has been in school with me since kindergarten. I knew that he was adopted from Ethiopa, but I didn’t really know much about where he came from. I did know that his mom, Joanne Trangle, travels to Africa a lot, to bring groups of Americans to help villages like the one that Yirga came from. And I knew that one of Yirga’s older twin brothers, Dante, created an organization called Give a Goat. He had a booth at our elementary school’s Service Night to get the word out about it. As Dante puts it, giving a goat to a family in need is better than handing out food because it’s a gift that keeps helping even after Give a Goat leaves. A goat provides milk they can drink and sell. That money can pay for food expenses, and school fees. So far, Dante’s organization has donated more than 350 goats ($125 each), which has grown into more than 3,000 goats in Africa. I decided to interview Dante and his mom Joanne about their organizations and how we can get involved.
First of all, can you explain exactly what your organizations are and what they do?
Joanne: Global Village Connect connects schools and people in the U.S. to schools and communities in rural and developing countries, particularly rural villages. We do projects to help with whatever the needs are. We try not to do handouts. We try to do sustainable projects that can improve their longevity: organic farming for schools, so kids can eat lunch. Water wells, community ovens. Our big deal is to engage kids with other kids in the developing world.
Dante: Give a Goat is allowing kids, mainly in eastern Uganda, to have a chance at an education and a healthy lifestyle by giving them goats that provide them with a sustainable micro business.
Joanne: It’s his separate project, and we at Global Village Connect help oversee it.
And why Africa?
Joanne: I have been to traveling for years and always loved it, which is why we adopted from Africa, to celebrate the culture. After meeting Yirga’s family, I decided I wanted to do something to help. Whenever I bring people to Africa, they fall in love. They want to know what they can do, how can we help make this better. I want all kids in developing countries to be fed, and have an education.
Dante: I started Give a Goat as my Bar Mitzvah project. I was in contact with a rabbi in Uganda because that’s where I was having my Bar Mitzvah, and I he told me that goats would be a good thing to give, and they were the best option to help the community. After I went to Uganda and saw how impactful my goats really were, and saw what the village life was like, it drove me to keep the project going.
What is it like, going to Africa?
Dante: It changes your life forever. I visited when I was about your age, Oscar, and I came back seeing everything from whole new perspective, while still having had the best time of my life. We went white water rafting and on safari—fun things—and then also had fun helping other people.
Joanne: I think Africa is a place that just gets into people’s hearts.
What can you tell us about what it’s like to be a kid in Africa?
Dante: In Africa, you really have two main things you can spend your money on. A proper education—in most cases, kids don’t go past primary school—and food. It’s very rare that kids can afford both food and education. Here, we eat dinner every day, we go to school every day. There, they value it very highly because they know how big of a privilege it is. So don’t take your dinner or your education for granted!
What about the people—did you make friends, Dante?
Dante: The people you meet are some of best, most generous, and kind people—even without knowing anything about you. You can walk into a village and be welcomed there. A majority of my time was spent playing with kids my age. One of best parts was playing soccer for hours — we made balls out of tarps, garbage bags, and string. We just played and played. I was so amazed—in the blistering heat, the kids had unlimited energy. Me and my brothers, we could barely keep up! The kids were incredibly energetic, and content with life, even though it was obvious they had really deep struggles.
Dante: One of the most profound one-on-one interactions I had, when we were playing soccer, I noticed a kid little younger than me, who was usually really energetic, sitting on the side, looking sad. I asked one of other boys what happened, and they said, “He’s hungry.” It wasn’t like he just needed a snack—it hit me that malnourishment had drained his energy. It really hit me, and still sticks with me.
Joanne: Here’s a thing for kids to think about: if you have no food, are you going to go to school, or are you going to go work in a rice field to help your family eat? If you have food, you can go to school!
So how do goats help?
Dante: Goats are a fairly common thing in Africa. It’s not like, Oscar, if I gave you a pet goat! They provide milk that can be harvested, and then sold for a profit. On average, goats produce 5 cups of milk per day. This amount of milk can then be sold for $1.75 per day. They also sell their offspring, and the goats give birth twice a year, typically one to three kids per birth. This a lucrative business considering that the average salary in Uganda is only $1 per day. The money that the recipients earn can be used to pay for nourishing food, and proper education. Whenever a child gets a new goat, they sign agreement that when their female goat has a litter—generally 1-2 times per year—they are required to give one of those goats to another child in need. The goats keep spreading. So even if we stopped giving now, the impact would keep growing.
What’s your favorite part about doing this?
Dante: Seeing firsthand the impact. Understanding the true effect that you are having is something that pushes you forward.
Joanne: My favorite part is going to visit the communities, hearing and talking to kids. The kids are really entrepreneurial—especially in places where they are really trying to survive. They want to sell the goat’s milk, bring up a goat herd, and eventually buy a cow.
How much time does it take, to run your own non-profit?
Dante: It comes it bursts. When it does, it can be time consuming. I’m constantly applying for grants, updating the website, and making speeches.
Is this something you think you’ll keep doing, beyond high school?
Dante: An idea floating in my head is, if I can get other youth involved, I could pass it down, and keep it youth led. I’d definitely like to keep it growing.
Do you think you’d be doing all of this without the influence of your mom?
Dante: Yeah. I do. (Laughter.) The passion for helping others, wanting to help other people—it’s something I think I was born with. Maybe from my dad’s side? (More laughter.) I may not have been in the exact same spot with goats. But I definitely think I’d be helping others.
Oscar’s mom interjects: Dante, do you think maybe perhaps you were inspired by your mother’s passion for helping others?
Dante: I think what Oscar and I are trying to instill in other youth is, you don’t need to be bound by your mother’s constraints. Break free! Be yourself! But if you’re looking for a direct quote, yeah, I do think she’s helped me.
What can we do, in the U.S.?
Dante: You can spread the word. Start a fundraiser at your school or in your community.
Joanne: A lot of it sharing awareness—seeing pictures helps people understand. We set up pen pal programs between schools here and schools in Africa. We also help U.S. schools create organic farming—just like we did at our school, Meadowbrook! It offers a parallel between the kids here and in Africa. A great story can be shared, and you see that we’re not really that different. That’s really the story.
What advice do you have for kids who want to get involved, and do something great, like you’ve done?
Joanne: The first step in getting involved is simply having the desire to help. Try to look at the world from other people’s perspectives. People are people. It’s a big world, we’ve got to connect.
Dante: I think the first step everyone has to take is to get involved. Once you do that, your path will be drawn for you.
One goat costs $125 but can produce many hundreds of dollars in value over its lifetime. Donations of any amount are welcome. Donate to Give a Goat here.