Goat movement goes on

EducationSchoolsNepalHuman InterestHigh SchoolsElementary SchoolsRosalind Russell

A goat might not seem like an important asset. Most don't own one and never will. However, in Nepalese villages, the introduction of a goat can completely change their economy.

Lagunan Rosalind Russell, founder of the R Star Foundation and the "Women Helping Women and Children ... Therefore the World" campaign, learned this when she first brought a goat to Nepal as a gift and watched the village transform. Russell buys goats in the mountains of Nepal and gives them to village women through a lottery system.

Most commonly referred to as the "Goat Lady" in town, Russell has now inspired a younger soul to champion her cause.

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Teens form Goat Club

Alia Manetta, 16, first learned about Russell when she was trying to find a community service project. She began by helping Russell with social media over the summer. When the school year started, she wanted to do more to contribute to the R Star Foundation's cause and decided to start the Goat Club at Laguna Beach High School.

She's raised nearly $500 for the nonprofit since the academic year started.

About $200 will buy a goat, so Alia can have the pleasure of knowing that two more families will get a gift they might not have otherwise.

The club held its first fundraiser on Dec. 17, selling dozens of handmade goat-shaped cookies in creative packaging. With more than 40 dozen sold, Alia called the first event a success.

She also designed whimsical T-shirts featuring a goat and a bright illustration for her members. The Facebook group has 74 members and counting.

"I am so fortunate to have what I have living in Laguna," the high school junior said. "To know that I could help someone else that wasn't born with these opportunities ... it's just great."

The goats offer Nepalese families more opportunities, she said. They not only provide milk and cheese, but also a chance for families to breed or sell them.

Alia plans to do more fundraisers in the future.

Russell said she couldn't be more proud of Alia's initiative.

"I was so surprised," she said. "It's the wonderful thing about working with young people — they have ideas."

Russell pointed out that Alia took time out of her busy schedule — which includes sports, jazz ensemble and maintaining a 4.6 GPA — to start this club.

"They're compassionate about people so far away that they haven't met," she said. "Who would think that these young kids would think that way? I'm impressed."

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First goats, then education

Since starting the "Women Helping Women and Children ... Therefore the World" campaign, which gives two healthy pregnant female goats to a female villager, Russell has also established a school in Ojehtar, the village where she first brought goats. It's aptly named Top of the World Nepal School after the Laguna elementary school only a stone's throw from Russell's home.

She was in the news three years ago when her Park Avenue home burned down in an electrical fire. It's currently in its first stages of being rebuilt.

The elementary school opened two years ago and is going strong, with 60 students and a grade level being added each year. Russell said she hopes to open another school soon. It employs and teaches women — a rarity in Nepalese culture, she said.

Russell partners with Laguna schools to build a link to her schoolchildren in Nepal. Students at El Morro and Top of the World elementary schools create peace flags and peace statements to send back to the school.

Russell said she's always looking for more schools to partner with.

Those who donate to the R Star Foundation can specify exactly where they want the money to go, such as for goats, tuition for a girl or airline tickets for Russell to travel to Asia.

For more information, visit rstarministries.org or call (949) 497-4911.

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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EducationSchoolsNepalHuman InterestHigh SchoolsElementary SchoolsRosalind Russell
  • Rosalind Russell, founder of the R Star Foundation, continues to bring goats to Nepal with the help of a Laguna Beach High School student. Her Park Avenue home, which burned down three years ago, is in the first stages of being built.

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