Beatrice's Goat Fed A Dream

Bob Simon Reports On A Girl From Uganda Who Made It To A Prep School In America

When we stop and think about the forces that have helped shape our lives, many of us can recall a loving parent or a caring teacher, or someone else who encouraged and inspired us and made us what we are today.

But how many of us can look back and say, "I owe it all to a goat"?

A young African woman by the name of Beatrice Biira can. If it weren't for her goat, Beatrice wouldn't have gone to school, wouldn't have been lifted out of poverty, and wouldn't have won a scholarship to a college in America.

There are lots of terrible stories coming out of Africa these days, stories about war and tyranny and starvation. This is not one of them. Correspondent Bob Simon reports.

On a sweltering June afternoon in Uganda, Beatrice, a 19-year-old African woman, comes home to the village of her birth and is immediately engulfed as if she were some long-lost African princess. She's been away for more than a year.

Beatrice's village, which is called Kisinga, sits nestled in a valley in the western part of Uganda. When most people hear of Uganda, they immediately think of Idi Amin, the strongman who brutalized the country for nearly a decade.

Amin's long gone, but Uganda, like most of Africa, is still plagued with problems. There are too many people, too few jobs, and not enough food.

Beatrice remembers being hungry as a child. "There wasn't much food in our fields. And if it was there, it was almost the same meal every other day. Like you eat cassava or sweet potatoes in the afternoon and in the evening. And, I must say that we were hungry," she says.

And yet, despite going hungry and not having much hope for the future, she later found herself on the campus of an exclusive American prep school. Last year, she was a student at Northfield Mt. Hermon, in northern Massachusetts.

How did she get there? How did she manage to pull off such an improbable journey? 60 Minutes traveled a long way to find out.

The equator runs right across the country road that leads to Beatrice's home. You can stand in both hemispheres. Beatrice's life has become something like that in the last few years. She's had one foot in the African bush, and the other in New England -- all because of a goat.

"It is through selling the goat's milk that I was able to [go to school]," says Beatrice, who owes her good fortune to a goat and a charity in Little Rock, Ark., called Heifer International.

Heifer International is known for its work distributing livestock to poor families all over the world.

In 1991, Heifer introduced 12 goats to 12 families in Kisinga. Beatrice's family was lucky enough to be among them.