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Calendars for a Cause: Goats in Sweaters

Posted on

11/14/21

Author

Alex Biddle

Christy Sommers saw her first sweatered goat (yes, you read that correctly) in 2010 during her time as a Fulbright scholar in Bangladesh. It was on a weekend trip to the countryside that she first saw and photographed a baby goat sporting a little pink dress and, in Christy’s words she was “the most elated.”

Christy sees her first sweatered goat in Bangladesh, photo from Christy Sommers

She soon learned that when the temperatures drop into the 50s or 60s (Fahrenheit) across Northern India and Bangladesh, people put their hand-me-downs on  goats to keep them warm during the winter months. Christy has been documenting this adorable phenomenon for the past decade, and has been creating calendars with her photos since 2013.

Christy worked supporting Princeton University’s Bridge Year program in Varanasi, India from 2014 to 2017, and during this time she discovered the Varanasi is home to a veritable treasure trove of adorable sweatered livestock.We recently interviewed Christy, a Dragons instructor and administrator, to hear more about the story behind her Goats in Sweaters calendars. Here is what she has to say:

Photo by Christy Sommers

A Calendar is Born 

Demand is what inspired Christy to create her first Goats in Sweaters calendar. In 2013 she printed 15 calendars and gave them as holiday gifts to family and friends. After a lot of encouragement from her community, Christy started printing more and more calendars each year. In 2018, the goats caught the attention of NPR’s Goats and Soda: Stories of Life in a Changing World. That article helped her further spread the word and now Christy sells  around 2000 calendars each year.

Giving Back 

Once she started selling the calendars, Christy has always wanted the project to support the communities where the goats come from. Christy gave all of the proceeds from the 2016 and 2017 calendars to Guria, a grassroots organization in Varanasi, India that fights to end human trafficking and exploitation in Varanasi’s red light district and across India. 

Photo by Christy Sommers

She shifted and began supporting Asha Deep Vidyashram with the 2018 calendar. Asha Deep is a K-8 school serving a marginalized population in Varanasi;  Asha Deep’s students are first generation learners and the whole school environment is designed to support poor students with illiterate parents.The donations from the calendar sales are able to fully support the operations of Asha Deep for three to four months on average. 

Christy expressed a passion for giving back to the communities that “taught me so much and are home to where I took these photos.” She is excited to continue supporting Asha Deep, and is delighted that the graphic designer for the 2022 calendar  is an Asha Deep graduate!

Photo by Christy Sommers

What are the logistics for creating a sweated-goat-calendar every year?

Christy says that people frequently misunderstand the photos and think that she is the one who is putting the sweaters on the goats. She clarifies, “In India, I just photograph them as I find them. Only once have I put sweaters on goats myself, and it was to dress my dad’s five goats in style for my sister’s wedding!”

Christy took a trip to Northern India in February 2020, right before the pandemic restricted travel. Beyond reconnecting with the Asha Deep students and staff, she also took hundreds more fashionable goat photos – more than enough for several more years of calendar models. “Goats do what they want, so capturing them in decent light and an amazing sweater is not easy.” Christy uses a Canon Powershot SX740 camera—a relatively high quality point and shoot that also fulfills her requirement of fitting in her pants pocket. 

Christy smiles, and ends our conversation with, “I have to say, I don’t consider myself a creative person, and it feels so vulnerable to put this out into the world. I’m nervous every year —is it still gonna work?”

We’re confident Christy’s project will continue to work—bringing a slice of joy to nearly 2000 homes every year.

You can buy Christy’s calendar on Etsy for $15, or if you’d like to add a small donation to your order, you can do so directly through this google form.

Photo by Christy Sommers

 

More Information about Asha Deep from Christy
As in years past, more than 50% of the proceeds of the 2022 Sweatered Goat calendar will benefit Asha Deep Vidyashram, a school serving over 200 K-8th grade students in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood in Varanasi, India. All of Asha Deep’s students are the children of illiterate parents. The school is determined to give these children a quality education that combines academic success with additional focuses on students’ self-esteem, promoting compassion and gender equality, and teaching healthy conflict resolution and environmental awareness. They also provide a school lunch and run an after-school program so that students have a healthy and fun way to spend their evenings. We are proud to support Asha Deep’s important work and give back to the goats’ local community in Varanasi. Here are links to the Asha Deep website and Facebook page. Asha Deep’s exciting news this year is that they have purchased a piece of land where they will build their own school, allowing them to serve a new community. They are running their own fundraiser to raise funds for this project, and would appreciate any additional donations toward this important aim.

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