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Empowering women and teaching peace in Nepal

Literate women learn candlemaking;
Literate women learn candlemaking;
Credit: Courtesy Rosalind Russell

Laguna Beach resident Rosalind Russell, who shares a name with the late movie star, is a star in her own right. Russell is known as “The Goat Lady of Laguna Beach” or “The Goat Lady of Nepal.”

She earned these nicknames because her non-profit organization, R Star Foundation, provides goats to women In Nepal. The goat program enables women in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, to earn a living for their families by selling the offspring of the goats they receive.

Two pregnant goats are given to each woman, who must pass on two goats within two years to another village. Russell created micro-banking for the women and taught members of different castes to work together. Due to the passing on of goats or offspring, R Star’s program is credited with providing more than 15,000 goats to women in Nepal since 2004.

“When I open up a new village to goat work, they ask for two things,” said Russell, “literacy classes and water.” Russell is fulfilling both requests. Over 3200 women have graduated from literacy classes (men are also welcome to attend), and the foundation put in two wells. One well serves three villages, and the other is for a school that R Star opened in 2008.

The school, Top of the World-Nepal (TOW-N), includes traditional Nepali studies and 20 minutes of instruction about peace each day. Nepal is in a state of political instability after years of civil war, so peace is the underlying theme of all of Russell’s work.

“These children have never seen peace,” said Russell. “Their parents have never seen or heard of it either.”

Females receive scholarships to TOW-N since they would otherwise not be able to attend school. “It’s a country where women really have no value,” said Russell. Boys attend TOW-N at half the cost of attending a government school in Nepal.

Russell is grateful for the work she is able to do in Nepal. “It is a gift from the universe to recognize my value and to be able to teach it to other women,” she said. “To lift a woman is to lift myself. How lucky I am.”