nursing schoolFor children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rabbits are more than furry pets. They are a symbol of resilience as the basis of a microfinance program aimed at improving youth health and social outcomes.

Through funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Nancy Glass, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, associate professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHUSON) Department of Community-Public Health, and colleagues will launch Rabbits for Resilience, an animal husbandry microfinance program for youth who have suffered severe trauma growing up in a conflict zone. The five-year, $2.69 million grant will support the initiative aimed at giving adolescents ages 10 to 14 an opportunity to learn new skills and engage in the community.

“This is a really important age group,” says Glass. “We rarely talk about these young adolescents and viewing them as valuable members of the community rather than future criminals and rebels.”

Through raising and selling the rabbits, the youth can help parents and family members in their households, economically and socially. The money they earn could be used to buy school supplies or join a sports team, says Glass, associate director of the .

The initiative grew out of a previous program Glass and her colleagues started called Pigs for Peace, an animal husbandry microfinance initiative to help families in conflict areas rebuild economically and improve their health. Under Pigs for Peace, a four-year demonstration project involving 400 families in 14 villages, mostly women bred pigs and sold them, earning supplemental income for their families. Based on the positive findings, Pigs for Peace was expanded to 10 new villages and more than 700 families to evaluate the health, economic and social outcomes of the program through a five-year study funded by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities. “We are really trying to work on economic security, which will improve malnutrition and education for kids, and long-term health for women and men who have experienced so much trauma in their lives,” says Glass.

For this latest initiative, 24 villages will participate, in three groups: those with the adult microfinance program only, ones with both adult and youth programs, and those with only the youth program. Researchers want to determine how each program improves well-being of both children and adults.

“This funding is about developing sustainable, evidence-based interventions in low resource and in this case conflict settings so that we can scale it up and it can be adapted to any other contexts," Glass says. “It gives us an opportunity to do the science we think will help community.”

To learn more about Rabbits for Resilience, visit the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health,