Kaziah Hancock calls herself the “Goat Woman”, but to many she is a hero. A survivor of polygamy, Kaziah knows the meaning of freedom, because she had to fight to gain hers. Today, Kaziah lives independently as an artist and goat rancher and is using her freedom to bring peace and healing to others through her organization Project Compassion.
Founded in 2003, Project Compassion, a non-profit, humanitarian organization, is dedicated to immortalizing the images of fallen military heroes. The organization provides one original, gallery-quality oil portrait of American military casualties who have died in active service since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Their sole mission is healing loved ones through the gift of art. Project Compassion’s gift is provided at no cost to eligible next of kin.
A self-taught artist, Kaziah has been drawing all of her life. But, at fifteen years old when she was given into a polygamist marriage, her art was taken away from her. When she was finally able to escape, nearly eighteen years later, she once again began to explore her passion for art.
Kaziah was moved to create a portrait of a fallen, local Utah soldier for his family after hearing his story on the radio. “Instead of the war being over there, all of a sudden the war was right there in my living room, I just wept like a baby. Everything in me said ‘I have got to find that family and let them know I would love to do an oil painting of this man,'” Kaziah explains.
Through a friend, Kaziah was able to reach out to the family, and while waiting to hear from them, she heard of another soldier who died in Iraq. She sent her number to that family as well.
“I would fight to my last breath before I would ever give up my freedom, ever again.”
It was then that she vowed to create a portrait of each U.S. service member killed in the line of duty as a memorial keepsake for the soldier’s family. She has said that she won’t quit, “until I either get them all painted or I expire trying. As long as I’m alive, and this old sister can pick up a brush, that ain’t going to happen”.
Kaziah went on to create 23 additional portraits for other Americans before she incorporated Project Compassion Soldier Fund. Shortly after, a benefactor offered to cover the cost of artist supplies, giving Kaziah the foundation she needed to take Project Compassion to where it is today.
Project Compassion has grown to include five artists, and has painted over 3,000 portraits to date. The organization is sanctioned by the Department of Defense, who includes Project Compassion’s information along with casualty papers at the time of a service member’s death, so families can claim their free “Hero Painting”. The organization is also supported by the Fresno Police Officers Association, to create similar portraits for fallen law enforcement members.
“I would fight to my last breath before I would ever give up my freedom, ever again. All I want is the freedom to live my American dream on my ranch with my goats, cats, chickens, ducks, geese and my golden lab, Cookie, in the hope that the art I create will bless the lives of those who come to own it. These soldiers and their families have my respect and my heart, so I will continue to give them my hands.”
Soldiers pictured in Kaziah Hancock paintings in the lead photo, left to right: Sharon T. Swartworth, U.S. Army; Stanly J. Lapinski, U.S. Army; Crysta Rebecca Kopecky, U. S. Airforce; Leemyles Godbolt, U.S. Army; Kimberly Ann Gahnestock Voelz, U.S. Marine Corps; Brent Morel, U.S. Marine Corps