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One of the aspects of Heifer’s work around the world that doesn’t always get mentioned is peace building. Heifer was there after World War II delivering heifers to Japan and Germany. We even took chicks to Korea during their war in the 1950s. More recently we’ve helped war widows in Kosovo, and mended relations between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda.
We’ve also helped bring peace to Cambodia. I was there last year and nearly everyone I spoke to had an amazing story about how they survived the bloody regime of the Khmer Rouge. I say nearly everyone because I spoke with a few former Khmer Rouge soldiers, too.
Ly Ty and Seng Sam fought on opposite sides of the war. They now work together as part of a Heifer self-help group in Chrey Krem, a tiny village in western Cambodia. Sitting with these two men and former enemies was one experience I will never forget.
Listen to their story below or read the entire story here.
The two men really do love each other like brothers. And that’s the thing about Cambodia that has stayed with me in the year since I left: the feeling of peace and of a collective acceptance with the past was overwhelming. Never did I think that a country could forgive and forget such horrible wrongs. But, at least in Chrey Krem village, they have.
|Heifer participant in Sierra Leone.|
Haiti, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Cambodia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and the Philippines. According to a report by the British risk analysis firm, Maplecroft, these 10 countries are at the most extreme risk for impacts caused by climate change.
According to a post on EarthSky:
Maplecroft analyzed the vulnerability of 193 countries to climate change impacts. They first evaluated the degree to which countries will be exposed to extreme weather events and other climate-related natural disasters. Next, the company assessed the ability of countries to cope with climate change impacts by evaluating factors such as governmental effectiveness, infrastructure capacity and the availability of natural resources.
The report makes it clear that it is mostly the poorest sections of society that will bear the brunt of climate change impacts.
Of the 10 countries listed, Heifer works in all but two (Madagascar and DRC). Improving communities’ resilience to climate change and disaster is integrated into many of our projects, particularly those in high risk areas. Last month I posted about a project of ours in the Philippines that was in the midst of Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction training when torrential rains caused damaging floods, further stressing the importance of the training.
By working with small farmers to find the most environmentally sensitive and beneficial approaches to agriculture, we are doing our part to curb climate change while reducing the risks faced by our project communities. In fact, Heifer International’s East Africa Dairy Development Initiative was mentioned in a report titled “Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change” as an example of how programs can address food security in the context of climate change.
If you’re interested in funding work in a country from this top-10 high-risk list, check out the Integrated Livestock Development Project in Sierra Leone, which focuses on a region of Sierra Leone facing rapid population growth, a high incidence of communicable diseases, and increased pressure on natural resources and physical infrastructure. By providing participants with opportunities to build livelihoods using sustainable farming practices, this project will strengthen the communities and the environment at the same time.
Heifer International’s projects in Cambodia got a special visit from a Hollywood actress recently. Serinda Swan is the star of the A&E drama Breakout Kings, and she’s also a big Heifer supporter. She was adventurous enough to travel to some rural villages in the Svay Chrum district, where she visited families whose living conditions have been improved with gifts of chickens and pigs from Heifer.
Serinda supports Heifer International because it connects her interest in animals with her concern about global poverty. She says, “Being able to go on a trip into the countryside with Heifer International was an amazing experience for me. The work that they do is so diverse and vast it blew me away.”
Serinda says she was especially touched to witness a Passing On the Gift® ceremony, where families who had received Heifer animals passed on the first offspring to other needy families. She says it was amazing to witness the generosity that was expressed, and to know that each Heifer gift was multiplying in the community.
Serinda visited a children’s group where village children learn about responsible living. “They sang and taught me how to play some of their instruments. I may need to come back a few times to master them,” Serinda jokes. “But their hearts were so big and welcoming, I felt right at home.”
Serinda also saw a reading group made up mainly of women. As part of its projects, Heifer conducts training in skills like literacy, community leadership, and building small businesses. Serinda says it was impressive to see how group members participated and encouraged each other.
“There is so much more Heifer is doing than just supplying people with animals,” she says. “It’s wonderful to see.”
Serinda is now back in the United States working to raise awareness of hunger and deprivation. She says her visit to the Heifer Cambodia project was eye opening and reinforced her respect for Heifer’s sustainable community development.
“I plan on going back next year and visiting everyone again,” Serinda says. “I cannot wait to see how far they have come, with the courage and determination that I witnessed.”
|Mahendra Lohani (fourth from right) with the Heifer staff who participated in last month’s co-mentoring workshop in Cambodia.|
by Mahendra Lohani, Vice President of Asia South Pacific Programs
Last month, I joined Shubh Mahato, country director of Heifer Nepal during his co-mentoring visit to Heifer Cambodia. Co-mentoring is an opportunity for our development experts from different countries to share best practices and learn from each other in a mutual, teacher-to-teacher dynamic. These meetings are always of immense benefit, and we used this occasion to organize an additional meeting at the country office in Phnom Penh to discus Heifer’s organizational priorities and plan to increase the size of our projects and help more families.
The Heifer Cambodia team reviewed their local context and formulated a concrete action plan with a clear timeline under each of Heifer’s three organizational goals: scale up program impact, grow and diversify revenue and support base, and strengthen core global operating systems. This action plan, which serves as the co-mentoring action plan for Cambodia Country Director Keo Keang for the next six months, is fully owned by the Heifer Cambodia team. We also discussed the new strategies with project participants and project partners in the field to have their input and action. It is exciting to note that the team is moving with high urgency to increase the project impact, speed up the Passing on the Gift® (POG) process, and improve cost efficiency.
Twelve of our Cambodia team members participated in the meeting, and the Cambodia staff were very motivated to learn and discuss the four key principles of scaling-up our projects: speed, impact, quality and cost efficiency. The Cambodia team came up with ideas of ways to accelerate the POG process and empower communities in the early stages of project development.
Following the two-day meeting, Shubh and I traveled to the field to visit a women’s literacy class and to visit the homes of some participants of the Women Empowerment and Environmental Protection project. The visit went very well. The impact of the project shows potential for growth, including POG group formation and women’s empowerment through literacy classes, education, networking and collaboration.
I returned from Cambodia full of optimism about our work there. Our project participants are empowered and very confident, which is my dream to see. The Heifer Cambodia team has done a great job, and I am very proud of them. But, even though we have done great work, we also realize that it is still small in terms of the poverty in Cambodia, where more than 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Would it bug you to find a cricket in your cookie or an ant in your omelette? On the menu around the world, insects are a cheap and plentiful protein source that’s catching on with foodies in the United States. You can read about this creeping trend in the fall issue of Heifer’s World Ark magazine, which you can find either in your mailbox or right here.
The issue also features a look at a Heifer project in Cambodia, where landmine victims are putting an end to the stigma of disability while dissolving old animosities and building a secure future for themselves and their families.
Longtime Heifer leader Jo Luck bids farewell after 22 years of service, and philanthropist-blogger Betty Londergan tells what it’s like to give away $100 every day for a year. It’s all in the new issue.
Give it a read and let us know what you think!
Mrs. Roeum Yieb lives in Churng Turk village, Prey Veng province, Cambodia with her husband and two children. Her husband, Chuk Khut, is the village chief of Churng Turk.
Roeum Yieb joined a Heifer project in 2010 and was quickly selected as the Literacy Facilitator (LF) to provide literacy classes to her self-help group (SHG). Before joining the project, Roeum Yieb was always quiet, immersing herself in household chores, taking care of children and having little interaction with her community. Training in Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development opened her eyes, motivating her to help end illiteracy in her village. Her capacity and skills have been built through Heifer’s Values-Based Literacy Training of Trainers. She works hard to provide numeric and literacy skills not only to her fellow SHG members, but other villagers as well. She also covers issues like domestic violence, human and animal well-being, and strengthening solidarity in the community through Heifer’s Cornerstones.
Reoum Yiep (right) presents a memento to an outstanding literacy participant who earned a high score on the final exam.
Her family life has also changed since participating in the Heifer project.
“I can do all the activities to help the community with support from my husband, who helps with household chores,” said Roeum Yieb. “Before participating in the project, my husband never cared about the family’s health. He did not help in household chores, raising the animals or earning a family income, except through his government work. But he has changed his attitude after attending the Cornerstones training. Now he helps with cooking, taking care of the children, cleaning up the house and feeding the animals. He also helps explain for me the different meanings and difficult words in the literacy books.”
Reoum Yiep, Chuk Khut and their two children work in their home garden in Turk village, Rong Damrei commune, Baphnom district, Prey Veng province.
Chuk Khut added, “Before, I thought that household chores and feeding the animals were women’s daily jobs, not for men. But after attending the Cornerstones training, I understand now that the job is for both women and men. Since I have internalized the Cornerstones, I help my wife do work such as cleaning the house and animal pens, and feeding the pigs and chickens. Women and men have equal rights in doing the work, helping each other to make a happy family.”