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Story and Photos by Prak Somathy | Networking and Resource Mobilization Manager | Heifer Cambodia

To encourage the farm families to live in solidarity and work together in combatting hunger and poverty, an inclusive self-help group (SHG) of 18 families with disabled people, former Khmer Rouge (KR) and government soldiers, was formed in 2007. This group is implementing the Heifer-funded project, Empowerment of SHG for Sustainable Livelihood Development, in partnership with the Disability Development Services Program (DDSP). Over the past five years of this after-peace project, a huge change can be seen through family and group achievements, and especially through the behavioral changes of former enemies now treating caring for each other like brothers and sisters.

Chin Chheung, 51, a former government soldier, and his wife Kul Samon, 49, moved with their children to this village one year after peace. Chheung had been in the government army since he was 18, hating the KR people who killed his father and two brothers during the KR regime from 1975-1979. He took out his revenge on the battlefield. Unfortunately, he lost his left leg to a landmine in the midst of crossfire with the KR troops in 1987. Disabled, he left the front line to live as civilian.

Though he moved to live in the village in 1999, his family had no relationship with the former KR families. They simply lived beside each other until the Heifer project came in. In cooperation with DDSP, a community facilitator coordinated the original SHG to form a Passing on the Gift® (POG) group. Chheung and his family learned more about the purpose of the project and decided to join the group of 20 families, with hopes that the project might help promote their rice production and improve their household living conditions.

Cheung received a series of trainings, including Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, which changed his mind and heart. Through regular monthly meetings, former government soldier families and former KR families have had the chance to make closer relationships, talking to each other and understanding each other better. They have forgotten the past and now work together for their family and community developments. All are working together to combat poverty.

Chheung received a buffalo as part of the POG from Seng Sam, an original family recipient and former KR soldier whose right leg was lost to a landmine during the civil war. Chheung is able to use this buffalo with another as a pair to plow his rice land and increase his rice productivity to 8.5 acres of land. The rice produced a good yield as he uses animal manure to improve land quality. Now his family has enough food for the whole year.

“Without the Heifer project, we had just lived separately, in the house, go to the field…,” said Chheung. “We had no chance to work together like this. Before, when we worked as soldiers, we thought of killing each other. But now, after joining the SHG, we think of helping each other improve our family’s standard of living and develop our community.”

“Now we love each other like brothers,” said Seng Sam. “We can work together and not have any problems. We feel like a family. I am very happy to pass on a buffalo and other resources to Chheung’s family. If Chheung faces any difficulty, I will help him.”


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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.