On the final day of 2013, members of the Improving Livelihoods in the Poorest District of Soc Trang Province project’s self-help group (SHG) #1 warmly welcomed the Gluckman family to Phu Tam commune, Chau Thanh district. The married couple and their two children were vacationing in Vietnam and wanted to visit a Heifer project. They have been donating to Heifer International for 20 years.
SHG #1 consists entirely of Khmer people–an ethnic minority who account for 35 percent of the population of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region. The Gluckmans were the first foreign visitors for the excited group of Khmer people–who proudly introduced the family to their culture through a greeting of spirited dance and singing.
One-by-one, each SHG member confidently stood to introduce themselves and share a bit about their personal transformation through the Heifer project. The Gluckmans heard stories of improved farming that gave way to increased income–achievements made despite bleak economic conditions. In just under a year, the SHG group was formed and received gifts of beef cattle and a revolving fund. Members attended trainings where they learned valuable skills and the inspiration to work quickly to turn Heifer’s support into wonderful, life-changing gifts.
“I don’t know what to say,” Judy Friedman-Gluckman shared. “My family and I are completely overwhelmed by everything. Heifer’s work in Vietnam and the SHG are fantastic.”
Nine-year-old Leia Friedman made bracelets for the children in the community. She also gave them pencils, pencil sharpeners and Vietnamese–English books. She used a Polaroid camera to take photos of the families she met and offered the instant snapshots to them as gifts. These little gifts from a little girl who flew 20 hours to visit this remote corner of the world are much larger and more meaningful than their size. They symbolize the spirit of Sharing and Caring, despite the barrier of language and geographical distance.
Story and Photos by Nguyen Xuan Quyen, Communication and Networking Officer, Heifer Vietnam
Editor's Note: The following came from a post-trip email from Judy Friedman-Gluckman:
"Thank you for everything. It really was such a phenomenal experience. I have known, all along, about Heifer's impact and have met Heifer recipients before, but seeing the people in their community really blew me away. Having had some time to reflect, I really think I was most impressed by their sense of confidence and dignity. I think that comes not only from being self-sufficient, but from having the opportunity to help others. I look forward to our next Heifer adventure!"
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