Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What happened to the cow?

by Katherine Parker
My January and February schedule are filling up fast. My target geographic region has changed a little bit this year. Our new staff member Ms. Sophal will be taking over responsibility for the Kampong Thom region and so I will be traveling up there at the end of January to introduce her and collect our bi-annual project monitoring data.

I have also been traveling for monitoring out to churches in my three target area Kampong Chhnang (where I will be working in partnership with Ms. Daneth who just returned from a year of study at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan), Kampong Speu and my new area in the Takeo district.

We had a great meeting yesterday with the cow group at Trang Tre Yeung, Kampong Speu where I had been confused for the last year about exactly what had happened to their cows and calves. We sorted things out and I am excited to report that from the initial two cows purchased in December 2005 there have been 9 calves born.

One of the benefits of a cow-bank is that it provides increased security for the group members. Chen Han was one of the first care-takers of a cow, and so after passing-on he benefited from keeping the second calf born in March 2008. When he faced some health problem in 2010 he was able to sell the calf in order to pay for his medical care.

Of course we hope that families can experience the full benefit of a cow by rearing it until it is larger so as to gain maximum benefit and additional offspring, but I am also heartened when the cows can serve their purpose to provide security to the family that can be used in times of need such as this situation to pay for medical care.

Unfortunately, one of the original cows in this group was kill in a car accident and her current calf was not able to survive the loss of its mother, but the other cows continue to produce and the group is working well together.

How to measure the "success" of a project is not always clear. Just from looking at the numbers, this group has lost 3 of its 11 cows in the last year, which on the surface is not a good thing. But the loss brings awareness to the dangers of the increased traffic as more roads in Cambodia get paved and also to the hope that comes from individuals having the resources available to make decisions and take action for positive steps in their health care.

There is so much fear and even some fatalism around availability of health care in Cambodia. To see a situation where a man felt empowered to seek medical care and felt confident that he had the resources to do so on his own and then for him to actually improve in his health give me great hope that we are on the right path. This is not an overnight success; this cow project started way back in 2005. But as part of a global church community, we keep walking together, and there are these glimmers of hope along the way.

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