Dear friends and partners,
Happy New Years everyone. May this year be a blessing for each of you.
I started the New Years in Bangkok, celebrating with my daughter Miriam – who is now 11 years old. Like most people, a new year signifies for me new beginnings – some not so smart. Miriam wanted so much to go to the Siam Water Park and so off we went. Silly me agreed to go down the biggest waterslide which had all kinds of loops – at first Miriam hung on but with my weight – I started to go much faster than either one of us thought was fun - I went so fast I thought I would flip over the side – so I did what any sensible person would do, I closed my eyes and promised my God all kinds of things if I survived –I went through water spots which went up my nose – and I slid with abandon from side to side – would this ride never end - I landed in the pool at the end - which I thought was not the end - so I actually sat underwater for about 20 seconds which got the life guard down from his chair and screaming - my little mind finally said to my little body - its over - you better stand - which I did - much to everyone’s, including me - relief. A New Year’s resolution – never again a water slide!
Now we are back to work. Vonn came with stories and pictures of Koh Kong project which she started a year ago. At that time, I went to visit the new areas – the poverty was so hurtful to see. The people had small plots of land, others bigger plots of land – all were barren. What struck me most was that there was nothing at all – no animals such as chickens, pigs, ducks, no cows or buffaloes – just despair. We had looked at each other and we made a resolution – this must change.
Vonn laughed as we remembered that visit. She started to tell me all that had changed. At the moment she has 1,430 families in the program. 450 of these families are raising chickens - each family earns an average of $2.50 per day – plus they get to eat the eggs and occasionally a chicken. 271 families are raising pigs and in that process have also begun to breed their pigs. Every 3 months they get and average of 8-10 piglets which they sell for $35 each. 233 families now raise ducks and they sell the duck eggs for an average of $2.00 per day. 105 families are growing vegetables, fruits and rice – year round – their income has risen to $3.00 per day plus their diets have changed dramatically.
Last Wednesday, I travelled with Pon and Srie to our newest area – Krakor District in Pursat province. As we drove through communities, the poverty was hard to face. A number of families didn’t even have 4 walls – no shelter – we met another 60 families who cannot eat every day – hunger is painful to see. A number of families had shelter not big enough for 2 people –much less the 8-10 people living in the shelter. We saw bigger homes but they housed 2-3 families per house. Not so good. What we noticed was that there were no pigs, chickens, ducks – no vegetables – just barren, dusty land. What a challenge. As we talked, the ladies made a New Year’s resolution – this too will change.
On the way home we stopped in Kompong Channang to see the family that Miriam had given a well to. The family met us with shinning eyes – the husband had decided that he would be the model for his village. In his small garden, he had planted small rows of vegetables – 9 kinds in total – one was a row of 6 zucchini plants – the zucchinis were large and healthy – I said I would like to buy one – he said, no they have all been sold for a $1.00 each because people wanted the seeds from the zucchini so they could grow their own. He had planted 5 kinds of fruit trees, from mangoes, papaya and grapefruit. Across the path, lay his field. There he had planted a row of 9 other vegetables – wanted to see which would grow best. His eyes just sparkled. He had set up an ingenious irrigation system – piping the water into a water jar standing several feet of the ground. He turned a spigot and he could water each plant individually with a hose he had pieced together. He, too, made a new year’s resolution – no hunger for his family this year.
What a wonderful way to start the year. I thank each of you for standing with our families. I thank my God, that He has given me the privilege of being a part of this. All of us together, will make 2010 a year of resolutions changing lives. Happy New Years everyone.
#239, St 51,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia