With our regular newsletters, we aim to keep you posted on all the interesting and important news and updates of our programs and various activities. Enjoy reading!
Dear friends and partners, Every so often we have one of those moments in Tabitha. Yesterday, I had several of those moments. Srei and I traveled to Banteay Meanchaey to see the progress in the new areas. The visit was anticipated by Kameak, Long and Touk, our staff there. They had gone through several frustrating years of working with families who had been slow to respond – primarily because the areas were next to the Thai border and troubles kept flaring over the disputed temples. A sense of fear and insecurity kept the families away.
The new areas were far from the troubles and work had begun in September. We have learned that water is the quickest way to move people from poverty on the road to prosperity. We all knew that we had to convince people that they had to earn income from wells that we installed. The staff took it to heart and began installing wells soon after the program started. Often the Tabitha staff mention how much they had to talk before people would begin to respond – Banteay Meanchaey was no exception. But there in lay their excitement. The talk had worked. We stopped at Khun’s home. He and the neighboring family had received a well. Khun was taller than the normal Khmer so it was rather a pleasure to look up at him while he talked. He proudly showed me a stand of corn he was growing. I was rather pleased as the corn stood taller than I. I admired his work and asked, so when will you harvest? He smiled and shrugged – I don’t know, said he – do you know? I was a bit perplexed and looked at the staff. No one looked my way; rather they were studiously looking at the ground. What do you mean, you don’t know - asked I. Oh, said Khun I have never grown corn in my life. Srei found it hard to keep from giggling – no one has ever grown vegetables here –said she. I was bit dumbfounded. So how did he know what to do? Kameak gave a grin and said, we didn’t know either – we just told him to make the ground ready and then throw seeds on the ground – and it worked. Srei mentioned that she had told Khun to cut a few stalks so that each plant had a bit more space. Over my shoulder, other vegetables were growing in abundance – too many in too small a space but they were eating and selling from their small plot. As I was admiring the handiwork, Khun kept asking when his corn would be ready – too me, who also didn’t know – I guessed another month would do it. He left it at that.
We visited a number of families – each one growing small fields of vegetables – none of them knew the first thing about growing vegetables. All of them were learning things the hard way – through trial and error – and it worked. Lek with her husband and 3 sons had learned how to plant several varieties of vegetables. They were on their third cycle of growing food. Lek found carrying the water to the plants rather burdensome and she had devised a unique way of transferring water by garden hose from her well. She was being innovative out of need and desire. It was fun. As we visited various families all learning new skills, I marveled at my staff. They had talked people into trying new ideas without understanding themselves the growing cycles of the various vegetables. They were so proud of their families, so proud of the progress. We talked of the innovation taking place and of other innovations that we could try to make this a bit easier for the families. The families in our communities are desperately poor – their life style is fraught with hunger and despair – I look at the huts they live in, their meager possessions open to all who could see – I look at bodies, worn with hard labor and so little to show for it – I look at the staff and marvel at how hard they work – how much they must talk – to change just one life – and I marvel at how much change occurs simply because all of you and all of us – talk a lot about how to help without fully understanding the impact of what we say. I marvel that my God talked to me about how to help – and I talked with all of you and all the staff – and how all of us talked with others so that people like Khun and Lek can look at me with shining eyes and ask me – when do you think I will be able to harvest the corn? Speaking of which, I must close now and look up the growth cycles of corn. Thank you for standing and talking with us. Janne