Over the course of the past few weeks, our GROW team was able to meet with many of beneficiaries of our project with BSDA. We are able to help provide small loans for those living with HIV/AIDS to start or grow chicken raising projects as a way of generating income. As our interviews continued, it became more and more obvious the relative success or failure of the projects had very little to do with the loans themselves– it was, not surprisingly, most dependent on the community leaders, the way community members were able to support each other, and how invested each family was in the community’s well-being. We were able to sit and talk with a few of them, to hear their concerns and successes, their hopes and ideas.
Thoung Mouen, CSV and local leader, talks about the need for community members to support each other. He is living with HIV, and while his sister was able to take care of his chickens during a recent hospital visit, he worries that others do not have enough support to maintain their businesses when they are sick. He wants to encourage neighbors to help look after each other’s chickens.
Van Vin has been a leader in his local community for years, and recently joined our project. When diagnosed with HIV, he decided to take up farming full-time so that he could feed his family and neighbors while staying home. He uses every part of his land to grow vegetables, raise chickens and also keeps a fish pond. He sells his produce to his neighbors at low prices so that he knows they will have enough fresh food to eat.
Mr. Chhet rolls and lights a cigarette as we spoke with his family. His daughter, Chhet Younen, started raising chickens as a way to make money while staying home to take care of him.
Sen Keim laughs at one of her granddaughters, sitting nearby. She worries about the health of her chickens, as the dry season this year has been especially hot and many chickens have died, but said she was able to talk to the community support officer about shade and water for them. She worries most about her success because she wants to leave her granddaughters with enough money to continue being able to go to school.
Mr. Siem bounces his grandson over his knee. He lives with his daughter, Siem Sina, and helps take care of their family so that his son-in-law can travel to find work.
Chan On smiles as she talks about her chickens. “I don’t want to eat chickens anymore, just to love them.” Her business has been immensely successful in the past few years– she hopes to begin raising ducks and build a fish pond soon.
Min Pholly, community service volunteer, talks about the health of members in her community. “Sometimes they don’t go to the hospital when they should,” she said of others living with HIV, “but then I talk to them. I tell them that the community needs them, that they need to take care of themselves because we need them.” She and her husband help keep health records as part of their role as CSVs, and help facilitate discussions about health education, supporting their neighbors and friends however they can.
Roos Than shows us the lamp in his kitchen, which is powered from methane produced from the manure of his water buffalo, as one of his daughters watches us shyly. He wanted to continue going to training sessions with the department of agriculture to learn more about how to give chickens vaccines, so that he can teach others in his community.
Bouk Tourch, community service volunteer, pours over his ledger book to review the status of loans the people in his community have recieved from BSDA in the past year. He meticulously keeps the community’s health and financial records, helping the community members who cannot read or write on their own keep track of their finances.
Every time we met another family I found myself struck by the lengths to which they were willing to go to help each other, to support each other whether their issues were about health, chickens, or finances. These support systems are self-created and self-perpetuating. And that’s the beauty of it– the community members themselves are the communities’ strongest assets, and we simply have the privilege of listening.