Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We're back - in fact we've been back for a while now but have been rushing across the country catching up with folks. We arrived on the 8th of October and spent a day with Miriam's parents before they flew overseas on a holiday. After catching up with friends in Melbourne we drove to Adelaide and spent a whirlwind 5 days catching up with friends and family before driving down to Mt Gambier to look after Miriam's parents farm. We've been here a week now and have embraced the farming lifestyle: driving the ute, checking the stock, wearing rubber boots and drinking far too many cups of tea.

We're off to Melbourne to pick up the returning parents tonight and then will be spending another week down here to help out with some odd jobs. After that, it's back to Adelaide, attempting to find work and a place to live.

So is this the end of our big adventure? Not at all, we've got some other things planned but you'll have to stay tuned to learn more!

Monday, October 4, 2010

3 more sleeps...

From Bangkok we over-nighted south to KL, then overnight to Tioman Island. We spent 10 nights there doing a lot of not much, a run in the morning for Brad and a swim in the afternoon for us both. By now we’re sick of eating out, and are keen to come home to the simpler things eg. Muesli for brekkie, jatz, cheese & vegemite for dinner or I’d settle for a big packet of salt and vinegar chips. 2 days before our planned departure from Tioman, Brad came down with headache, fever & vomiting, as his 3 week old Laos foot injury (which we thought had totally healed) blew up. So we decided to head to civilisation early to purchase some much needed antibiotics. Brad spent 3 days in bed with his foot up, only popping out to our favourite dim sum joint, whilst I shopped in Melacca and plied him with 100 plus and lollies. Once well enough to walk again, we hit the shops and movies in exorbitant fashion. Last night we treated ourselves to to chilli crab & devil curry in the Portugese coastal strip of Melacca. And this morning we headed off to KL, from where we’ll fly back to Australia on Thursday. Looking forward to seeing you all soon...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Child's Dream - Laos

Due to a cancellation there was room enough for the Crouch Potatoes on a Child’s Dream tour of some of their projects in Laos. We had previously had great experiences with them in Cambodia & Thailand and thought it would be a great way to peek behind the tourist curtain in Laos and experience more of Child’s Dreams activities. We weren’t at all disappointed and had a great time with the team, visiting schools, experiencing the traditional Laos culture, food and lifestyle. Here’s some of our favourite moments:

School Opening Ceremony
This was one of the first experiences we had while on the tour and one of the best –admittedly Brad wouldn’t want to ever experience it the same way again though. It started with a 2 hour speedboat ride down the Mekong as there are no roads to the village. When we arrived the entire village was on the banks to welcome us and in no time we were sipping from fresh coconuts and eating the sweetest grapefruit known to man.

After a few speeches (in Lao) we walked up to the school site, the painted concrete building a huge contrast to the timber and thatched structures that make up the rest of the village. Both the teachers and students were decked out in their school uniforms and were excited about the new sports equipment that was presented to them.

The party kicked off with a blessing ceremony in which chicken guts, beaks and feet were handed out to those interested and also to those who weren’t (Miriam) and we were especially blessed by having to eat some of what was left – not Miriam’s favourite moment. Lunch came next and being at the head table with hundreds of eyes upon us we were very nervous about the proper protocol – especially as we were sitting away from the others and could not ask questions. Our nerves were lessened by the frequent toasts of what one can only imagine was pure ethanol. Miriam had the good sense to beg off many of these whilst Brad, trying hard to be a good sport, was not so smart. Traditional dancing came next where we were all partnered with the elite of the village and in one dance Miriam rock-n-rolled with the village leader!

During the week we spent many a meal with locals, both at restaurants and inside their homes. Laotian cuisine does not feature in Western dining much, resulting in many new experiences for us. Some dishes were really quite good, Brad’s favourite - the smoked fish at the opening ceremony whilst Miriam enjoyed the ubiquitous Fish Laap – a tangy minced fish salad.
Some of the least appealing dishes were bamboo worms (think small witchety grubs) and fried crickets, both of which were sampled but won’t be making it into our forthcoming cook book.
One thing we both agreed was fantastic - the BBQ’d pork ribs we had for breakfast....delicious. Another item we’d like to bring back to Australian shores is sticky rice, which is rolled into a ball and dipped into various dishes. Adapted to western taste, this is sure to be a big winner at dinner parties to come.

Rocky Roads
Northern Laos is a remote and rugged place – We’ve done a little 4WD driving before but this trip certainly had the most adventure per kilometre quotient we’ve experienced. One of the roads we tackled earned the name “The Waterfall” and there was many a time we thought that we’d need to get out in knee deep mud (luckily we never did). There were rocky roads that had us bouncing around the cabin like rag-dolls, slippery slopes that took 3 attempts to climb, puddles that were so deep we could swim in them and parts where the road had simply crumbled away.
Evidence of landslides were visible everywhere along the tracks and if not for our vehicle being adapted to suit, we wouldn’t have got very far at all. It’s easy to see how difficult life must be for the villagers in these remote places as transport and infrastructure is very sparse - food, building and medical supplies can be cut off for months at a time especially during Monsoon and the villagers don’t always have the capacity to cope with such interruptions to provisions.

Other Highlights
We visited many schools during the trip and were once again impressed at how Child’s Dream tackled the problems that face them working in such a difficult country. They are currently trialling a number of all-inclusive High School scholarships for remote village students to study in a nearby city (less than 10 hours away!)

Despite the lack of facilities and hardships faced by villagers, teachers and students alike, there is a real hunger for education and the benefits it offers. Child’s Dream requires a partnership with the school community which extends to the villagers and area officials. Locals are contractually obliged to provide materials, labour and active participation in the project management which promotes ownership and empowerment to their leadership – crucial to the future of the school.
It was a wonderful learning opportunity for us and a great way to see with our own eyes what impact organisations like Child’s Dream make for the lives of those less fortunate than our own.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guess Where Now?

Wrong! we're in Bangkok! After leaving Northern Laos less than 24 hours ago we travelled to Chiang Mai with the Child's Dream team (no pun intended...) and boarded an overnight bus to Thailand's capital. We're doing a bit of shopping here before heading to Malaysia. More about our trip in Laos soon...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lounging around

After the most scenic of bus rides, climbing high up through the beautiful green Laos mountains, we descended into lovely Luang Prabang. Whilst there, we visited a nearby waterfall and swam in the freezing cascading waters. A few days ago, Brad’s team made the finals in a volleyball tournament held at Utopia, a great bar & restaurant where we’ve spent many an hour laying back staring out at the gorgeous vista, chatting with other travellers whilst perched on bamboo platforms above the Mekong. On our last day here we watched the daily procession of monks receiving alms and visited the local markets. Tonight we plan to watch the sunset from Phu Si – a hill side dotted with temples.

We’ll be out of contact travelling with Child’s Dream over the following week, learning more about their work in Laos. After this we’ll be making our way steadily south toward Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia where we fly back to Australia on October 7. Not long now....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lazy Laos

After enjoying a relaxing week on Ko Phagnan not doing a lot, wetravelled for 30 hours by boat, bus & tuk-tuk to get to Laos. We crossed the border and headed south to a place called ‘Si Phan Don’ or ‘4000 Islands’ - a great little area of small islands on the Mekong river system, just above Cambodia. We had a lovely time taking in the beautiful vista from our bungalow with 2 hammocks perched directly above the fast flowing river (all for 30,000 kip/$4.10AUD per night). We hired some bikes and cycled the islands one day, taking in a great waterfall and teaching a local family about Australian crocodiles, snakes & spiders.
Other than that we simply read books and made the most of the social atmosphere.
Thoroughly chilled, we headed north for Kong Lo Caves where we had heard good reports. The cave is 7.5km long and is navigated by boat, set in amongst the lush green countryside it was definitely a worthy side trip on our way to Laos capital Vientiane. In Vientiane we again took in the sights by bicycle, but there wasn’t a lot to do there except soak up the French provincial feel. We moved on to Vang Vieng, the home of tubing and thumping riverside bars.
We enjoyed the picturesque karst mountain scenery, hit the countryside by pedal power and enjoyed the local organic produce (mulberry wine & shakes).
Life’s tough...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Child’s Dream - Thailand

After our informative tour with Child’s Dream in Cambodia we organised a visit to the main office of the organisation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to meet the founders – Daniel Siegfried & Marc Jennings. These two Swiss gentlemen worked for a banking outfit and spent a great deal of their careers in SE Asia. 7 years ago Daniel (same age as us) after a stint of volunteering (sound familiar?) decided to start an organisation that would assist children in Thailand. Marc Jennings, an (only slightly) older colleague decided to assist in the start-up period and well, decided to stick around.

They now head up a very well organised team which focuses on education, health and vocational support to disadvantaged groups in Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Laos & Cambodia. What we were very impressed by was their level of organisation, accountability and transparency. This (in my opinion) is due to their time in the corporate world and their reliance on funding from this source.

We joined them on a visit to a school catering to a Karen hill tribe. We were forewarned that the standard of schools was much higher in Thailand than Cambodia, and that the Thai government has the resources and management capacity to build schools themselves. Child’s Dream however, fulfils a need for boarding houses as many of the hill tribes live too far away to commute daily.

It turns out the forewarning was a good idea as the level of infrastructure at the school was far beyond anything we had seen in Cambodia. The school rooms were well furnished and resourced and the library was a particularly well designed area. This, Daniel confided to us, was a clear indication of the teaching staffs’ commitment to education and motivation levels – a big tick in the box. The big black mark against the school however was a number of half-finished and abandoned building projects that littered the grounds. Evidence of excavation, scattered building materials, poor quality and half constructed canteens, accommodation blocks and classrooms did not give the team the confidence to approve further development at the site. This was discussed over a lunch with the staff, with the assurance that Child’s Dream would visit again once their current projects were complete.

Another thing we should mention about Child’s Dream is the work they do with the Burmese refugees. A number of refugee camps exist near the border between the Burma & Thailand and as they are not legitimate citizens of Thailand are not provided an education by their host. This is the role of NGO’s and whilst many receive a fair to middling schooling, they are denied certification – a must for any substantial employment in Thailand. Child’s Dream assists with medical, housing and schooling initiatives and provide funding towards crucial internationally accredited secondary and vocational certification. One of the refugees, Dawa, was part of the team we visited with and with his camp-acquired engineering skills will be working on providing playgrounds and water solutions to many of the schools that the organisation is partnered with. We were very thankful to the team at Child’s Dream both in Cambodia & Thailand for giving us the opportunity to take part in school visits and their patience in answering any questions we had – we are very much looking forward to partnering with them in the future.

Chiang Mai, Pai, Chiang Rai & Burma

Chiang Mai

We left Siem Reap, Cambodia on 18th July, and after 22 hours on the road we arrived in Chiang Mai, a nice little place in Northern Thailand. Our sole reason for visiting Chiang Mai (we’d been there previously in 2008) was to catch up with the main branch of Child’s Dream and meet the Directors (more to come on this). While in Chiang Mai, we caught up on the latest movies, checked out the shopping spots, scrubbed up on our pool playing and seemed to have no trouble at all passing the time. We celebrated my 32nd birthday, a great day of spoiling ourselves silly with yummy food (talked Brad into visiting a vegetarian restaurant), 2 massages, a spot of shopping, a nap, some pool (kicked Brad’s butt), and steaks beside the river by candlelight.

Pai, Chaing Rai, Burma & beyond

Just 3 hours from Chiang Mai, perched high up in Northern Thailand, Pai is a peaceful (some say Hippie town). We enjoyed its relaxed feel for a couple of days and soaked up cool live music in the evenings.

By the way ‘The Life of Pi’ is a great little book to read if you get the chance, you just have to push on through the first little bit, then it gets into the good stuff – it’s also got nothing to do with Thailand...

From Pai, we rushed to Chiang Rai solely as a stopover to renew our Thailand visa’s by popping into Burma. At the border we handed over our passports, crossed the river, wandered around the markets (same as in any other country), then entered back into Thailand with another 15 days of visa – ready to head down country to an island paradise.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Livin' it up in Laos

Hey – I know you all think we’re still in Cambodia but that’s only because we’re really behind in blogs. Since Cambodia we have spent nearly a month in Thailand and are now lapping up the Laos lifestyle – which happens to be really lazy from what we’ve seen so far. I guess that means don’t expect blogs to fly out from the screen real fast as we’re too busy snoozing in a hammock and making the arduous 20 metre trek to the nearest restaurant to be worried about letting you all know what’s (not) happening.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Unwanted Legacy

As an engineer In the Army Reserves I received training in land mine clearance and wanted to learn about the problems that Cambodians face after decades of fighting. Few of the organisations that we had visited knew much about the issue other than it was a big problem but they talked of groups such as HALO, CMAC and MAG. As part of our trip with Child’s Dream we drove past a mine clearance team in action about 100m from the road and throughout our travels we had seen many signs notifying locals of cleared and uncleared areas.

During one of the village meetings a HALO vehicle arrived and a regional supervisor was briefing the commune leader about the mine clearance activities that were being undertaken. We had an opportunity to briefly speak with him about the issue and he gave us an overview of the hierarchy and reporting structures in place. Each of the mine clearance groups work in different areas of the country and report back to a central government organisation to avoid wasted effort. To decide on where they will clear next they consult with village and commune leaders in the area and classify areas as high, medium or low priorities.

During the previous meeting I had heard a rumble that sounded like a distant explosion and I asked the guy whether this was from the clearance activities and he said that they had found and destroyed 3 anti-tank mines that day by detonating a small charge next to the mines. In addition to the anti-tank mines the other devices they destroy are anti-personnel mines and a wide variety of weapons and munitions classified under the generic term unexploded ordnance (or UXO’s) such as grenades and artillery shells. They detect these using metal detectors from Germany and Australia (MineLabs) and a ground piercing radar unit from the United States.

Aside from the obvious direct danger for children and adults of whom thousands are killed or injured each year in Cambodia, mines and UXO’s also prevent people from farming new land or building on uncleared land, stifling growth in the villages. One thing that struck us as quite morbid was the common use of old artillery shells as school bells – a chilling relic of the past but maybe a daily reminder of the dangers faced each day in this area of the world.


We had heard about a Swiss doctor who had founded a number of children hospitals in Cambodia and as part of his fund-raising efforts, performs a Cello concert each Saturday in Siem Reap. We thought this would be an interesting evening event and as it turned out, it was. It was readily apparent that he was very passionate about his work and just as apparent that he had a few “issues” with many of the larger health and development agencies around the world.

His hospitals offer first world medical care to the children of Cambodia, free of charge – relying heavily on private funding (currently US $35 million/year) to fund the 6 hospitals that he has founded. Critics of his approach argue that the money could be better spent by reducing the level of care and focusing on prevention measures, also stating that children in poor areas will likely be reinfected after being treated for illnesses. Regardless of who is right (I suspect they both have valid points), he and his hospitals which account for 85% of all children hospitalisations in Cambodia have saved thousands of lives and his selfless dedication to the monumental task was pretty humbling. Oh, and his Cello skills are pretty good too!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Maxine Shipway

We have just heard that our dear friend Maxine Shipway, Director of the Indian Orphanage, has just passed away. This news, whilst sad, did not come as a surprise to us as she has been in a Delhi ICU ward for almost a month now battling severe illness. We would not say this otherwise but Miriam and I both agree that she was without doubt the most selfless, kind and wise individual we have ever met. Suffering terrible ill-health while we were volunteering at the orphanage, she never failed to think of others first and cared for them in a deeper way than we have ever seen before.

Maxine has lived and served most of her life at the orphanage and as was her wish, will be buried there, under a big mango tree where her memory will serve as an example for all those who were fortunate to have known her. Our love and support goes out to her family – her husband Rick, and her children Clifton, Tammy & Beverley along with their families.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Temples of Angkor Wat

We dragged ourselves out of bed at 4.30am in time to meet the sun rising over Angkor Wat. Unfortunately, it was none too spectacular, just a slow uncovering of the scaffolding covered Wat as the sky slowly lightened (we have heard this can be spectacular though). We then walked 15mins uphill to the top of to Phnom Bakheng a pyramid shaped structure with steep steps leading up & up & up on 4 sides, from where Angkor Wat could be glimpsed way down below, it was a lovely peaceful place to hang out and take in the surrounds.
As we headed off to the large Angkor Thom complex, we passed a long stream of wrinkly, saggy, baggy, big brown eyed elephant taxis on their way to ferry tourists around the Wats (our first close up encounter of the elephant kind). Brad snapped the perfect picture of Monks on the bleak grey background of Bayon, before they headed off in their Monk mobile. Bayon was a lifesize 3D puzzle in the process of being put back together, with 4 sided towers of smiling faces at every turn. Throughout the rest of this temple complex, we viewed beautiful carvings, walked up many steep steps, and said no to many trinket sellers. We visited one more temple before Ta Prohm which was most like what we expected to see throughout our visit of the ancient temples.
It is a temple hidden amongst the forest, crumbling with massive trees growing up & throughout the ruins. We skipped the last temple on our planned circuit due to the onset of temple fatigue, before heading back to Angkor Wat to finish off our 7 hour whirlwind visit of some of the temples of Siem Reap.

Wat a day!!

My Island Home...

On Sunday after doing a quick visa run into Myanmar, we ended up on a 26 hour bus journey from Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand to the South, then on a boat to our current tropical Island destination of Ko Phangan.

We’re both looking forward to relaxing in our hammock staring out at our lovely beach views, reading some books and getting fit & healthy. We’ll hopefully get more up to date with our blog, which is still back in Cambodia, when we’ve been in Thailand now since 19th July...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Child's Dream - Cambodia

We were lucky enough to be invited on a 2-day tour of school projects that are sponsored by Child’s Dream – an aid organisation founded by 2 young Swiss bankers in 2003, who left their lucrative careers and decided to help destitute children in SE Asia. Whilst the head office is in Chiang Mai, Thailand they also have a locally staffed regional office in Siem Reap, Cambodia which is where we started from. Firstly we had an interesting talk with the regional director who had first-hand experience from the Khmer Rouge era and then we set off with 2 staff members to visit the project sites.

It was a great opportunity for us as we saw first-hand how the organisation works with the communities to ensure the success of the projects. Child's Dream staff visit each site and establish the viability of partnering with the village before deciding to fund a school building. Many factors are taken into consideration such as class size, student population, existing or nearby facilities and water resources. Probably the biggest criteria though is village involvement – unless the village demonstrates a real commitment to the project, involving project management, funds and resources, the project will not likely be approved.

The 10 sites we visited were quite a mix with some being initial visits, some with construction underway and we even got to see some completed projects. Many of the sites being proposed were heart-breaking to see as the existing facilities were so dangerous that we felt unsafe even going inside. Dirt floors, scraps of blackboard and rotting, termite infested timbers were all these children had – hardly a good environment for learning. The completed schools were in stark contrast however with bright, airy and colourful rooms.

One of the most special moments in Cambodia occurred at one of the poorest villages during a meeting - we had wandered off to take some photos. We sat under the shade of a tree on some benches and a group of kids came and sat with us. In about 15 minutes these kids, all under the age of 10 had taught us how to count to 1000 in Khmer with lots of laughter along the way. This experience highlighted to us that it is not intelligence that will hold these children back, but opportunity.

Note: This was just our first experience with Child’s Dream, we have since met with the founders in Thailand, and plan to visit their Laos operations in September. But more about this in later blogs....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Master Chef

Travelling for so long, it’s been a while since we’ve been in the kitchen, so we decided to try something new and exciting in Siem Reap – a Khmer cooking class.


Entrees: Fried Chicken Spring Rolls & Mango n’ Chicken Salad

Main: Fish Amok & Beef Khmer Curry

Dessert: Pumpkin Sago & Banana Sago

Brad definitely took the winning title with his delicious spring rolls, and yummy sweet chilli sauce. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours, and now we have quite a repertoire of international recipes to bring back home.

After stuffing ourselves silly on our first own-cooked meal since leaving the orphanage, we splurged ($2 ea) on ½ hr foot massages which I found excruciatingly painful, whereas Brad promptly fell asleep and had to be woken once it was over.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


This organization is a small, US-funded NGO that began after an American couple visited Cambodia and saw first-hand the level of poverty in the country. After forming Trailblazers in 2005 they currently spend their time equally in Cambodia and their home state of Wyoming. They are currently in the states and we met with the local director to discuss their operations.

The organization has 4 main areas in which they assist Cambodia’s poor: Water, Education, Agriculture and Business. The director stressed that all their work is done with much consultation with expert researchers, local communities and where applicable, the Cambodian government agencies. The emphasis on all their projects is long-term sustainability, they educate and involve the communities to ensure ownership and independence.

We were given a tour of their workshop and saw how bio-sand filters were constructed – these filters remove 98% of bacteria in the water and are cheap to construct, easy to maintain and last for years. They also do agricultural research on behalf of villages, identifying high-yield seeds and fertilizers suitable for Cambodian conditions in addition to producing wells, fertilizer and irrigation systems.

All the technologies produced by Trailblazers are sold to the villagers at 1%-5% of their actual cost and the money raised is then used to seed village funds which offer micro-loans to poor families. They also are involved in constructing school buildings and developing income-generation projects such as sewing and beauty product enterprises.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Party Central

4 hours south of Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s premier sea-side resort town. It’s pretty laid back, nice and cheap, and a great place to relax. So after arriving I spent 3 days in bed – unfortunately not by my own choosing.

Socialite Brad took my bed ridden state as a great opportunity to be out to all hours, soaking in the party atmosphere, and watching the World Cup finals (but I think he’s started to realize he’s not as young as he used to be). All in all Sihanoukville seems like a great place to have some time out, even though we didn’t get to enjoy it as much as we would have liked, so we’ll definitely have to visit again next time we’re in Cambodia.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Village Life

As is our modus operandi we found ALWS (Australian Lutheran World Service) through Google and by chance entered a dialogue with a woman in Adelaide. Over a series of days and possibly weeks, she contacted various field offices in SE Asia and eventually put us in contact with a partner in Phnom Penh. LWF (Lutheran World Federation - Cambodia) is currently in a transition towards local governance and will be a fully Cambodian entity in 2011. We met with the Deputy Director and were whisked away to a village about an hour away from Phnom Penh.

It didn’t take long to leave the modern city and enter rural areas where the infrastructure is severely lacking or simply non-existent. We were going to visit the Prachum Ang village in the Kandal province, South East of Phnom Penh. This village is where LWF had spent 10 years working with the community on a number of different levels and were now no longer required as the village had reached the point of self-sustaining management. Miriam and I were surprised and a little embarrassed when we arrived to find ourselves greeted warmly by the village council and seated ceremoniously at the head table. Even now, I’m still a little unsure whether the whole meeting was for our benefit or they had planned a visit previously and we were tagging along.

Various villagers told of the development of the village since LWF arrived a decade ago and it was diligently translated for us. 10 years ago the village was very poor. It had suffered under the civil war and there was no infrastructure. Illnesses were prevalent in the area and farming was difficult as there was not enough water during the dry season. LWF, along with other organizations helped initially by digging wells and latrines which reduced the sicknesses in the village. LWF then helped form a village council by holding elections amongst the 150 families. They educated the council on human rights principles, health practices, efficient farming techniques and formed a village bank.

The village bank is managed by 3 of the village council members who are given training in how to manage it. Initially LWF provided seed grants of US$30 to those villagers that could demonstrate savings of 12.5 cents per week for 8 weeks and presented realistic proposals for the use of the money and repayment. The loans were charged interest at 3% a month and generally were for 6 months. The majority of these loans were used for agriculture & animal husbandry. The capital and interest returned to the bank is then recycled to increase both the principal loaned and number of loans. Since its inception the bank has doubled the number of members, branched into emergency loans and now controls US$10,000 – more than 10 times the initial grant! This finance acts as a bridge to more formal loans with accredited micro-loan organizations and allows impoverished to avoid loan-sharks that charge crippling rates.

The village council is also educated in how to apply for various government and NGO grants and they are now empowered enough to manage their own future in a democratic and confident manner. This was demonstrated when the village, unprompted by external influence, formally applied for an LWF village sponsorship grant for an irrigation project they had in mind. The proposal was successful and the village council told us with great pride that they stipulated to the contractor that local labour was to be used and then instructed the labourers to take ownership of the project and make sure it was done properly – with a grin one council member even told us he instructed the labourers to put a bit extra cement in to make sure it was strong! We went and looked at the project and there was a sense of accomplishment and pride in what had been achieved and the farms are now able to produce 2-3 crops per year instead of 1.

We visited a woman who had arrived in the area from a refugee camp with nothing and with the help of the village bank was able to take loans to build a mini empire of a quarter-acre block, 7 cows and a large family! We asked what her hope for the future was and she replied “To provide for my children and marry the last 2 off!”. LWF encourage women to take part in the leadership by establishing a gender quota system in the village bank and council structures.

This was our first village visit and we were impressed at the level of involvement LWF had in the past and even more so that it was no longer necessary. The biggest factor in all of this was the education and empowerment of the village council who shared this with the rest of the village. In the early days, the village council members were taken to other villages to see the concepts in action – now the village sets an example for others to follow and regularly receives visits from nearby villages.