Cows Lead the Way to University

Written by Ho Huu Nhan, Phan The Chien, Phan Thanh Công, Tran Thi Thuy, Le Duong Quynh Trang, Nguyen Thi Tình.

Simply being able to make ends meet used to be a far off dream for Mrs Le Thi Sam, 50, who lives in Trieu Phong district in Quang Tri province.

“Our family didn’t have any warm blankets and we only had one bicycle for all six of us. I didn’t think I would be able to afford higher education for all my four children,” she recalled.

Mrs Sam and her husband’s main source of income was rice farming and her husband also worked as a bricklayer when the harvest was over. However, they could not earn enough for their daily needs.

Mrs Sam had to borrow from her neighbours every day with most of their meals consisting of home-grown vegetables, rice mixed with sweet potatoes and fish sauce. Breakfast was dried or boiled sweet vegetables. “We never ate the ducks or chickens that we raised, so we could sell them at the local market to have some money for our children’s education,” the woman continued.

“When my eldest son was already a second-year student at university, my second eldest son passed the entrance exam for another university. He was so happy, but my husband and I were very worried about the cost,” Mrs Sam explained.

Eventually, due to their financial plight, the parents took the difficult decision to ask their son not to continue his studies. “He asked us to borrow some money for his university fees and promised to help pay it back when he was graduated,” she added.

It was 2008 and Mrs Sam and her husband didn’t know what to do for the best. But before they had come to a final decision, they received a cow from World Vision.

“It was so lucky. With the cow, I was confident that we could afford my son’s university education,” she said.  “We had always dreamt of having a cow as it would allow us to save money, but I didn’t think that it would come true.”

Ngan (left), Mrs Sam’s daughter, is happy to receive a letter from her sponsor.

Mrs Sam is a member of the local Development and Society Group (DSG) for poor farmers. At their monthly meetings, the members share their experiences of cultivation, raising animals and taking care of their children and also contribute to their group’s savings. To assist the operation of the group, World Vision provides its members with technical training and initial material support, such as seeds and breeding animals.
Mrs Sam’s family now have five cows with a further one given to a fellow DSG member in 2012 and another sold to cover their son’s education.

“My eldest son has graduated from university now and found a good job, which means he can help us support my two daughters’ education,” the woman said. “We expect to have two more calves in 2014 and I plan to sell two cows for money to rebuild my kitchen and toilet.”

“I believe that it was both our strong determination and World Vision’s support that helped us overcome our difficulties,” she confirmed.

The family now lives in a recently repaired house while Mrs Sam’s two daughters go to school on their own bicycles and her husband has a motorbike to get to work.

“I was so happy when my house was repaired,” said Ngan, the youngest daughter, who belongs to World Vision’s sponsorship programme. “I’ll study hard so I can be a geography teacher.”