With Wildlife Alliance Staff
Last month, Rebecca Tilbrook, founder of the Australian charity, For the Animals, and former Wildlife Alliance employee, brought a group of For the Animals supporters to visit our programs in the field. For the Animals serves as our partner in Australia spreading awareness, promoting Wildlife Alliance’s work, and building our supporter base. This guest post by Rebecca shares their experience and illustrates the work Wildlife Alliance is doing to help Cambodian communities end hunger and poverty:
Eight of us from Australia went up to visit all of Wildlife Alliance’s field projects, so we can raise awareness and resources from our country. Everyone on the visit had participated in various fundraising activities for the Australian group, For the Animals, which supports Wildlife Alliance’s work.
I have been on the visit several times now and what strikes me most is how every visit is different, and I always see something important that I’ve never seen before. Everyone enjoyed visiting the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC), home to 1,200 animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. The elephants are my favorite and I feel a real connection with them, especially Lucky whom I’ve known since she was a couple of years old. I truly feel that she and the other animals at PTWRC are happy and have minimum stress. I often wonder if they realize that they’ve been ‘rescued’ from certain death.
As much as I love being with the animals, the project that touched me the most this time was the Community Agriculture Development Project at Sovanna Baitong, which is a poverty alleviation project involving 187 families. We heard from different villagers what the project had meant to them and their families in terms of having enough food, medical care and schools for the children. The people who spoke to us were different from the people we heard from in February 2013, when I last visited. So Wildlife Alliance and the community members are not simply putting the same three people up in front of the group to give the same story each time – the project has truly touched all the families in the community. As we walked through the village with the families, we crossed over the Bridge of Love. It was called this because each night the husband and wife that own the land sit on the bridge and look back at their farm and house and are filled with love. While the gentleman was telling us this story, his kids were running around and giggling and playing with the strange visitors who were pretending to chase them. There was just a sense of delight in the atmosphere. We also saw the children interacting with a young puppy and it was clear that they felt real compassion for the animal, unlike some places I’ve visited where the people come from extreme poverty.
As of 2013, the agriculture projects have been handed over to the Khmer staff. The projects are both running well and I believe there is a sense of ownership and accountability among the villagers to continue to make the projects succeed.
We would like to thank Rebecca for her support and for sharing her experience. We also welcome all our supporters to visit our projects, and see first-hand the work we are doing to alleviate poverty in the region!
"There was a sense of delight in the atmosphere"