In December 2015, we met Daisy, a young cow living life in the Rhema Garden, providing milk for the residents. She moo'd at us as we walked past and after Archbishop explained why she was there, we realised that if we had a few more cows, we could substantially raise the local income of the Garden. So the Cow campaign was born. Funds were raised for the purchase of 3 cows and a cow shed.
Shaneen and I meeting Daisy in 2015
Today, the cow shed has been built and 2 cows were purchased mid 2016 - an older cow and her calf - we have named them Rosie and Lily. Rosie is a very good milking breed. I believe that the cows were undervalued at the time of the campaign as the older cow (Rosie) was purchased for Rs50,000 rather than the £300 (at the time about Rs30,000) per cow.
Daisy was artificially inseminated last year, she had a Bull which we sold for Rs2,000. She has since been inseminated again and is due next month - April 2017. If the calf is a girl, they will keep her.
Every morning and night the 'milker' comes to milk the cows. He leaves enough for the Garden and takes the rest. While Daisy is pregnant, she is not being milked, but Rosie can produce up to 7 litres day. The cost of milk is Rs25 a litre. We have also employed a cow caretaker - and this is where the story gets really amazing!
Meet Vimala - she is the cow caretaker. She used to live with her husband in an abusive relationship, he used to drink heavily and she finally picked up the courage to leave him. She has 3 children (1) Sathiyaseelan, 20yrs old and who is severely disabled, has learning difficulties and unable to speak (2) Chandrakanth who is in 10th standard and (3) Sandip Vikram who is in 8th Standard.
After the separation, Vimala was without work or money to care for her boys. Archbishop Samuel came to know about her situation and asked her if she wanted to take care of the cows at the Garden - she agreed and joined the Rhema family. Her 2 younger boys live in the hostel and eat and go to school with the other boys. As for Sathiyaseelan, he stays home with his mother every day.
For the first time ever, I saw the advantage of living in a 2 x 2 square meter room. As Sathiyaseelan sits on his bed every day, he is able to see his mother and the cows. He can hear the outside world and the children playing. Vimala is small and finds it difficult to carry him, but she cares for him like any mother would - carrying him out for toileting, feeding and dressing him. Her life has been fundamentally changed by the Cow Programme - she has dignity, self respect and is able to provide for her children. For me, this has been one of the greatest success stories of my visit.
A pregnant Daisy now!