I reckon I’ve got the best job in Send a Cow – of course others may disagree! As a Programme Coordinator I get to work really closely on a daily basis with the overseas Country Programme teams in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. I also get to liaise with all the other departments in the UK on fundraising, partnerships, communications and of course our lovely supporters. What’s not to like?

Also, I feel hugely privileged to have the opportunity to travel regularly to visit the projects in Africa and meet all those farmers whom we are helping, as they build their hopes and futures. At Send a Cow we often talk about our farmers and groups who achieve the most amazing transformations in their lives. Through adopting and implementing the SAC training and values, they pull themselves out of poverty, re-gain their dignity and are flourishing role models in their communities. But I think we sometimes forget to give due credit to our incredibly committed and hard working staff who work tirelessly alongside these communities, supporting them constantly with empathy, compassion and understanding.

On this visit, I arrive in Uganda and, as usual, the first part (before the office meetings) is to see what is actually happening out in the project areas. I have asked to go to Rakai district, some 3 hours to the south-west, where Send a Cow soon hopes to start a new project working with orphans. I am excited to see what potential there is for us to reach out and work with these vulnerable children. However, when I arrive in the Kampala office, I soon become aware that both of our Extension Workers in that area are out of action. Agnes is on sick leave, recovering from an operation, and Robert is in hospital, unconscious, following a road traffic accident the previous day. He was travelling back to Rakai to prepare for my visit, after a weekend with his wife and new baby. Extension Workers are the lynch pin of Send a Cow’s project delivery, living in the communities they serve and sharing in the joys and tribulations of each and every family under their care. The concern of the Uganda head office staff for Robert and his family is palpable and I assume the visit will not now take place.

But I am wrong about the visit. Claire (the Project Co-ordinator) and Pamela (the Country Programme Manager), who are accompanying me, declare that we are going anyway and that everything will be fine. When we arrive at the nearest town, Kyotera, we are greeted warmly by Bob who will be our guide around the neighbouring villages and who knows all the Send a Cow families. How come? I ask, and am told that he used to be a support worker and counsellor with a SAC orphan project many years ago. He still “volunteers” and keeps up with new developments. He would no more think of abandoning Send a Cow, than his own family.

We arrive at the first meeting place; the group is ready to receive us, well organised as promised, singing and dancing their welcomes. We take our places on the benches set out under the shade of a mango tree and begin the formalities. After the farmers have introduced themselves, the first one from the Send a Cow party to speak is Amos, our driver. He has been here before and knows many of the group members, greeting them by name; he recounts how when he first visited, the place we are sitting was “bush”. Now it is a neat, well swept compound with meticulously planted and maintained vegetable gardens, a new kitchen, a latrine and a bathing shelter. None of this surprises me – it is what I have come to expect from SAC projects – but I am struck by Amos’s participation in the meeting. I have worked with many international development agencies, but nowhere else have I witnessed a driver so engaged in the projects. It is more than just a job for him and there is a real sense of a team pulling together; I am proud to be a part of it.

Many of the farmers in this group have recently received cows, and as we tour the homesteads, Claire and Pamela offer advice and words of encouragement. Claire commends Jacqueline, the group’s chairperson, on how well she has chopped and mixed the cow’s feed, including the correct proportions of grass and leguminous fodder plants; then gently points out that she would do well to clean out the old feed from the cracks in the wooden trough in order to maintain good hygiene. The advice is taken in good heart and others cluster around to take heed. Jacqueline also has a small restaurant business in the nearby town and is delighted that she will now have her own milk to use there, instead of buying it. We discuss the importance of maintaining separate farm and restaurant records so that she can manage her business properly; she laughs with delight at the idea of being her own first customer for her new cow’s milk!

Every group we visit enquires after Robert and his accident. They receive news of his progress and treatment somberly, but with optimism and a sincere and genuine concern. And as we drive around the area, we too are updated with phone calls from the Kampala office. I understand that these are all people who care deeply for each other and have a shared vision which motivates them to go the extra mile, both at the professional and the personal level.

Back in Kampala I debrief with Patrick, our Country Director, and commend the team for managing such an excellent field trip in the absence of both Extension Workers. When I enquire after Robert, Patrick recounts how he visited him in hospital that same afternoon. Robert has now regained consciousness, but was sleeping at the time. Patrick tells me how his first words on awakening were of concern for the Visitor (me!) and anxious that everything has been well arranged and the visit smoothly executed. I have never met Robert.

For me, this says it all – people are the heart of Send a Cow’s work and even though I visit often, I never cease to be amazed and humbled by the generosity and care of my colleagues in Africa. It is offered unconditionally to our farmers, other staff, visitors and supporters alike. It is why people so often talk about themselves as being part of the “Send a Cow family”, and I am certainly happy to be a part of it.