One of our volunteer Ambassadors, Jackie Laws, who lives in Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset, recently returned from a self-funded Study Tour to Ethiopia where she had the privilege of seeing first-hand the difference Send a Cow’s work has made to the lives of rural communities. She told us about the trip, and about the transformations she saw taking in place in the lives of some of Africa’s poorest families.

I was born in Africa but have spent most of my life living in the UK, farming in a small way and raising my family. I decided to volunteer as an Ambassador with Send a Cow because they are the perfect charity for me – they focus on families in Africa who are farming small plots of land and struggling to make a living. I believe we all have the ability to change someone’s life, and I didn’t want to waste this opportunity. I hope that as an Ambassador I can inspire others to do the same.

I first visited Ethiopia two years ago, on a Study Tour with Send a Cow. It was an incredibly rewarding, eye-opening and exhausting experience! On a Study Tour Ambassadors visit Send a Cow projects, collecting stories to use in talks back home and for local media opportunities. I wanted to revisit Ethiopia to see how the work has progressed and developed with new communities and meeting new challenges.

Ethiopia has long been a byword for famine. With below average rainfall for the last two years, the UN estimate more than 15 million people will be in need of food aid by 2016. But on the Study Tour I saw that Send a Cow’s work kick-starts a rapid and permanent change, building resilience to challenges such as drought.

Send a Cow works with people who see their poverty and hunger as an inescapable fact of life. Visiting the projects I saw that within three months of starting to work with us families were eating vegetables grown in their own gardens. One farmer told me: “My backyard is now my restaurant”.

None of these changes would be possible without the amazing work of Send a Cow Ethiopia’s extension workers, community volunteers and project staff. They listened to the families they were supporting, and worked out how best to help them. I found the sensitivity and dedication they demonstrated towards the communities they worked with truly inspirational.

The visit that will stick with me the most was on our last day. We were making our way out to a remote area in Oromifa, near Kotoba. In this part of Ethiopia roads are virtually non-existent. With no running water and no electricity, it is an area that other NGOs rarely venture to. Due to the conditions we weren’t able to get to the community we were supposed to visit, and instead we called unannounced at the home of a family who were part of a new project.

Their joy at our visit, and their obvious pride in their achievements as they showed us their home and yard was quite overwhelming. This is a family that is having to learn to cope with less rainfall and even frost, but with training from Send a Cow they are improving the soil and have sufficient food all year round. In celebration of our visit they quickly prepared a simple meal for the whole group to share – a meal which a year ago would not even have been possible for themselves, let alone for guests. It was a day I will never forget.

Jackie has been an Ambassador for Send a Cow since 2010. As well as speaking to local schools, churches and groups about Send a Cow’s work she also raises money by cooking lovely farm breakfasts for the cholesterol-starved! If you would like to find out more about becoming an Ambassador for Send a Cow, visit www.sendacow.org/ambassador or email ambassadors@sendacow.org.