Lochinvar students bag a charitable chance

St Joseph’s Catholic College, Lochinvar, continually seeks and explores opportunities for service and to enact the words of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop to “never see a need without doing something about it”.

The Year 8 Religious Studies class undertook this challenge through an investigation of the charity work of the Cows for Cambodia organisation. As part of their studies in the Called to Act Justly unit of work, students develop an understanding of the important connection between charity and justice – the way in which Catholics can continually strive for the betterment of all through charitable works, which ultimately works towards justice.

Cows for Cambodia founder is Andrew “Cosi” Costello, a country boy from the Yorke Peninsula and now a household name in South Australia after more than 20 years in the media. In 2005, he was named South Australian Journalist of the Year and over the years he has won many other radio accolades including an Australian Commercial Radio Award for Best Radio Feature, which highlighted the plight of people experiencing homelessness. He now fronts travel show South Aussie with Cosi.

Cosi always wanted a farm, but he realised he could never afford one in South Australia. Instead, he bought land in Cambodia, one of the world’s poorest nations, where he bases Cows for Cambodia.

“All rural families in Cambodia dream of owning a cow,” says Cosi, “but the reality is that most will never be able to afford one. Cows for Cambodia is essentially a cow bank. We loan families a pregnant cow. They must look after it and when it has the calf, they get to keep the baby and we take our cow back.”

The program is more about providing an opportunity to break the poverty cycle rather than a direct handout.

“It's a really, really big thing for them,” says Cosi. “To give you an idea, a cow costs me $1000, but the houses they build cost $200. Once they have a calf, instantly the poverty cycle for that family is broken."

It has been an overwhelming success and the long-term goal is to have 1,000 cows in the project, which will make Cows for Cambodia one of Asia’s biggest agriculture charities.

But Cows for Cambodia has other initiatives, including a “rice run", a 24-hour period during which people can buy a 25kg bag of rice that will be delivered to a Cambodian family in need, usually living in the poorest villages.

A 25kg bag of rice can sustain a family for up to three months. The delivery of the bags also provides employment for many Cambodians and is the worth a day's wage.

The St Joseph’s Year 8 students were inspired. After some discussion and research, together they decided to join the efforts of Cows for Cambodia and contact Cosi to enquire about purchasing a bag of rice from money the class had collected.

Student Luke Dean says everyone deserves an equal chance at life no matter where they live or grow up. “If this is a small way that can help make that happen, then I want to be involved,” he said.

After many weeks of not hearing anything due to COVID-19, the class was excited to receive a reply from Cosi providing them with an opportunity to fulfil their goal of assisting others in need through buying a bag of rice.

Another Year 8 student, Harper Williamson, says the Cambodians need this food more than we do. “I didn’t even miss the small amount of money I donated, and I feel happy knowing that it will benefit someone other than myself,” he said. “Cosi also seems like a good bloke.”

Through the “rice-run”, 100 bags of rice were delivered to Cambodian families in need. Cosi and his team of helpers write a message on each bag from the people who donate it, and upload a photograph of it to their website and Facebook page. Year 8 proudly viewed their photograph, which they said captured their effort of seeing a need and doing something about it.

The smiles on the faces of the students when they saw the photograph for the first time was heart-warming. It was also affirmation that the experiences the St Joseph’s Catholic school community share together are supporting young people and providing opportunities to be compassionate and promote a strong sense of justice.

Year 8 is are now looking at organising a Skype session with Cosi to learn other ways in which they can make a difference.

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