News from Kampot
I recently returned from a trip to our school in Kampot, Cambodia to be with our staff and children and to see how our programs are progessing.
You have all been helping sponsor over 400 primary and secondary school children mainly from the Di Pok state school, but also from other local state schools, who all come to study traditional Cambodian music, dance and theatre at our school. Many are very poor and come from quite degraded and difficult backgrounds. The tuition of the arts in this form gives these children not only an opportunity to learn about their heritage, but it also provides them with an objective, keeping them away from street-life, glue sniffing and youth gangs.
After more than a year each sector from Pin Peat music and Mahori music ensembles to folk dance and Yike have begun performing in special public concerts in order to show their achievements and gain a certain professionality in stage skills. When they perform they are very proud of themselves! The interest in this program is such that now two new groups of state school students want to join our program.
What we've been doing Recently
In a local competition our school represented the different aspects of traditional Cambodian culture, from the different music forms, from the Yike to classical dance. Linking these different themes was a group of high school students on our training program from Di Pok school. In a form of narrative theatre they took the audience through different stages of the peformances. In the storyline they appear as high school students attracted by drugs and rave culture, but then they meet an old wise man who instructs them on the beauty and harmony of their ancient cultural heritage. The performance witnesses the transformation of this group of students from intolerance to tolerance from impatience to patience and from hate to peace and open-mindedness. The students were excellent in their performance.
Both our Mahori music and Pin Peat music teachers in their spare time formed two different ensembles with rural children, not connected to the free arts training program, ie not part of the state school and KCDI program. These very poor students were drawn to study the different musics from their own individual interest and passion for Cambodian music. The Mahori ensemble is with slightly older adolescent students, while the Pin Peat ensemble is with younger mostly pre-adolscent students. The talent of these different children is such that in a short space of time they have learned over 30 different Pin Peat pieces!
The younger Pin Peat students come from a rural area outside the town and towards the cement factory. They are not only very poor, but their families have significant problems. Coming home from school they often don't have anything to eat because their parents have spent all day gambling and drinking. The children tend to work very hard helping their parents in the rice fields, therefore learning music for them is a very important release from the pressures and difficulties of their daily lives.
Our school has now decided to officially insert them into our teaching timetable, providing food, care and assistance for those children worst affected by negligence and poverty. With the permission of their families and in coordination with them, we have formed this special group of highly talented scholarship students.
Please keep on Helping us!
Please continue helping our program. Your generosity has provided wonderfully diverse arts tuition for so many children and now our scholarship students too. Unfortunately the gap between rich and poor in Cambodia is ever-widening. Exacerbating this divide is the rising cost of food and rice. In order to help our scholarship students study they also need to be supported and to eat. This is one way of lightening the burden of costs for their families and ensuring that they continue studying and have a future away from alcohol abuse and addictive gambling. We also need to support out teachers for their priceless work, not only passing on their knowledge to new generations, but for their kindness, patience and skills.
During my visit to Cambodia, I also met the Minister of Culture who praised our school for our work and promised to protect us in the future. Our work is considered of vital importance, not only as a social development and vocational training, but representative of Cambodian people's desire to remember and restore their treasured culture.
Please tell your friends and collegues to support our work!
Thank You All from everyone at the Kampot Traditional Music School - Khmer Cultural Development Institute (KCDI)
Dearest Friends and Supporters of our Kampot Traditional Music School KCDI,
I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your wonderful support for the year 2014. You have been a most marvelleous help and your contributions have allowed us to reach our goal for 2013-2014 and to continue our project for free arts training for over 400 very impoverished children into 2015!
As we go into 2015, we are welcoming new little children on our free arts training program and we are planning to expand our program to include Lakoun Sabaik Toch, which is the ancient art of small Shadow Puppet theatre. This will be a wonderful new skill to learn and we will become the first puppet troupe in the province of Kampot. I will be posting more details in our next report.
Recently both our day children on the Free Arts Training Program, as well as our orphaned children on our Residential program were involved in a spectactular event. We hosted the Hanuman Space Project and collaborated and partnered with the Australian Theatre Company "Intimate Spectacle", the international Cambodian Rock Group, "The Cambodian Space project" and the local contemporary art space, "Light box".
Our children joined in to do workshops to make puppet space monsters, paint pictures of their idea of space and then participate in the performance itself. We fused traditional Cambodian music and dance with contemporary music, theatre and stage effects to make the first ever pscychadelic performance of the "Hanuman Space project". The story of a Cambodian monkey who finds pieces of old Soviet spaceship in the jungle and who decides to travel to space, facing many challenges and dangers on the way. It is also a very relevant story about the transition and changes that many rural Cambodians must face as they migrate to urban areas.
We had a most wonderful time working together with our Cambodian and Australian partners and our teachers and students found the experience, exhilirating and healing. It was also a great learning experience for us, as to how to create a professional stage setting, lighting and stage effects. Some very famous Cambodian artists also participated, such as the international rock star Chanthy, but also the greatest Master of the Chapeye tradition, Kong Noy. Professional dancers from the Royal University of fine Arts also came to dance with our children and the whole experience really brought home to them, the richness of their own cultural heritage and how far one can go with the arts.
Here is what the Australian theatre director said about working with our school:-
"This project has been a fantastc experience. It is such a privilge working with so many talented people. (The) KCDI atmosphere is very healthy and fun. Bravo to all the artists, students and teachers. Very blessed to be a part of the show".
and here is what the founder of the Cambodian Space project rock group said,
"It's been an inspirational experience woring with all the staff, teachers and students at KCDI. We couldn't have had a better project partner than KCDI for developing the Hanuman Space Project"
Christmas Fundraising Appeal
I am writing this report early, because I would like to invite you all to participate in our Christmas Fundraising Appeal.
We have been fortunate to have been selected by GlobalGiving, to participate in this great event, from Monday 1st December 00:00 (midnight) EST Washington DC time until 31st december at 11-.59pm.
We must raise over $3,000 with over 30 donors participating to be able to be eligible for a prize of $3,000 from GlobalGiving. We are aiming to raise $10,000 because we really need this sum to keep on going.
Recently we were turned down by a major donor because we didn't fit into their criteria. This happens quite frequently because we work with both the arts and orphaned children, which is quite a difficult area to fund. We won't give up, because we believe in what we do.
If you would like to be involved please also contact your friends, family and colleagues as well as spread the word on your Social network. Please read here below so that your donation goes as smoothly as possible!
° ** Please donate to our central project on GlobalGiving:-
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia # 16371
We are one entity and whether you prefer supporting the arts training program for external students or whether you want to help our residential program all these children study at our school; By joining this Appeal and giving to One Project Only, you ensure the best possibility of our winning a matching prize. Funds raised go towards food, clothing, medical costs and teaching costs, electricity and water and help to keep our school open. We work in very close coordination with the Department of Social Affairs and so all our activities are strictly regulated and in line with Cambodian welfare law. If you give to the free arts training program for this appeal, it won't be counted (although it's very kind of you) and with too few donors we won't reach our goal of over 30 donors to one program. So please stick to the same project listed above, it's really important for us to raise these funds to keep our school open and running!
° Donations made by cheque must kindly be donated by 23rd December.
° Giftcards and Texts are not eligible for this Fundraising Campaign.
° Unfortunately recurring donors are not counted. If you can't make a donation, please ask a friend who can!
Thank you for having taken the time to read this.
From all of us here in Kampot, wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and every Well being and Peace for the New Year 2015!
Dear Donors and Friends of Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children - Khmer Cultural Development Institute - KCDI,
Over a year has passed since you all began supporting our project, "Free arts training for over 400 children, Kampot Cambodia" at our school. Thanks to your generosity and continuity, our project has been running ever since, reaching out to the hundreds of very poor children in Kampot Province and providing them with a free training in traditional Cambodian arts.
Your help has been fundamental in ensuring the success of this project, we would not have been able to continue without your support. Did you know that this project is important for the following reasons and has achieved these same goals?
- Poor children can at last have access to free traditional performing arts education of the highest calibre, thus sharing in their cultural heritage and learning about their identity.
- Talented children can pursue the arts from primary school to high school level and take exams at KCDI to prepare them for entrance into the Royal University of Fine Arts and a career as a professional musician or dancer.
- Tuition of the arts helps towards the goal of preserving traditional Cambodian culture for the next generation of young Cambodians and ensures the survivial of this World Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO).
- Our school is part of a far-reaching program by the Ministries of Culture and Education to promote traditional Cambodian culture and to ensure that every primary school child has access to this learning. Unfortunately the Ministries in question do not have the resources to reach out to all of Cambodia nor do they have enough teachers, that is why this project in Kampot Province is held to be so important and unique and why our school, the Kampot Traditional Music School is held up as a role model for the rest of Cambodia.
Where do our Students Come from?
Students currently atttending these courses of Pin Peat, Mahori music, Classical Cambodian ballet, Folk dance and Yike Theatre are from three main state schools, "Samdech Ta", "Dipok" and "Kampot Krong". This is a quote from the head teacher of Dipok state school,
"Sometimes our students come to school without shoes on, or shoes which are falling apart. They come to school without books or stationary. They come from outlying rural areas in Kampot which are very poor. If the Kampot Traditional Music School didn't provide free tuition, these students would never be able to attend the arts lessons there."
From the photograph included in this report, you can see our Yike students giving their first major performance. These young students have in the space of one year, gone from being absolute beginners, to giving important theatre performances.
It is vital for the well-being of our students currently attending these arts training courses and for future primary school students to come, that we continue this extraordinary successful project. We have organized the coming academic year's curriculum, our current arts teachers from the Royal University of Fine Arts and the Ministry of Culture and National Theatre remain with us and are enthusiastic in continuing this program.
We will be expanding our program to include the tuition of Small Shadow Puppet Theatre (Sabaik Lakoun Toch) and Miniature Instrument Making:-
Sabaik Lakoun is an ancient art form dating back over 1000 years. It is a much loved and revered art, but yet in Kampot Province there is no puppet troupe. Learning the skill of shadow puppetry and how to make puppets will enable our school to learn a new and important art, reach out to more students, provide a therapeutic and holistic art form, as both our residential students and outreach students work on new educative story lines, practice funny voices and learn new ways of self-expression. Above all the citizens of Kampot can come and enjoy wonderful puppet performances and help contribute through small entrance fees, towards the upkeep and running costs of our school.
Miniature Instrument Making is a way of learning a new handcraft skill, directly connected to the mission and central theme of our school....Traditional Cambodian Musical Instruments! We can't afford to make large real instruments like gongs, because they require a metal foundry to melt bronze. But we can promote miniature instruments using local materials and help students and teachers learn new skills and through the sale of these tiny instruments, for our school to raise money to help us be more self-sufficient.
Please help us make sure our Free Arts Training continues for this coming academic year 2015 and help us with the start-up costs of these two worthwhile curriculums in our arts-training program; by joining our:-
GlobalGiving Fundraising day on the 15th October, where your donation will receive 30% matching funds from GlobalGiving. The Fundraising day starts at 09:00am Washington time and ends 11.59pm (23.59) Washington time.
Please check the World Clock Website for the right time to donate from your part of the world!
Thank you for all your very precious support and please keep on helping our important work.
For all our Dear Supporters,
As you know our project has been a real success, so much so that we are carrying it onto next year, this thanks to each one of you who have donated and especially thanks to those who have made reoccuring monthly donations.
Our 400 Outreach free arts training students recently began their first series of concerts. Their enthusiasm is really heartwarming. We are really suprised at their attendance rate and their determination to continue. Our teachers are very happy about their progress, especially in the sectors of traditional music and Yike theatre.
On behalf of our school - the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children-Khmer Cultural Development Institute, I would like to invite you all to participate on our GlobalGiving Bonus Day.
This is how it works:- The Global Giving Bonus Day begins July 16th at 9am Washington time and ends 11.59 Washington time USA. Please see here below what time it is in your country to know when to donate! Please remember that the earlier you donate, the better chance there is of our receiving matching funds! Remember to donate on the right date and at the right time, otherwise we won't receive a matching donation.
For every donation you make, our school will receive 40% of matching funds from GlobalGiving. PLUS if we manage to have the most individual donors we will receive a donation from Global Giving of $1000 ($500 second prize). Also if we manage to raise the most funds, we also receive a donation from Global Giving of $1000.
For this Bonus Day Payments can be made by creditcard or Paypal Only
Here are some of the times in your countries for the 16th July Bonus Day:-
Phnom Penh 20:00
Every amount is welcome, even the smallest sum goes towards our goal of helping our school and local community and Cambodia as a whole. Please do participate, because if we all work together, we may be able to raise enough funds to support our school for the whole of the next year!
We would like to tell you the true story of our ballet teacher Mrs An*, who kindly gave her permission for her history to be told, in hommage to the many artists who never made it back in 1979. So that everyone who reads this report, can understand what the Cambodian people went through in order to revive their traditional arts and what it means for our school, the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children/KCDI to do the activities that we do.
In the Royal Palace The Golden Age
An - as a little girl of 7 gained entrance to the Royal Ballet troupe within the Royal Palace, during the governance of Prince Sihanouk. She was selected to become a dancer by Prince Sihanouk's mother, HRH Queen Kossamak, responsible for the extraordinary flowering of traditional music and ballet in Cambodia during that period.
Studying with the greatest ballet mistresses of her era, An studied with Yeay Pong, Yeay Kan, Yeay Puon and her own mother the famous Yeay Teay**.
The peaceful and joyful life within the palace walls, soon became darker and menacing when General Lon Nol overthrew Prince Sihanouk in a coup and forced the Royal family into exile. The young An by now aged around 14 continued with her studies and performances within the palace, but with a sense of impending doom as Cambodia slipped into civil war and battles between Khmer Rouge and government forces raged outside the capital city Phnom Penh.
The Fall of Phnom Penh and the Begining of Darkness
In April 1975 Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge and An by now married and pregnant with her third child, joined the rest of the population in the forced mass exodus into the countryside. With her young family and 8 months pregnant An was forced to walk by foot, hundreds of kilometres to the North of the country to Battambang Province. She gave birth during the way.
Once in Battambang, the Khmer Rouge ordered everyone into mass concentration camps. At first An was given "easier" tasks in the communal vegetable garden, as she had recently given birth. Her 2nd child, a little girl of 3 years stayed with An and her new born baby. The Khmer Rouge systematically starved the population, making everyone eat one meal a day (watery rice gruel) and prohibiting individuals from collecting food for themselves or their families. When An's little girl by now starving, plucked some corn from the communal garden, the Khmer Rouge chief was furious and threatened An and her daughter with execution. An therefore had to forbid her little daughter from picking things to eat and soon after, her beloved little girl died of starvation.
Not long afterwards, the Khmer Rouge led away the entire male population of that commune, accusing them of being former "government soldiers." An saw her husband (a former construction worker) being led away with the other men, his hands tied behind his back. The men never came back and were executed in a mass grave. Only 5 men remained in that commune, they were very elderly and ill and the Khmer Rouge could not accuse them of being "soldiers". To this day, An does not know the exact place her husband died and cannot make a proper grave for his remains.
When the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot ended in 1979, An together with her 2 remaining children, made her slow and painful way back to Phnom Penh together with her mother Yeay Kan.
Phnom Penh was in empty ruins, the buildings and roads full of trees and overgrown plants, furniture and abandoned goods in the middle of the roads, just as they had been left when the great exodus of Phnom Penh occured in 1975. The national bank lay in ruins, the main bridges blown up. There was nothing to eat, no money, no medicines and all the houses were empty from the deaths of so many.
The doors of the Royal Palace were open and An and her mother went in. Of the hundreds of classical Cambodian dancers and musicians, only a handful were left alive. Nine of the great ballet teachers were still alive and five of the great music masters. An describes the feeling of overwhelming love that those who survived had for one another.
She and the younger dancers set about with extraordinary determination to relive and re-learn the ancient teachings of the past from the last of the great teachers. Learning each dance, female and male roles, as well as the "Yik" (ogre) role, An slowly pieced together the shattered remains of her heritage.
In those days the Ministry of Culture, itself shattered and struggling for survival, paid the artists with rice.
No one can forget the immense solidarity and courage these artists and all Cambodians had, to piece their country together again, after a third of the population had died.
During the 1980's and early 1990's when Cambodian began official performance tours, many younger dancers fled the misery of their country and became exiles in the UK and the USA. However other dancers like An, struggled on with the belief of re-establishing their art before it disappeared forever.
The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children/Khmer Cultural Development Institute
Was built in 1994 after being ratified as a Cambodian NGO in 1993 with the blessing and permission of the Ministry of Culture and the Royal University of Fine Arts. Dedicated to the restoration of traditional music and later also traditional classical ballet and Yike theatre as well as other ancient Cambodian art forms, we have worked continuously to keep these art forms alive for the next generation of Cambodians and for our world heritage. At the same time as caring for vulnerable children, so that the tuition of culture goes hand in hand with meeting the essential and practical needs of our children.
We express our deepest honour and thanks to Mrs An and to all our teachers, some sadly now passed away and to those who are with us today. We thank them for coming all the way from the National Theatre and Royal Ballet, from the Royal University of Fine Arts to share with us their extraordinary skills, their courage and loving kindness. For passing on their precious knowledge to the next generation of young Cambodians.
Thank you all who have donated to this project, for enabling us to continue on. Our project has been such a success and is attended with such enthusiasm by over 400 local children,many of them girls, as well as benefiting our resident children, that we are continuing into 2015 and beyond.
**This report was given without using the full names or in some cases the real name of the people mentioned, in order to protect their privacy. The photographs were taken with full permission from participants.
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