Senhoa Foundation

Supporting vulnerable persons and survivors of human trafficking by providing income-generating opportunities, social reintegration, and programs for self-empowerment. We believe in: - Income generation so that vulnerable women can gain economic independence. - Educational and social programs for intellectual empowerment. - Using business sensibilities to achieve humanitarian goals.
Oct 9, 2015

Reflections of the Alchemy Project at Senhoa

Students from the Alchemy Project with Senhoa
Students from the Alchemy Project with Senhoa

Sydney Scherr is a a jeweler and jewelry design professor at Raffles College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A few years ago she started a project (the Alchemy Project) to teach sustainable jewelry design to victims of sex trafficking. She leads groups of students to instruct and create designs through simple techniques so that they can earn a living. In 2012, Sydney and a group of her students came to Siem Reap and taught our artisans at Senhoa new techniques and donated tools that they sourced locally. She and her students loved the experience and returned to teach another workshop in September 2015. This is her relfections from the week with our artisans.

 

Time has transformed Senhoa, and the young women associated with the program. In 2012 the emphasis was on working with women recently rescued from the bondage of human traffickers. This premise dovetailed perfectly with the intent of the Alchemy Project: to teach skills that create an economic alternative to what has been the hard reality of the young lives impacted at the hands of traffickers.

 

Returning to Senhoa in 2015 reignited the Alchemy Project. This was a joy and a gift. For Senhoa the new direction is one of looking at the future and not focusing on the past. The young women are thriving and clearly moving beyond their history. These women continue to be my heroes as they embody hope: it resonates from their warmth and their gracious laughter and wide open hearts.

 

Without a doubt the young women we went to Cambodia to teach taught each of my students and myself more of what it means to be grateful in our lives than we were able to teach them about jewellery. The women of Senhoa taught us about living with little and feeling abundance. My students and I found the Senhoa students eager to learn. And eager to laugh. The warmth that was expressed between all of us was genuine and full of acceptance. Through this we found we had common ground: there are few who come through life without a story that touches someone’s heart and we felt the thread that joined us in spirit.

 

Senhoa has made a remarkable difference in the lives that it touches. The women are paid employees, making beautiful beaded jewellery. They are appreciated and cared for. They are valued-the very sense of self-worth I hope the Alchemy Project can also bring to their experience, and to others who survive the unfathomable. It is the intent of the Alchemy Project to advance their jewellery making knowledge so that if they chose to venture out on their own, in their own business, they will be better able to realize that dream, with knowledge, tools and metal provided to them as a humble beginning.

 

The women of Senhoa, over the years, have taught me many lessons. That a bright future is rich and alive in the pulse of women and that being valued, and valuing ourselves, matters. That we can choose not to be victims of our history. Their young lives matter, and on a personal note: their lives have mattered to me unfailingly.

 

I learned where hope lives.

Hope lives in the eyes of the young women of Senhoa and The Alchemy Project.

Sep 16, 2015

Preparing For a New School Year

Lotus Kids
Lotus Kids' Club Preschool Graduation

It is that time of year again at Lotus Kids Club: 28 of our 52 preschool students graduated! Our primary school students have ended their school year. And we close the school for recess in September. We use September to clean and organize our materials and space, conduct various staff trainings and to take time to relax and recharge. We are prepping for the return of our students and getting ready to welcome new families and participants in our many programs and activities.

Just before their annual summer break, our graduating preschool kids were measured for their primary school uniforms. Their school supplies have been purchased--backpacks, pencils, notebooks, as well as hygiene supplies. We provide these items throughout the year. We also provide for each graduating student a bicycle, helmet and lock. We do this as a graduation gift, but it is also a way to improve school attendance. A big cost for us but it is necessary.

September begins for the teachers with cleaning--deep cleaning. This means that all toys, games and materials get a thorough sanitization. Of course some of this happens throughout the school year but this assures that no item is missed including materials in stock. Deep cleaning also means walls, furniture and all surfaces get a thorough scrub-down. We find it is a good start for doing inventory and culling out what items are really not useful or are ready for the trash bin. Organizing materials is the next step followed by setting up the classrooms and assessing what will be needed for the school year. Again it will invariably be a time to spend money, perhaps replacing broken chairs, a new whiteboard or maybe new books. With 50+ preschool kids and a hundred or so older children using materials to have fun and learn for a year replacing items is inevitable.

After a week or two of the aforementioned purge, the training will begin. This year we have 2 new employees as we promoted a teacher to Assistant Program Manager and hired a nurse, since our beloved previous nurse went on to a new job to gain more experience. It gives us an opportunity to review with all staff our mission, goals and objectives and to see if we are adhering to them. We will also be discussing staff emotions in the workplace. Anger, sadness, frustration and other emotions will of course surface during our work with disadvantaged families. It’s important to know how to handle those emotions.

We will have trainings on child development and other aspects of working with children and youth. The Social Workers will be reviewing information on how to engage with families effectively and find ways to strengthen our record keeping and case management files. We will visit a government-ran preschool/kindergarten and a private preschool/kindergarten.   This should prove interesting and lead to important discussions about the differences and why we do what we do.

We will end with several days of rest and relaxation, some together and some solitary. We will all come back on the first day of school recharged and ready to teach, learn and have fun.

I am looking forward to the new school year with high expectations. We have long-term staff who have over the years gained more knowledge, improved their teaching skills, and have become more creative and innovative. They have overall raised their quality of work. Good luck to them and to the senior staff as well as the new families and participants of the Lotus Kids’ Club.

LKC preschool grads sing to thank their parents
LKC preschool grads sing to thank their parents
Jul 10, 2015

More Than a Job

Sinoun with our artisan students
Sinoun with our artisan students

The Senhoa Jewelry Social Enterprise strives to support its artisans beyond stable employment. With the help of our Education Supervisor, Sinoun, our artisans are also able to focus on personal development and basic education.

Most recently, Sinoun facilitated a goal-setting workshop with the artisans.  She wanted the artisans to set clear goals for both their work and personal lives. “Without goals, you’re only maintaining a life, a life with no direction,” said Sinoun. By setting goals for both their professional development and personal development, the artisans learn to take initiative. “They can come into work and be told what to do and go home. Or, they can come into work and understand that there is room to grow and excel within this social enterprise.” These goals were set with a detailed action plan to achieve within a certain time frame. They also discussed how to determine what goals are realistic within different constraints such as time.

To empower at Senhoa means to provide a supportive environment where an artisan is motivated to learn, make mistakes, and reach their goals – no matter how small or big. “There was one artisan who stood out from the others for me in this activity,” shared Sinoun. “Her goal was to completely learn the newest jewelry collection arriving the following week. For her action steps, she had in place that she would review her own pieces first before the quality check by her supervisor. She wants to take responsibility for her pieces and make sure it’s done well before receiving feedback from the leader. She’s learning to recognize her own mistakes and this way she can learn even faster than having someone else critique her.”

With each step taken to reach their goals, these artisans take more and more ownership of their lives towards whatever direction they desire.

 
   

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