Dear friends who believe in supporting those aiming to support themselves.
Fifteen years ago, with assistance from the United Nations, the World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF) initiated a project in Cambodia aimed primarily to help landmine survivors to be able to successfully reintegrate into society.Â It was discovered that an option many Cambodians were taking to survive economically was to learn to make artisanal products and sell them both to Cambodians and to tourists visiting the country.Â Â While this option worked for some, for most who attempted this, failure more often was the experience.Â Â An analysis by experts revealed to us that there was hope in this area because 1) many Cambodian traditional craft products were attractive to outside markets and 2) if made well, and priced properly, not only did tourists show a strong inclination to purchase these items, but retailers abroad would be able to sell these Cambodian products for substantial profit in countries around the world.
In response, the Artisans Association of Cambodia (AAC) was formed so that the quality of the products could be improved and that those carrying out such projects could increase their knowledge and extend exposure to be able to better sell their products, improve the skills and earnings of producers, and expand opportunities to other Cambodians, especially those with special needs such as persons with disabilities; single parents, especially widows; those needing alternatives from becoming involved in human trafficking.
From an original four organizations with a few hundred crafts persons in total, AAC now works with some 50 organizations who work with more than 4000 artisans and support personnel.Â Through the AAC, artisan groups have improved designs of products, have a greater understanding of the market demands for their products, have learned how to improve product quality, are more sophisticated regarding sound retail practices, can purchase goods needed to make their products more efficiently (due to larger scale purchases of these and knowledge of where to obtain them) and have improved their practices to meet international standards for product safety and greater protection of the ecological environment. By being a part of the organization, these groups have learned from each other as well as from expert trainers identified by or provided by AAC.Â
However, with increases in competing humanitarian needs such as recovering from natural disasters, helping persons who are victims of war, refugee resettlement and the like, support for AAC and other organizations that have been effective in helping the neediest people and reducing poverty have been overlooked.Â Â This is happening with regard to governmental and international aid organizations as well as individual donors.Â Therefore, this is a special plea to increase support for this program which has demonstrated its success in improving the lives of people, by giving people the opportunity to help themselves.Â Â
Accomplishments of the Artisans Association since the last report include:
- Five more organizations have applied for membership.
- Buyers from France, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States have been identified and have expressed interest in AAC member products.
- Plans have been made to improve the AAC website
- Visitors to AAC Facebook have increased dramatically
- Selected AAC members participated in trade fairs in Phnom Penh, Frankfurt, Germany and Chiang Mai, Thailand.
- In addition, AAC members will participate this month in the Thailand International Leather and Furniture Fairs with some support for attending the fair from the Thai Embassy in Cambodia.
- AAC members are also preparing for participation this month in the Buy Khmer product campaign in Phnom Penh. These are only some of the events in which AAC members will be participating in the next quarter and AAC conducts training to prepare these groups for such participation.
- The AAC catalog for 2017-18 has been completed and is being distributed
- AC staff continued on site technical assistance for special problems of members such as helping Rajana to re-form its Board of Directors, assisting Women for Women Foundation to become members of the World Fair Trade Organization and assisting several member groups regarding business registration and understanding of tax obligations.Â
- Assisting the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to organize a Silk National Festival including various award areas being developed.
- The Marketing volunteer from France supplied by GINGO organization has completed her volunteer assignment with AAC.Â Two volunteers specializing in strategic communication will be coming on board for a three month period.
- A new Marketing and Export Officer has been hired by AAC to replace a former employee in this position.
AAC has ambitious plans to continue their work to improve the lives of Cambodian artisans and support workers, the vast majority of whom started out as employees of AAC member groups from highly impoverished backgrounds. Only your support can keep this initiative alive and thriving! Please be as generous as you can, thank you.