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Artisans Associations of Cambodia

by World Rehabilitation Fund
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia
Artisans Associations of Cambodia

Artisans Association of Cambodia has lost its major source of funding from World Rehabilitation Fund, however, the member organizations continued their membership with the association and the tireless AAC Director, Sinoeun Men, continues representing and supporting the member organizations on a limited budget.

Since July of last year, AAC have helped members with legalization with ministry of commerce, ministry of Economic and Finance (Tax Department). Many members in Siem Reap already registered with the ministries and some are still in process, so do the members are in Phnom Penh and Battambang.

Through AAC partners, at least 3 AAC members recently returned from France after attending the Messe Frankfurt fair. As a result, they received orders immediately after attending the fair.

Many other members are currently taking the 9 month design course. By the end of the course, there will be five members selected to attend Berlin Bazaar in November.

AAC will be meeting the Berlin Bazaar representatives on August 12, 2019 to discuss their projects and opportunities for more AAC affiliated members to be involved. AAC needs additional funds for the artisans to attend craft trade fairs, since their current financial situation is not sufficient for the full sponsorship of attending an international craft fair.

In April 2019, AAC members are going to attend the Bangkok International Gift Fair, Bangkok International Houseware Fair, and Bangkok International Fashion Fair in Thailand.

On March 20, 2019, AAC held a session on Apparel and Fashion for 25 people from AAC members and other artisans from the weaving community. The session is going to be facilitated by a Fulbright professor from the US, organized through the US Embassy.

 AAC executive committee meeting will take place on April 27-29, in Siem Reap province. It will host participants from HomeNet South East Asia.

 On April 4 -7, 2019, a number of AAC members are going to attend the Craft Bangkok 2019 in Bangkok Thailand. 

Eight of the member organizations are actively supporting the needs of persons with disabilities.

The number of artisans and support staff employed by member organizations and benefiting from the AAC services is currently about 4,000 people. 79% of persons benefitting from this program are women and 53% of the member organizations of the Association are directed by women.

11 members groups are engaged in support projects for youth from vulnerable backgrounds and 5 members groups are particularly involved with helping to promote environmental improvements.

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Dear past supporters and those who are interested in helping to improve the lives of Cambodian artisans from disadvantaged backgrounds.  The Artisans Association of Cambodia (AAC) was formed by the World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF) as part of an initiative supported by the United Nations nearly 20 years ago.  It has since operated as a Cambodian organization with Cambodian leadership and a Cambodian Board  of Directors.   AAC supports the strengthening of organizations engaged in providing vocational opportunities for Cambodian artisans from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Support to those organizations from AAC includes assistance through training and other technical assistance in a wide variety of areas including design, production, retail strategies, marketing, accounting etc.

Members also are trained to adhere to international standards regarding fair trade and protection of the environment.

From an original four member groups, AAC has grown to more than 50 members with more organizations on a waiting list pending membership application review.   Members collectively have generated some $3million in sales per year of products.  This has allowed artisans and support personnel to realize sufficient funds to significantly improve their lives and the lives of their children.  Over 2/3 of artisans supported by the project and a majority of directors of AAC organizations are women.

Most AAC member groups are social enterprises that are involved not only in vocational activities, but also provide services to help persons and their families including persons with disabilities, single pasrent families, those who survived human trafficking etc.

In recent months, AAC members have participated in several trade fairs including two international fairs-Brunei (participation arrannged by the Cambodian Ministry of Culture), Bangkok and the Ton Le Fair in Cambodia.

Two new groups have applied for AAC membership- Hope and Grace Sewing ofr Battambang and Cambodian Knits of Siem Reap.  AAC has been able to identify additional potential buyers in France and the UK.

A Japanese trade fair sponsor named three AAC member groups- Lotus Silk, Khmer Creations and Women for Women as recipients of their Best Design Awards.

Further support for AAC will allow more growth of these organizations and strengthen the viability of  craft creation as a means for providing economic success especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and especially for Cambodian women.

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Dear Friends who wish to encourage the development of crafts as a means of providing vocational opportunities for persons from disadvantaged backgrounds.

World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF) has been supporting a novel organization in Cambodia-the Artisans Association of Cambodia (AAC).  This Cambodian directed group was formed by WRF as an outgrowth of a project supported by the United Nations to develop a variety of options to help landmine survivors reintegrate into society in several heavily land-mined countries.   The AAC eventually became a self-sustaining Cambodian association who has a membership of some 50 organizations who provide employment and support for persons primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds who pursue the creation of artisan products to earn their livelihoods.  The artisan products include many instances of works that reflect the Khmer culture as well as expressions of the cultural experience of various minority groups that make up the population of Cambodia.   

Through your support we have been able to help the AAC grow from an original four member groups to over 50 as currently constituted.  Staff of and consultants to AAC help members in a wide variety of ways including, training, marketing, helping to purchase raw materials, organizational development, retail display, strategies for successful participation in trade fairs, and help in adhering to fair trade principles.

AAC members are most oftern social enterprises which, in addition to producing prducts also are involved in service activities aimed at improving the lives of artisans and their families.  Most of those benefitting from the program are females.  Artisans and support staff include many persons with disabilities, from single parent homes, survivors of human trafficking and other persons of disadvantaged backgrounds.  

AAC has a close working relationship with the Cambodia Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism.  Members are trained to follow the guidelines of fair trade practices and to produce products by environmentally friendly means.

Past support has enabled AAC to help member organizations to improve the quality of their products, to adopt design features that attract international buyers, to greatly increase the appeal and sales of their producrts and to help artisans and support workers to lead more productive lives and enable them to support their familes at well beyond the subsistence level.  

Recent trade fairs and events in which AAC members have participated or are planning to participate in include 1) the National Silk Weaving Festival (sponsored by the Cambodia Ministry of Culture), 2) the Cambodia Import-Export Exhibition (sponsored by the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism), 3) Chubmet 2018- a muisic and art festival at which crafts are considered to be one of the four pillars of the arts; 4) Bangkok International Gifts and Houseware Fair (at invitation of Thai Embassy)

AAC has been working with the Royal University of Phnom Penh to improve the capacity of silk yarn production.  Silk products have been among the most successful type of craft item produced by AAC artisans.  It is a product that appeals to the international market and it offers an opportunity to create items that promote Khmer and other indigenous culture through the use of certain design formats.   In addition to working to increase the capacity of production, AAC has identified a different silk - yellow silk- which is now available in Thailand for use by AAC members.

Support for AAC will change lives of more Cambodians from the trap of poverty, victimization through human trafficking and dependence into lives of work satisfaction, family support and greater contribution to Cambodian soceity.

We hope you will help us.

 

 

Recently, AAC has introduced a new silk yarn called yellow silk, which is now available in Thailand.

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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.  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.   While this option worked for some, for most who attempted this, failure more often was the experience.   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.  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. 

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.   This is happening with regard to governmental and international aid organizations as well as individual donors.  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.  

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. 

- 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.  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.

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Photo: Heather Burns Knierim
Photo: Heather Burns Knierim

Dear friends of the Artisans Association of Cambodia,

Some 15 years ago, the World Rehabilitation Fund (WRF) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiated the Artisans Association of Cambodia (AAC) to help those affected by landmines and other persons with disabilities to develop quality artisan products which we had determined would be attractive for international sales.   After a few years, AAC was able to develop as an independent Cambodian association completely managed by Cambodian personnel. WRF has continued to provide financial support and technical assistance to AAC.

We have found over the years that the AAC has made a tremendous difference in the lives of Cambodian artisans with disabilities.  In order to help more people in need, the mission of the Association was changed to include other Cambodians who experienced disadvantage due to factors other than disability such as, widowhood, escape from human trafficking and other factors creating poverty.  We hope that you will continue to support this effort as WRF's expands our reach and aims to serve more vulnerable communities.

Having begun the AAC with four member organizations employing nearly 100 persons with disabilities, the AAC now has 48 members who employ over 4000 persons, the overwhelming majority of whom have come from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Over ¾ of the workers supported by the project are women, and women direct nearly 2/3 of the member organizations of AAC.  

Member organizations of AAC have presences in 10 different provincial areas of Cambodia.  These organizations strive to become social enterprises, having missions that involve both entrepreneurship and the promotion of social and economic benefit.  Another major focus of members is to promote the use of ecologically friendly methods in creating products.  Many of the groups have a strong focus on meeting the needs of women from vulnerable backgrounds and many members also have a major focus on the betterment of youth from impoverished backgrounds.

In our first year, AAC's four members showed sales of $250,000.  This year sales are over $4 million, far higher than the $3 million anticipated for this year.

Through support from donors like yourselves, the AAC will continue to provide training and technical assistance to further the design, production and marketing of member products.

Significant events of the period between April through June 2017 include the following:

  • Artisans d' Angkor, the leading crafts organization in Cambodia, has joined AAC
  • Training sessions conducted for AAC members included workshops on marketing, use of e-commerce, export procedures and utilization of spec sheets
  • Technical assistance to members included the following areas: needs assessment; development of collections and new models; visual merchandizing; use of quality photography for promotion; retail processes; development of product catalogue; designing logos and visual identity displays; and branding
  • AAC members participated in trade fairs in: Vietnam; Frankfurt, Germany; Singapore; and Bangkok, Thailand
  • International sales of AAC products have included sales in 14 different countries and the EU.  Countries include Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom and United States
  • Volunteer experts to help AAC provide assistance to members include three volunteers from the French organization GINKGO on communication and promotion; and a volunteer from another French organization, Delegation Catholique pour la Cooperacion (DCC) on marketing
  • Aquarius Hotel in Phnom Penh has agreed to sell AAC products in its shop

These activities are all being carried out to help improve the quality and marketability of AAC member group products so that improved income can better the lives of the artisans and support staff, who are comprised primarily of persons who otherwise would be vulnerable due to disability and other impoverishing conditions.

Please check out the World Rehabilitation Fund website and examine the AAC catalog (link below) to learn more about the project and see the extraordinary handicrafts created by AAC artisans. 

Thank you once more for your continued support!  We look forward to sharing more about AAC's activities in the coming quarter.   Until then, please know that we are most grateful for your generous support.

Warmest regards,

The WRF Team

Links:

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World Rehabilitation Fund

Location: New York, NY - USA
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Project Leader:
Jack Victor
New York, NY United States
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