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Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia

by Khmer Cultural Development Institute
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Free Arts Training for 150 Children in Cambodia
Tim Khorn looking at her photo from 1994!
Tim Khorn looking at her photo from 1994!

Dear Kind Donors,

In December 2019, we celebrated our 25th Anniversary since the founding of our school in Autumn 1994.

Our school - The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children, (Khmer Cultural Development Institute - KCDI), was built during the Cambodian civil war in Southwestern Cambodia, at the time a Khmer Rouge stronghold.

Building our school and working in the remoter districts to coordinate with local authorities for children to come and study at our school, was dangerous. Two of the people I worked with, the District Chief of Chumkiri in Kampot Province and the Chief of Kus Tramkak in neighbouring Takeo Province, were killed by Khmer Rouge forces. There was often no running water and electricity was rationed, there was a curfew at 3pm on the main highway from Kampot to Phnom Penh 137km away. There were anti-personnel mines everywhere and government soldiers would rob people at gun-point.

In these conditions our school was built. After twenty-five years this December 7th 2019 we celebrated and gave thanks for all the marvelleous and enriching experiences we have had and are having. Former students from 1994 onwards came for our Anniversary Concert. We held a special exhibition in our main hall with photos from 1992 onwards, when the Governor of Kampot first donated the land (despite being held a sacred place, it was a wasteland and rubbish dump with scrub and human bones left over from the genocide).

We gave a wonderful concert with our current students and former alumni performing as well. The Secretary of State for Culture came, His Excellency Hab Touch and on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, he presented our school with two beautiful Chapey Dong Veng instruments as part of a new project we have for our blind children and youth. Afterwards we had a lovely buffet under the trees by our fishponds with a big cake to finish!

As we welcome 2020 we expect to give training to teacher-college students as part of a partnership with the Ministry of Education, so that these young teachers may then transmit their knowledge of the arts to future generations of Cambodian children. We will continue assisting vulnerable children who come and study the arts during the day, some receiving nourishing meals and medical care, then going home at nights. Of course we will always care for our children who have no parents and have suffered neglect and abuse, as well as our blind children and youth.

Thank you for making all this possible by generously donating and for being part of our Twenty-Five years and Counting - service to Cambodian children and the Community. We are so grateful.

Happy New Year 2020!

Love from us all at KCDI

Presentation of a Chapey Dong Veng Instrument
Presentation of a Chapey Dong Veng Instrument
Performance with Blind Students
Performance with Blind Students
Picture of Khorn (on the right front) in 1994
Picture of Khorn (on the right front) in 1994


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Folk dance lesson
Folk dance lesson

Dear Friends and Supporters of our School,

Thank you for all your wonderful support and continuous help.

As you know, we have multiple programs and so I will try to give you as many updates as possible here.

Our Emergency Outreach program for Ten Vulnerable Children is developing positively. The children who come from situations of extreme poverty and whose fathers have left them, are doing well. Their health has already improved and they are less anxious and more happy. They are studying Traditional Cambodian Performing Arts at our school, as well as having nourishing meals with us. We also faciliate their state school studies too. Additionally we provide them with clothing and medical care. They go home every evening to their mothers. We are very happy to be able to make a positive difference and we thank you for your support of this program. I will be writing a specific report next week for all those who donated to this program. We have however to monitor this program, because some mothers are inclined to use their older children for work or begging. This is a very big problem in Cambodia, especially amongst very poor or illiterate people. In such cases we ask for the local authorities to support us.

In late summer our residential and blind children did their national exams in line with the national curriculum. The National Centre for the Blind (Krousar Thmey) in Phnom Penh is now government-run. This means that all Braille materials are no longer sponsored by Krousar Thmey and we must purchase Braille materials ourselves. We are concerned for the future of Braille-teacher training at Krousar Thmey and we do hope that there will continue to be an influx of trained teachers, so that our school can continue to hire Braille teachers in the futureOur school together with Epic Arts and other partner NGOs (Friends International- Phnom Penh, M'Lop Tapang - Sihanoukville and APLE - Phnom Penh) have set up the Childsafe Movement in Kampot. The first step was to receive training at our school together with Epic Arts staff. The training was given by M'Lop Tapang and Friends International. Our director Mr Sothy also went for furher training in Sihaoukville at the M'Lop Tapang centre. This was followed by the first conference on Childsafe in Kampot. Our school partnered with Epic Arts and the local authorities, police and Department of Social Affairs. We were very pleased at the response and the determination by authorities to prevent abuse and protect children in Kampot, especially with the huge influx of expatriates now living in the town. This problem has suddenly got very big and out of control. Authorities have been struggling and so it was vital that we harnessed people's attention and efforts under one umbrella to create a workable and sustainable program.

Our school will participate in further training next week given by M'Lop Tapang and hosted by our school. Epic Arts will also attend. Our senior staff will receive training in how to train local hotels, restuarants and taxis (tuk-tuk drivers) in specific preventative measures and child protection training. We will also host APLE next weekend and members of the Swedish police to discuss progress being made. Next week we will also receive a training session given by Friends International in Kep and an assessment at our school. These assessments are regularly given and help our school to develop in expertise.

We will also be receiving support so that we can have an in-house Social worker. Apart from the care we give to residential children, blind children and our vulnerable outreach children and children who come and study for free during the day, we have opened our doors (the only NGO so far in Kampot) to receive emergency cases. We provide emergency temporary shelter and food for battered or homeless women who have very young children, as well as street children who have got lost from their families. Working together with the Department of Social Affairs and our partners in Childsafe Epic Arts, we coordinate to make case assessments and help provide reintegration and ttransport back to their homes or a safe place.

There is so much work here, that our director Mr Sothy and our senior staff are rather overwhelmed, hence the need for a Social worker who can help with assessments, coordination with Epic Arts Social worker and the multiple documents needed to be filled with local authorities.

We are also working on trying to rehabilitate and house a group of street children in Kampot. The situation is very complex as Cambodian adults are also involved in a lucrative begging business. The problem is greatly exacerbated because of the presence of hundreds of foreign tourists and residents, who hand out money and gifts to children, thereby encouraging the begging business. Some of the children are addicted to glue sniffing or drugs. Together with Epic Arts we will distribute educational leaflets (created by Friends International) to all hotels, bars and restuarants, which give important tips to tourists on how to behave appropriately towards children.

We ourselves had a heart-breaking and unique case of taking care of a boy who had lived on the streets but who had issues with dependency and begging. For his safety and well-being we coordinated with another NGO in the countryside to provide foster-case to this child in a safe place with a loving Cambodian family far away from the town. For sixteen months he did well, but then began to revert back to stealing and begging. He ran away and is now once again in Kampot town and part of the group of begging children. We all want to help him together with the other lost children.

Arts Program

We will be having a new Pin Peat music teacher from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, as Mr Sambo who is our accountant and also a Pin Peat teacher cannot for obvious reasons do both.

Mr Sambo was able to raise funds amongst Cambodian business people in Kampot to create a clean, safe play space at the back of our dining area. We are very pleased at the positive participation of Cambodian people, who often donate rice and food to help us.


Master Samouen our Mohori teacher has been busy making shadow puppets with our students. Following the ancient art of drying leather and using tree-bark dyes to colour it during the dry season, we then use the wet season to cut out and create our beautiful puppets for new plays and also to sell too. Our children love making puppets and often make small ones for fun and personal use too.

We recently had the Pchum Bun Festival where Cambodian people pay homage to their departed loved ones and their ancestors. Those children with well-adjusted extended-families were able to spend time in their villages with them, whilst some of our children who would be in danger if they returned home, stayed at our school with special staff members.

This year is our 25th Anniversary. To celebrate we have been posting archive photos and stories on our Facebook page. We will give a special concert in December and hold Buddhist ceremonies to bless our school.

Thank you all for being part of our journey and for your beautiful support!


(Photographs kind courtesy Steve Porte: Taken with the permission of our students and staff)

More dance lessons!
More dance lessons!
Master Bem with his Yike drum
Master Bem with his Yike drum


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Dear Kind Friends and Supporters of our School,

Thank you so much for your marvelleous help and continued support. We are immensely grateful for your good-will!

Our children have been busy learning how to make traditional shadow puppets. During the dry season we dried and coloured the cow-hide using natural dyes derived from tree bark. This is an ancient method and completely natural. Now the rainy season has begun, we are making the puppets. Our children are learning this skill in the afternoons, after their state school lessons in the mornings and before their music and dance lessons. Our children love making puppets and find it very satisfying creating these lovely works of art. Indeed working with their hands this way is very calming and therapeutic. Soon our puppets will be ready for performance! Our oldest students and our masters also make puppets which can be put on sale to raise funds for our school.

I am very happy to say that after a month at our school, our new group of ten very vulnerable children are already in better health. They are eating nourishing food and are in the proces of receiving medical checks and treatment. One child was already receiving treatment for a serious illness. Our school director in coordination with the local authorities, provided rice, canned fish, cooking oil and other foodstuffs to the mothers of these children. The mothers were also ill and malnourished.

The new children have also been enthusiastically learning new skills, including traditional Cambodian music, dance and Yike.

In just a month, we have noticed that the children are able to speak and articulate better. At the beginning they were so hungry and sick that their brain function had slowed down.

As we are now part of the ChildSafe Alliance and our staff are receiving continual training from the NGO "Friends International", we now open our doors to provide temporary, emergency shelter. Last month we received two emergency cases of battered women with two very young children. We have provided them with shelter and meals,  we then coordinated with other NGOs and the local authorities to provde long-term solutions for them.

This all requires support and so we will be focusing our fund-raising efforts on the 18th July GlobalGiving Bonus Day for our "Emergency Program for Vulnerable Children, Cambodia" (Project Number 40599). 

Please spread the word about our Bonus Day. It will start at 09:00am (ET) and end on the same day at 11.59pm (ET - Eastern Time, USA).

Donations from $100 to $499 will be matched by GlobalGiving 15%

Donations from $500 to $749 will be  matched at 30%

Donations from $750 to $1,000 will be matched 50%

The organisation who raises the most, or who gathers the most donors will receive a bonus prize too!

The Bonus Day is very important for us, because it helps us raise vital funds in the middle of the year, when it is harder to find funds in general.

Thank you from everyone at the Kampot Traditional Music School!


*(Photographs taken with permission by students and staff of KCDI, kind courtesy of Steve Porte)

Learning the Coconut Folk Dance
Learning the Coconut Folk Dance
Folk Dance
Folk Dance


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Dear friends and supporters of our school,

Thank you so much for all your wonderful donations these last three months. We are truly grateful for your help.

Since I last wrote, we have started our program for very vulnerable and at risk children to come to our school.

These children come from from single-mother families where their fathers have died or abandoned them. Some have no proper home, no running water, no shoes, severe illness due to malnutrition and intestinal worms and can only attend state school erratically due to poverty. Although state school is supposedly free, children must wear school uniform and pay for books and extra courses. Many poor children cannot attend school properly for these reasons.

Their mothers love them, but can hardly cope. There are from three to five children per family. Some mothers have got very sick and malnourished and can no longer work. These women also have not had any education and survive by getting odd labour jobs, so that when they get sick they cannot earn anything at all. There is no social welfare in Cambodia for such people.

The children are at great risk of ending up on the street becoming beggars or being sucked into substance abuse and child gangs involved in theft and illicit activities. 

After coordinating with local authorities and careful discussions with the mothers of these children, our school firstly organised emergency food, (rice, cooking oil, canned fish) and then we began the procedure of assisting the children at our school.

We provide the children with transport to our school so that they can have a nutritious meal, receive clothing and medical care and Arts education. We also provide them with school books, pens, soaps and other materials. In the evening after their dinner, our school organises transport home so that they can be with their mothers again.

Mr Sothy our school director is also negotiating with local state school heads to facilitate their schooling for the end of this term. We will then assist them with their schooling at state school for the new upcoming terms. We are also coordinating with the local hospital for health checks and medical treatment.

It's very important that wherever possible children stay with their parent or relative. We do also have another program for resident children, but these are children who have nobody responsible left to care for them and who have been abused or sold by extended family and so cannot stay with them. Our program for blind children is done in coordination with their parents and works as a college format providing rehabilitation and education as they would not be able to receive this in remote rural areas. 

Such is the magnitude and gravity of their situation, I have set up a specific micro-project entitled "Emergency Support for Vulnerable Children" Project Number 40599. If any of you are interested in giving specific support or sharing with others, please do so. We will also have a special Bonus Fundraising Day on GlobalGiving on July 18th, with matching funds given by GlobalGiving. 

I will not show in this report the conditions in which we found the children, as this would not be dignified or respectful and I'm sure that as life gets better for them they would not like to be remembered in that way. However their situation is very serious. I will show photographs of different children and their activities at our school as an example of what we do. These photographs were made by Steve Porte with permission given by our children and staff.

Thank you for your kind attention and for all your precious help.

Having a laugh during a dance lesson
Having a laugh during a dance lesson
Mohori music lesson
Mohori music lesson


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Two Hundred Children visit Our School
Dear Friends and Donors,
Thank you so much for your wonderful help and generosity. We deeply appreciate your support!
In January we hosted the "Kampot Arts Festival" in coordination with our festival partners, Epic Arts. One of the events was a series of workshops held at our school (KCDI). Over two hundred children came to participate and our school was just buzzing with energy and excitement. 
The children divided themselves into groups and took turns in trying out the traditional arts, such as classical Cambodian dance, Folk dance, Yike dance, how to make leather Shadow Puppets and how to play Mohori music. The traditional workshops were held by our teachers at KCDI. Contemporary dance and face-painting were taught by Epic Arts, while SVA prepared a mobile library under the shade of the trees in our garden. These kinds of workshops are important for young Cambodians to get to know their artistic heritage, especially after the destruction by the Khmer Rouge and the deaths of so many people during the genocide. Cambodia is also currently facing the challenges of rapid Westernisation and mass tourism, which is threatening to wipe-out ancient cultural traditions, as well as creating further economic hardships for a large percentage of the population who live in rural areas.  Our school is dedicated to the care of very vulnerable children and the preservation of the traditional arts for future generations of Cambodians.
Not only do we teach the traditional arts on a daily basis to local, impoverished children, we also do large workshops, so that as many children and youth as possible can have a go and get to know their cultural heritage. These workshops often result in children coming afterwards and with permission from their parents, continuing with their favourite art-form on our Outreach Program, which you so kindly sponsor.
Through the years our school has taught very poor children from Chumkriel and Tray Koh villages. These former alumni have grown up now and some are themselves professional musicians and teachers. We have taught classical dance to girls from Samdech Ta Primary school and taught the arts to over four hundred children from Di Pok State school. We also teach Mohori music to disabled youth and also a group of girls from the local Lycée. We taught traditional music for over a year to disabled students from Epic Arts. We also help liaise and care for those children who are very poor and who sometimes need a meal or other support. Much of this has been possible with your kind donations. Thank you.
Our Outreach Program is the second of our main programs. Our first main program is for Residential Children and details of this program can be found on GlobalGiving (Education-Arts-Orphaned-Disabled-Children-Cambodia). On our Residential Program, we take full-time care of children who have no parents and nobody who can take care of them. Many of these children have been abused and neglected by extended family and have been placed into our care by local authorities. Some of them have life-changing illnesses and injuries. We also provide rehabilitation and care to blind children in coordination with their families and the authorities. Both able-bodied and disabled children receive complete care at our school from infant school until university level. Those who have a safe family link are able to visit their families regularly. We follow International Child Safety Guidelines and all our work is done in close coordination with the Department of Social Affairs, as well as the Ministries of Education and Culture for both our academic and cultural programs.
In order to assist more children through our Outreach Program, I met with the director of the Kampot Department of Social Affairs last month, to discuss our new project, which is to reach out and give substantial support to very vulnerable children who live with single mothers and whose current life circumstances put them at great risk. Some of these children beg in order to survive and don’t go to school, because they are too poor. We will be providing them with food, clothing, school uniforms, school books and stationary, facilitating state school education and of course free arts training, as therapy and vocational training. In the late afternoons we will then provide transport for them to go back to their mothers in their villages. I will keep you informed about this project.
In our world today, we often underestimate the importance of the arts as an essential form of healing and a higher form of human expression. The arts are always the first to be cut from government budgets and many people consider culture a waste of time, without  ever having the opportunity to learn about it’s benefits. Many people’s goals are to earn a lot of money and climb up the social ladder.  They may go through their lives never knowing that the essential things of life cannot be bought.
From personal experience in teaching Mohori music at a rehabilitation centre near Phnom Penh,  I have watched war-injured ex-soldiers recover a sense of dignity and smile again just by learning a musical instrument. My own experiences as a professional musician has allowed me to have the privilege to play not only for a large public, but to bring joy to people with Alzheimer and to quietly sing to dear friends who are dying and who at their request want to hear a beautiful song to relieve them from fear and pain.
In our rush to get through life, we forget that we have been given the gift of music, dance and visual arts to express our higher selves and bring peace and something very special to not only ourselves, but to those around us.
So thank you for helping so many children receive free arts training and for being part of a bigger picture, where young people can learn not only about their heritage, but benefit in immeasurable ways from participating in music, dance and theatre lessons.
Author: Catherine Louise Geach
Position: Founder
Address: 1, Ousaphea, Kampong Bay, Kampot, Kingdom of Cambodia
Facebook. Official Facebook Page:
1)Neark Kru An Teaching Visiting Children Traditional Cambodian Dance: Photo courtesy of KCDI
2) Children learn ancient Yike dance with Neark Kru Savorn (KCDI)
3) Learning how to make Traditional Shadow Puppets
Mobile Library run by SVA in our Garden (KCDI)
Mohori Music Workshop with Loak Kru Samouen (KCDII
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Organization Information

Khmer Cultural Development Institute

Location: Kampot Town, Kampot Province - Cambodia
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Catherine Geach
Kampot, Cambodia
$13,106 raised of $20,000 goal
366 donations
$6,894 to go
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