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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
Waiting in the Wings Before a Concert
Waiting in the Wings Before a Concert

Dear friends and supporters of our school,

Before I begin this report I would like to thank you on behalf of us all at our school, for your most generous and vital support.

Those of you who have supported this particular project know that the children who live outside our school and come here for lessons, have quite challenging lives and greatly benefit from being able to come to our school.

Today this report will be about the lives of our students who are musicians. All of those who come for music lessons, whether Mahori or Pin Peat are very talented. They come to study with our masters, not only because of love of music, but because they are so gifted that they will almost certainly become professional musicians.

Whenever we do an official performance say for His Majesty the King, or at the National Theatre or for a special event at our school, such as when both the U.S. and British Ambassadors came to our school together with the Secretary of State for Culture. Then you will find our outreach students performing in the wings. They perform together with our residential students and they form an orchestra. If there is a dance performance or a shadow puppet performance, they will sit to the side unoticed by the audience and create beautiful music. As the dancers perform or the puppeteers make theatre, the musicians watch closely, so that their music is in exact time with the dancer's feet or the intricate story lines of the puppetry. The Roneat Ek player (Alto xylophone made out of bamboo) is the leader and on his or her shoulders lies the responsibility to set the pace and start at the right time, with everyone following in harmony. Often the Pin Peat master Sambo takes this role, but gradually in time one of his students will take over.

Musicians all over the world know the experience of perfoming in the wings, sometimes out of sight, but with a role so important that if someone were to play wrong, it would send everything in tilt. 

Some of our Mohori students are from a previous course, a partnership we did with Epic Arts, where we gave free tuition to their disabled students in traditional Cambodian music. Even after the course had finished, some were so enthusiastic they stayed on of their own accord. One is a youth who lost both arms in an accident when he worked in an ice-crushing factory. He has the most beautiful voice and has learned and is learning a large range of Mohori and Plein Ka (wedding music). Another young woman is blind in one eye and losing the sight in her other and is a wonderful Roneat player.

These our students who have come out of very difficult backgrounds, but yet come with good humour and self-discipline even when it's raining, show what is possible and help make our school a better place. We wish for them every success and we will go on teaching them until such time as they feel able to start their professional lives, solo. Thank you so much for supporting them!

Just a quick note (and that is not a pun)........for those of you who are interested in supporting our micro- project # 29610 "Saving Lives Through Providing Transport" for those of our special needs children who need urgent medical care in hospital 137km away from Kampot in Phnom Penh. We still have a few days left, if you want to help.

 Thank You!

(Photographs kind courtesy of Steve Porte: Permission was granted before taking photographs).

The Pin Peat masters son waiting for his dad!
The Pin Peat masters son waiting for his dad!

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Monkey dance
Monkey dance

In August 1994, despite civil war in Kampot Province, our school was finally completed and opened.

I will never forget opening our doors to children who had lost their parents in remote rural areas to the war. The District Chief of Chumkiri whith whom I had been working, had just been killed by the Khmer Rouge and the ground shook from missiles being fired nearby. Those children who were disabled, had lost their legs to anti-personnel mines or to Polio.

Today those children have grown up and have their own children. Some have become professional musicans, others economists, resort managers, some have jobs in government ministries and some are farmers. Following on from them, came other children who also grew up and moved on.

Today we have twenty-one children resident at our school, including children who are orphaned and children who are blind. We also have around one hundred children from local villages studying traditional music at our school as well.

Where once we taught only Pin Peat music with the last great Pin Peat music master left alive after the genocide we now teach Pin Peat and Mohori music, classical Cambodian ballet, folk dance, ancient Yike theatre and dance and we have revived the art of traditional shadow puppet theatre...once completely lost to Kampot Province. Our resident children have scholastic lessons and are supported through university if needed or to a vocation. We have also developed programs for Peace and inter-relgious and inter-cultural harmony with students from Qatar, Finland and Vietnam. This program also includes helping Cambodian people come to terms with their past and finding truth and healing after the Khmer Rouge genocide.

This August we celebrate our 23rd Birthday. We are so happy at this event and we would like to invite you to join us. If you live in Cambodia, you are welcome to our school to our Gala Event on Saturday 5th August from 3pm. You can participate in workshops where our students and staff will teach you the art of making shadow puppets, how to perform them, how to play a Pin Peat instrument and essential dance moves. We will have videos of our school and explanations on the origin and history of our school and traditional Cambodian arts. Watch out on our Facebook page for updates.

If you can't make it to our school, you are welcome to join us by participating in the GlobalGiving International Youth Week. From 7th August to 12 August 2017, starting at 9am Washington DC time and ending 11.59.59pm. GlobalGiving will match donations 100%. What a wonderful way for us to celebrate our birthday.

Thank you all for your wonderful support and good-will towards our school.

Repairing Pin Peat instrument
Repairing Pin Peat instrument
Our little blind & deaf boy getting ready for bath
Our little blind & deaf boy getting ready for bath

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Music study
Music study

Dear friends of our school,

Thank you so much for all your wonderful support. Some of you have been supporting our school for years and we are so grateful.

In this report I'm going to talk about our blind children, even though strictly speaking they are now resident at our school.

Being blind is difficult for any human being anywhere in this world, but in some countries such as Cambodia, blind people do not receive any help from the state at all. Children who are blind in Cambodia, too often have no future and are destined to be illiterate and to beg in poverty. Many from rural areas are considered shameful and a weight on their families. Children suffer from the most awful things being said to them and sometimes done to them. Who can imagine the humiliation and even sense of guilt they must feel at being told they are "useless".

At our school we care for several blind children, including one blind and almost completely deaf boy, who has now been given a hearing-aid by the NGO "All Ears".  We provide them with accomodation, full-time care, food, clothing and medicine, but importantly we also give them the tools to create a better life and a more secure future.

We hire a Cambodian Braille teacher. The Khmer (Cambodian) language was only very recently transformed into Braille by the great efforts of Krousar Thmey. This NGO then trained Braille teachers to go out and teach at state schools. The only problem is that the state doesn't support them properly and they cannot be expected to work for free! Our school sponsors the cost of a Braille teacher to be with our blind children during their lessons. She supports them at state school and helps them transmit what they have heard into Braille text. The children also use special abacus beads and other materials to help calculate numbers, weights and measures for their maths class. They take part in national exams just as the rest of other young sighted students do. 

We also teach them English language and then computer skills in Khmer language. Together with their music studies, this gives them a more all-round, complete education, helping prepare them for proper job skills when they eventually graduate from our school.

When I think about how much progress has been made. Last year one of our students Thai performed as a singer with our Pin Peat teacher in Thailand on the occasion of HRH Princess Sirindihorn's birthday and at the Conference Art For All. We were invited to do so by both the Thai and Cambodian Ministries of Culture. Since then our blind students have performed for important festivals and even in front of the American and British Ambassadors.

However the cost of all these forms of support for our blind children is quite high. We would like to invite you to participate in our current micro-project to fund support for our Braille teacher. Without a Braille teacher, our children cannot learn at school and they would be stuck. The cost of funding a Braille teacher for one academic year is $1500. Please help if you can. Some of you have already been really great and participated already! Do tell your friends and family too

Here is the link to donate....but hurry, only a few days left now until the appeal ends.

https://www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/help-our-blind-children-get-an-education/?utm_content=Your%20project%20has%20been%20a

Thank you from us all at our school in Kampot for your kind thoughts and important help.

Our littlest child who is also deaf
Our littlest child who is also deaf
Writing using Braille
Writing using Braille

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Dance exercises
Dance exercises

Dear friends and supporters of our school,

Thank you so much for your kind and important support. We appreciate it so much.

We have been making important changes to our free arts training program and we would like you to know what we have changed and why.

Our Challenges

As you know we were providing free arts training to hundreds of children and teenagers from local state schools, in particular the Di Pok state school and Samdech Ta' school. This was part of a program requested by the Ministries of Education and Culture to teach as many young Cambodians as possible about their traditional culture. This is considered an important area for conservation, because of the loss and damage done to cultural heritage during the Khmer Rouge genocide between 1975-79.

Our teaching staff dedicated hours each week for several years teaching local school children traditional music, Yike and dance. However our staff decided that this program was not working well and not bringing the right results.

Why?

Because the students were given to us without taking into consideration their capacities. So we had many students who were not talented and therefore quite bored with studying, not because they didn't like the arts, but because they couldn't really improve as they didn't have the talent necessary. Some of the wealthy students were even quite naughty and more interested in their cellphones. Our teachers, some of whom survived the genocide are quite old and found these kinds of lessons exhausting and fruitless. We concluded that although we had helped reach out to many children in Kampot and had given a generation of young people knowledge about their cultural heritage, we were not really preserving traditional culture which is one of our vision and mission elements and we were not able to concentrate on those children who really wanted to learn and who were often from poorer backgrounds.

What did we do?

We went back to the beginning. We went back to our original Outreach program of helping poor and disadvantaged children from local villages who demonstrated talent and a true desire to learn. You may be wondering why not reaching out to hundreds of students and only teaching around one hundred / one hundred and fifty students would be considered preserving traditional culture...... This is because traditional Cambodian arts have been passed down orally from master to pupil for the last one thousand years. They were not written down and only now attempts have made to record music and dance for future generations. Cambodian music has survived for example because it was used in Pagodas for traditional Buddhist ceremonies, for classical dance, for weddings and for funerals. Musicians (except for the Chapey players) work in ensembles and perform for these ceremonies. It is a living art and is preserved for future generations when young Cambodians learn how to play instruments properly to a professional level. The same applies to the Yike and traditional dance.

Today we are teaching really poor children and adolescents, some with disabilities. All love their lessons, work hard and have the capacity to become tomorrow's professional artists. Many of them come from families affected by alcoholism and  gambling addictions and the arts for them is the only way out of poverty and destitution.

We will be changing the title of our project soon and updating our information, but we wanted to share the changes with you first.

Thank you.

Pin Peat music
Pin Peat music
Playing the Roneat
Playing the Roneat

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Waiting to perform at our school
Waiting to perform at our school

 

Where we come from

 

Beyond our program to help orphaned children, (some affected with HIV and epilepsy) and our blind children, we also help very poor children and youth from local villages on the outskirts of Kampot.

Many of our village children come from very difficult circumstances, not only because they are poor and some of their parents have gone to Thailand to earn a living, but because many have family-members who are addicted to alcohol and to gambling. Many of Kampot's youth within the town are addicted to drugs and to glue-sniffing, because this is a society which has broken down after one of the 20th century's worst genocides. The Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot from 1975 - 79 forced the entire population into the countryside, creating vast concentration camps. There were no hospitals, medicine, clean drinking water, mosquito nets, nor sufficient food. Thousands perished from disease and starvation and thousands more were tortured and put to death, until a pre-war population of 6.8 million lost nearly a third of the populace. Adults suffering from Post-traumatic stress have never had relief and the Cambodian government has never really bothered to promote the truth or create reconciliation, because some of their top members are former Khmer Rouge. 

Why should the arts, especially music be of importance when children are poor or after a genocide?

Because music and the arts can express that which words cannot.

When a person has difficulty expressing their grief, frustration or anger they can speak through music or dance. When a child is faced with poor role-models and a crumbling society, then coming to learn music and art to a very high level is like a beacon of hope and light for them. Music and art can actually lift depression and anxiety and is good for mental health as well as emotional well-being.

The children and youth from local villages come when it's raining or when the weather is fine and they study really hard, they want to be artists and they want to be professionals. Already the older, teenagers help our Pin Peat master perform for religious occasions in the Pagoda and have begun earning money and the older Mohori students can assist their master to perform at weddings.

When we do our Traditional Shadow Puppet performances, they assist us with our Pin Peat music. Recently we hosted the Official Ceremony of the International Kampot Writers and Readers Festival and our students came to help our resident students in the important performances we had to give.

Finally, because Cambodia's ancient cultural heritage was so badly destroyed, teaching it to the next generation helps preserve it. Modernization is good, but keeping one's cultural identity is good too.

Dance students with our resident students
Dance students with our resident students

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Organization Information

Khmer Cultural Development Institute

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