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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
Free Arts Training Students in Yike Performance
Free Arts Training Students in Yike Performance

Dear Donors and Friends of Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children - Khmer Cultural Development Institute - KCDI,


Over a year has passed since you all began supporting our project, "Free arts training for over 400 children, Kampot Cambodia" at our school. Thanks to your generosity and continuity, our project has been running ever since, reaching out to the hundreds of very poor children in Kampot Province and providing them with a free training in traditional Cambodian arts.

Your help has been fundamental in ensuring the success of this project, we would not have been able to continue without your support. Did you know that this project is important for the following reasons and has achieved these same goals?

- Poor children can at last have access to free traditional performing arts education of the highest calibre, thus sharing in their cultural heritage and learning about their identity.

- Talented children can pursue the arts from primary school to high school level and take exams at KCDI to prepare them for entrance into the Royal University of Fine Arts and a career as a professional musician or dancer.

- Tuition of the arts helps towards the goal of preserving traditional Cambodian culture for the next generation of young Cambodians and ensures the survivial of this World Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO).

- Our school is part of a far-reaching program by the Ministries of Culture and Education to promote traditional Cambodian culture and to ensure that every primary school child has access to this learning. Unfortunately the Ministries in question do not have the resources to reach out to all of Cambodia nor do they have enough teachers, that is why this project in Kampot Province is held to be so important and unique and why our school, the Kampot Traditional Music School is held up as a role model for the rest of Cambodia.


Where do our Students Come from?

Students currently atttending these courses of Pin Peat, Mahori music, Classical Cambodian ballet, Folk dance and Yike Theatre are from three main state schools, "Samdech Ta", "Dipok" and "Kampot Krong". This is a quote from the head teacher of Dipok state school,

"Sometimes our students come to school without shoes on, or shoes which are falling apart. They come to school without books or stationary. They come from outlying rural areas in Kampot which are very poor. If the Kampot Traditional Music School didn't provide free tuition, these students would never be able to attend the arts lessons there."

From the photograph included in this report, you can see our Yike students giving their first major performance. These young students have in the space of one year, gone from being absolute beginners, to giving important theatre performances.



It is vital for the well-being of our students currently attending these arts training courses and for future primary school students to come, that we continue this extraordinary successful project. We have organized the coming academic year's curriculum, our current arts teachers from the Royal University of Fine Arts and the Ministry of Culture and National Theatre remain with us and are enthusiastic in continuing this program.

We will be expanding our program to include the tuition of Small Shadow Puppet Theatre (Sabaik Lakoun Toch) and Miniature Instrument Making:-

Sabaik Lakoun is an ancient art form dating back over 1000 years. It is a much loved and revered art, but yet in Kampot Province there is no puppet troupe. Learning the skill of shadow puppetry and how to make puppets will enable our school to learn a new and important art, reach out to more students, provide a therapeutic and holistic art form, as both our residential students and outreach students work on new educative story lines, practice funny voices and learn new ways of self-expression. Above all the citizens of Kampot can come and enjoy wonderful puppet performances and help contribute through small entrance fees, towards the upkeep and running costs of our school.

Miniature Instrument Making is a way of learning a new handcraft skill, directly connected to the mission and central theme of our school....Traditional Cambodian Musical Instruments! We can't afford to make large real instruments like gongs, because they require a metal foundry to melt bronze. But we can promote miniature instruments using local materials and help students and teachers learn new skills and through the sale of these tiny instruments, for our school to raise money to help us be more self-sufficient.

Please help us make sure our Free Arts Training continues for this coming academic year 2015 and help us with the start-up costs of these two worthwhile curriculums in our arts-training program; by joining our:-

GlobalGiving Fundraising day on the 15th October, where your donation will receive 30% matching funds from GlobalGiving. The Fundraising day starts at 09:00am Washington time and ends 11.59pm (23.59) Washington time.

Please check the World Clock Website for the right time to donate from your part of the world!

Thank you for all your very precious support and please keep on helping our important work.


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A dancers hands create the Suprech (prayer)
A dancers hands create the Suprech (prayer)


For all our Dear Supporters,

As you know our project has been a real success, so much so that we are carrying it onto next year, this thanks to each one of you who have donated and especially thanks to those who have made reoccuring monthly donations.

Our 400 Outreach free arts training students recently began their first series of concerts. Their enthusiasm is really heartwarming. We are really suprised at their attendance rate and their determination to continue. Our teachers are very happy about their progress, especially in the sectors of traditional music and Yike theatre.

On behalf of our school - the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children-Khmer Cultural Development Institute, I would like to invite you all to participate on our GlobalGiving Bonus Day.

This is how it works:- The Global Giving Bonus Day begins July 16th at 9am Washington time and ends 11.59 Washington time USA. Please see here below what time it is in your country to know when to donate! Please remember that the earlier you donate, the better chance there is of our receiving matching funds! Remember to donate on the right date and at the right time, otherwise we won't receive a matching donation.

For every donation you make, our school will receive 40% of matching funds from GlobalGiving. PLUS if we manage to have the most individual donors we will receive a donation from Global Giving of $1000 ($500 second prize). Also if we manage to raise the most funds, we also receive a donation from Global Giving of $1000.

For this Bonus Day Payments can be made by creditcard or Paypal Only

Here are some of the times in your countries for the 16th July Bonus Day:-

Washington   09:00

London         14:00

Rome           13:00

Jakarta          20:00

Berlin            15:00

Phnom Penh  20:00


Every amount is welcome, even the smallest sum goes towards our goal of helping our school and local community and Cambodia as a whole. Please do participate, because if we all work together, we may be able to raise enough funds to support our school for the whole of the next year!


Children on our residential program
Children on our residential program
Our garden
Our garden


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Mrs An
Mrs An


Paying Hommage

We would like to tell you the true story of our ballet teacher Mrs An*, who kindly gave her permission for her history to be told, in hommage to the many artists who never made it back in 1979. So that everyone who reads this report, can understand what the Cambodian people went through in order to revive their traditional arts and what it means for our school, the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children/KCDI to do the activities that we do.

In the Royal Palace The Golden Age

An - as a little girl of 7 gained entrance to the Royal Ballet troupe within the Royal Palace, during the governance of Prince Sihanouk. She was selected to become a dancer by Prince Sihanouk's mother, HRH Queen Kossamak, responsible for the extraordinary flowering of traditional music and ballet in Cambodia during that period.

Studying with the greatest ballet mistresses of her era, An studied with Yeay Pong, Yeay Kan, Yeay Puon and her own mother the famous Yeay Teay**.

The peaceful and joyful life within the palace walls, soon became darker and menacing when General Lon Nol overthrew Prince Sihanouk in a coup and forced the Royal family into exile. The young An by now aged around 14 continued with her studies and performances within the palace, but with a sense of impending doom as Cambodia slipped into civil war and battles between Khmer Rouge and government forces raged outside the capital city Phnom Penh.


The Fall of Phnom Penh and the Begining of Darkness

In April 1975 Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge and An by now married and pregnant with her third child, joined the rest of the population in the forced mass exodus into the countryside.  With her young family and 8 months pregnant An was forced to walk by foot, hundreds of kilometres to the North of the country to Battambang Province. She gave birth during the way.

Once in Battambang, the Khmer Rouge ordered everyone into mass concentration camps. At first An was given "easier" tasks in the communal vegetable garden, as she had recently given birth. Her 2nd child, a little girl of 3 years stayed with An and her new born baby. The Khmer Rouge systematically starved the population, making everyone eat one meal a day (watery rice gruel) and prohibiting individuals from collecting food for themselves or their families. When An's little girl by now starving, plucked some corn from the communal garden, the Khmer Rouge chief was furious and threatened An and her daughter with execution. An therefore had to forbid her little daughter from picking things to eat and soon after, her beloved little girl died of starvation.

Not long afterwards, the Khmer Rouge led away the entire male population of that commune, accusing them of being former "government soldiers." An saw her husband (a former construction worker) being led away with the other men, his hands tied behind his back. The men never came back and were executed in a mass grave. Only 5 men remained in that commune, they were very elderly and ill and the Khmer Rouge could not accuse them of being "soldiers". To this day, An does not know the exact place her husband died and cannot make a proper grave for his remains.

When the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot ended in 1979, An together with her 2 remaining children, made her slow and painful way back to Phnom Penh together with her mother Yeay Kan.

Phnom Penh was in empty ruins, the buildings and roads full of trees and overgrown plants, furniture and abandoned goods in the middle of the roads, just as they had been left when the great exodus of Phnom Penh occured in 1975. The national bank lay in ruins, the main bridges blown up. There was nothing to eat, no money, no medicines and all the houses were empty from the deaths of so many.

The doors of the Royal Palace were open and An and her mother went in. Of the hundreds of classical Cambodian dancers and musicians, only a handful were left alive. Nine of the great ballet teachers were still alive and five of the great music masters. An describes the feeling of overwhelming love that those who survived had for one another.

She and the younger dancers set about with extraordinary determination to relive and re-learn the ancient teachings of the past from the last of the great teachers. Learning each dance, female and male roles, as well as the "Yik" (ogre) role, An slowly pieced together the shattered remains of her heritage.

In those days the Ministry of Culture, itself shattered and struggling for survival, paid the artists with rice. 

No one can forget the immense solidarity and courage these artists and all Cambodians had, to piece their country together again, after a third of the population had died.

During the 1980's and early 1990's when Cambodian began official performance tours, many younger dancers fled the misery of their country and became exiles in the UK and the USA. However other dancers like An, struggled on with the belief of re-establishing their art before it disappeared forever.


The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children/Khmer Cultural Development Institute

Was built in 1994 after being ratified as a Cambodian NGO in 1993 with the blessing and permission of the Ministry of Culture and the Royal University of Fine Arts. Dedicated to the restoration of traditional music and later also traditional classical ballet and Yike theatre as well as other ancient Cambodian art forms, we have worked continuously to keep these art forms alive for the next generation of Cambodians and for our world heritage. At the same time as caring for vulnerable children, so that the tuition of culture goes hand in hand with meeting the essential and practical needs of our children.

We express our deepest honour and thanks to Mrs An and to all our teachers, some sadly now passed away and to those who are with us today. We thank them for coming all the way from the National Theatre and Royal Ballet, from the Royal University of Fine Arts to share with us their extraordinary skills, their courage and loving kindness. For passing on their precious knowledge to the next generation of young Cambodians.

Thank You

Thank you all who have donated to this project, for enabling us to continue on. Our project has been such a success and is attended with such enthusiasm by over 400 local children,many of them girls, as well as benefiting our resident children, that we are continuing into 2015 and beyond.


**This report was given without using the full names or in some cases the real name of the people mentioned, in order to protect their privacy. The photographs were taken with full permission from participants. 


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What We've Been Doing Recently

As you all know the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children (KCDI) is helping over 400 local primary and lower-secondary school children with free training in the arts.

Because of your precious help over the last 12 months, we have been able to reach out and assist children from the following schools:-

- Samdach Ta Primary School

- Tray Koh Primary School

- Di Pok Mohasamaki Lower Secondary School


Special Feature

We of course teach Pin Peat and Mahori music, classical Ballet and Folk Dance, but we also teach ancient Yike theatre.

What is Yike?

The Yike (pronounced Yeekay) is an ancient art form with Khmer, Chham and possibly Malay influences. In a part of what is now modern day Cambodia, there lay the Kingdom of Champa, with a population (the Chham) who were of Muslim religion. Around eight hundred years ago, the Khmer Empire fought with the Kingdom of Champa and this small Kingdom became part of the Khmer empire. Today Chham people and Khmer live together in peace and harmony.

In the Province of Kampot, there are many Chham people who are part of an ethnic minority in Cambodia. Although today the Yike is mostly performed by Khmer artists of Buddhist religion. It is an art form that incorporates singing, music, dance and theatre, yet it is unlike any other traditional Cambodian music or dance, because the singing is different, the dance moves are different and special drums are used similar to those used in the music of the Chham people today. The Yike evolved as an art form for people from the countryside and it expresses historical events, moral and religious tales and sometimes humourous representations. Yet this extraordinary art form after the Khmer Rouge genocide and the decline in traditional culture, risks extinction. That it is why it is so important that young children have access to proper, expert training so that they can continue their cultural heritage on into the future.

One of the most famous Yike troupes is based in Chhouk District in Kampot, they have won many national awards and accolades. It is the leaders of this troupe, a husband and wife team, who teach the Yike at our school. We are so honoured to have them. You can see in our photographs with this report, how many children are enthusiastic to learn Yike. From such a large number, certainly there will be those who will form a profession as Yike artists.

Recent Events

Our residential children (see recently won another trophy, also pictured with this report. This time they won third prize in a National Competition held at the National Chaktomouk Theatre. The competition was larger than the last regional one. Their dance was specially coreographed for them by a folk dance teacher from the Kampot department of Culture and our school was invited by the Ministry of Culture to perform in the competition.

Thank You!

Thank you for your wonderful help in helping keeping alive these unique traditions at our school. Please tell all your friends and please encourage everyone to give generously. We need special help to support our teachers to train so many children. Please help support our residential program too!

Thank you from our hearts!

More Yike lessons!
More Yike lessons!
Trophy for National Cultural Festival
Trophy for National Cultural Festival


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What's been happening?


Three months on from our last update, our Community Outreach Arts Program at KCDI has now more than four hundred primary school children participating in lessons on Pin Peat and Mahori music, classical Cambodian dance and folk dance and also Yike theatre.

Our classes continue to be held three times a week, but lessons have multiplied, because of the demand.

We are working in close cooperation with the Departments of Culture and Education, as well as heads of local primary schools, they are assisting us as we coordinate diffierent students from different schools. They have asked us to help them by reaching out to as many children as possible to share Cambodian performing arts, because there is growing concern about the loss of Cambodia's cultural heritage.

Many children attending KCDI are very poor and would otherwise have had no access to this kind of experience or opportunity. Thank you for your help!

Meanwhile the more experienced students on our Boarding Program were invited by the Department of Culture together with their teachers to perform at the Regional Performances in Sihanoukville from the 25 - 28th November 2013. They performed the "Kiri Bokor sambo tomchet dance", especially coreographed by KCDI dance teachers. They were awarded a trophy at the end of the performance.

After the performance Sreida* said "I am very pleased and grateful to my group for all the hard work they did to achieve this goal".


What's Next?

Community Art Outreach students did their first public performance at KCDI and now both they and resident children on the KCDI Boarding Program, will be preparing for examinations for the coming year, held by the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. These exams help provide them with goals to achieve and for those wanting to have a future in the performing arts, the yearly exams and the final Diploma and Baccalaureate are essential qualifications for a career.


What can you do?

Please keep supporting us. Your help has been so important so far. Tell everyone you know about us and share our work on your social networks, (face-book, twitter e-mail). Please spread the word that it is easy to give a simple donation on-line through our page on Global Giving.

From everyone here at KCDI, we send you our profound thanks and wish you all a most Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year 2014!


* For the sake of Privacy, we do not mention the student's real name. All photographs are printed here with permission given by the students and teachers of KCDI.

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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
$13,159 raised of $20,000 goal
367 donations
$6,841 to go
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