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
Address: 1, Ousaphea, Kampong Bay, Kampot, Kingdom of Cambodia
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