Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia

by Khmer Cultural Development Institute
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
A small group in the garden
A small group in the garden



Tai is a very special boy with exceptional qualities. Born in a remote village in Kampot Province, he has been blind since early childhood. In Cambodia there is very little hope or opportunity for blind people. Those born in remote and poor villages are usually destined to live and die in extreme poverty, sometimes begging in the city, but tragically considered shameful or useless in Cambodian society.

Several years ago a small shelter was set up in Kampot by an Australian man, himself blind, to offer a better opportunity in life for blind children in Kampot. Last year our school was contacted by this very same gentleman who asked us to teach music to the children in his shelter. We agreed and began giving free tuition of Mohori music to the children. From ten children the number settled to eight, because two children moved to the capital Phnom Penh.

In a short space of time the children's hardwork and patience bore fruit and they began to put together their first Mohori orchestra ensemble. Coming diligently to our school everyday they studied with our Mohori master and our own sighted students resident at our school also helping the music master in teaching. Mohori music is an excellent form of vocational training, because Mohori music and Plein Ka music (a branch of Mohori) are used for festivals and weddings and because in Cambodian society, weddings are not considered complete without Plein Ka, then it is possible for musicians of this music genre to earn a good living. Forming an ensemble can help them have their own professional working orchestra.

One day we were told that their shelter was to close, through lack of support and funding and because the creator was himself elderly and no longer able to manage. He had already asked us earlier in the year whether we were willing to care for his children should the worst come to pass and we promised him that we would do all that is possible to help them.

So today we now care and house these children at our school. We met their parents and we were given their permission together with the Department of Social Affairs in Kampot to help them in the development of their young lives. We also contacted the other few organisations concerned with the blind in the capital Phnom Penh to ask for their advice, which they kindly gave.

We felt that we had to help them, not only had we grown so fond of them during the months that they had studied with us, but also we knew that back in their villages, they had no chance of ever creating a sustainable future for themselves. The two Braille teachers allocated to the entire Province were available in Kampot town only and not able to teach in the different, isolated villages,  so rather than send them to an institute in another Province far away from their families, we said a big "Yes" to caring for them.

This means a lot of adjustment for our staff and children, not only on a physical level, (adapting our bedrooms and bathrooms to be more user-friendly for non-sighted children), but also to find Braille teachers and sponsors for Braille equipment and materials and to employ a special house-mother who can be on call for them 24 hours (doing shifts with two other staff already at our school).


Who is Tai?

Tai is one of our students aged 15 who in learing Mohori music at our school, revealed an extraordinary musical talent and a most beautiful voice. In July of this year, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture invited our school to participate in the ASEAN Conference "Art for All" in Thailand. So Tai together with our Pin Peat teacher and a representative from the Ministry of Culture, went to Thailand and performed at the conference to great acclaim. Tai and the other children are very important for Cambodian society, because their success teaches Cambodians to recognise that all people have a special value and can contribute to their country.

Now Tai and the other children are at our school, continuing their studies. Two passed their recent scholastic exams and are getting closer to their dream of university

Their presence has brought our children and staff great joy and empathy and they enrich our lives with the special qualities that they have.


Thank You

Thanks to your continued help and support, we have been able to help these special children. However we would like to receive your support in the future too, because we must provide extra food, medical care and clothing, as well as support for the Braille teachers and the special housemother. Please help us make this project a long-lasting one, so that not only these children are assisted, but all those children who are blind and who need help in Kampot can come to our school and build a future. We would like you to know that this is now the only special needs school -centre for blind children in the whole of Kampot Province.

Studying Mohori
Studying Mohori


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Learning how to make puppets
Learning how to make puppets


Looking at the Past


During the period of the Khmer Rouge genocide, it is estimated that perhaps 90% of Cambodian artists died.

If you look at old photographs taken of the Royal ballet and the Royal musician's troupe some years before the Khmer Rouge took power, there are hundreds of people, smiling and hopeful, completely unaware of the future that awaits them. The capital Phnom Penh in the 1960's was not only a hub of traditional music and dance, but also in nearly every Pagoda in the countryside there was a Pin Peat orchestra, the villages had their own Mohori and Plein Ka wedding ensembles and one could be sure that there would be a marvellous shadow puppet troupe in the Province, touring from village to village.

Cambodia was also the epicentre of rock and roll, with the King himself an enthusiastic musicians and composer, fusions of musical influence from abroad thrived in this beautiful country. Famous singers such as Sim Sissamouth sang popular songs. There was an acceptance and harmony between old and new.

First came the overthrow of King Sihanouk by General Lon Nol and the descent into corruption and war with the Khmer Rouge guerillas, who graduallly overtook Cambodia, then the secret bombing of Cambodia under US Presdient Nixon and Seretary of State Kissinger, causing over one million refugees to flood into the capital Phnom Penh. Then from 1975 - 1979 the Khmer Rouge took power and evacuated the capital Phnom Penh forcing the entire population of Cambodia to live in the countryside. Cambodian artists were among the first to be executed. It is said that the singer Sim Sissamouth was forced to dig his own grave. A beautiful ballet dancer who danced a duet with the son of the King was decapitated and the list is so long, that it has never been compiled or completed. Only at the end of the regime, was such a great emptiness and the few survivors began looking for each other and trying to rebuild from scratch a history which had spanned over 1000 years.


Sabaik Lakoun Toch (Shadow Puppetry)

Today in our school we have several tradiitonal cultural formations, including the tuition of Pin Peat music, Plein Ka and Mohori music, Traditional Cambodian ballet, folk dance, ancient Yike dance and theatre, Trott dance and Chayyam dance. These art forms are taught by skilled Cambodian teachers who come from the National Theatre and Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. For a long time we have wanted to add to our teaching curriculum the art of Shadow puppetry.

It is thought that this art dates back at least a thousand years. Shadow puppetry still brings great pleasure and is much loved by Cambodian people, however in the Province of Kampot where our school is based, there are no surviving puppet artists at all and so no puppet troupe exists in the entire Province.

With the assistance of Cambodian Living Arts we have been running a workshop for our students and teachers, as well as local state school students and teachers on the art of making and performing Small Shadow puppets.

The puppet master comes from Sovannah Phum in Phnom Penh and he has been teaching how to cure cow leather, to paint it, cut it, draw puppet characters and ornament them, then make bamboo sticks to move each puppet. Shadow puppets are figures held up by thin sticks which propels the characters along. The performance takes place behind a lighted screen to the accompaniament of voice interpretations and Pin Peat music. Small shadow puppet theatre as opposed to Large puppet theatre (Sabak Lakoun Thom) gives artists the freedom to create themes and mix ancient characters and art forms with modern day social themes. In this way, especially for our school the process becomes highly educative.

Students not only learn handcraft skills in making the puppets, (therebye ensuring a vocational skill for the future and the continuation of this art form,) they also experience freedom of expression, have much fun and give lease to their creativity  in interpreting the voices of the characters. The creation of a theme which reflects current society, also offers teachers and students an opportunity to examine themselves and their surroundings, identifying areas which they feel need special attention, which can be AIDS prevention, the promotion of education for girls, the importance of education for all as a brighter future and so on.

On this course, our students and teachers have been enjoying themselves enormously and the puppet master has been quite suprised by their skills in learning. We can't wait to have our first puppet performance!

Although the course itself has been specifically sponsored, still we would not have been able to go ahead or even exist if  donors like yourself had not assisted us in the first place. We still have to feed, clothe, house and care for the many children at our school before any course can take place.

Therefore thank you for believing in our school and for all your generous help.

The finished result
The finished result
Buffalos, monkey and butterfly
Buffalos, monkey and butterfly


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Vy N and his friends play football at our school
Vy N and his friends play football at our school


Dear friends and supporters of Kampot Traditional Music School,


The Boy who walked 25km to be at our School

In 1997, three years after the opening of our school, we housed two young sisters who had been abandoned by their mother. Their father, who was a musician had died when they where very young. Two years after 1997 their mother returned out of the blue from the island of Koh Kong. Our school helped the girls establish a loving relationship with their mother and overcome their sense of abandonement. Sadly their mother was very ill with Tuberculosis, although we helped her treatment in the local hospital, she developed a resistance to the illness and it spread very quickly into her internal organs and she died in great pain from TB of the liver.

These two girls who originally came from a remote part of Chumkiri District in Kampot, also had two brothers. One was grown up and kept their patch of land cultivated, but the other was their age and wanted to come to our school. We had waited, while their mother was ill, so as not to disturb the family balance and to respect the rights of their mother to be with her children.

One morning not so long after her death, the younger boy Vy N. suddenly turned up at our school. He had walked by foot from his remote village at the foot of the mountains in Chumkiri all the way to Kampot town, a distance of over 25 km. He had walked all night and in the early hours of the morning was stopped at a police checkpoint (because there was still civil war in the area) at the entrance of the town. Taking pity on this young boy, the police kindly gave him breakfast and then set him on his way.

Vy N. applied himself with a quiet determination and excelled in Mohori music, Folk Dance and Painting. We tried to get him enrolled on the arts course at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, but because he had not attended as a young child, he did not receive a place. Therefore we hired a local artist to give him lessons in drawing and painting, until the local artist moved from Kampot.

Vy N is now a young man and together with his younger sister Vy L they have formed a traditional wedding music ensemble in Kampot and earn a living performing at weddings and festivals in traditional Cambodian style. The older sister who went to university now teaches dance for a South-African NGO. Additonally Vy N is also part of an amazing fusion band, which combines his Tro Sau instrument with guitar, vocals and drums. The band consists of two Cambodians including himself and a former outreach student at our school, two Western musicans and a singer from China! The group is incredibly popular with foreign visitors to Kampot and the location where he plays becomes full of guests who listen for hours to the band. He has become famous and is known as the "Best musican in Kampot".  Who would ever guess that this talented man was once a very shy, quiet boy who walked so far, determined to get to our school and study music!


Invitation by the Ministry of Culture to perform at ASEAN Conference in Thailand


Recently the Minister of Culture invited our school to register for the ASEAN Conference in Thailand "Art for All" which will be held in August. We will be accompanying one of our very talented Mohori music students who is blind, to go and give a recital at this conference together with our Pin Peat teacher. It is a great honour for our school to be invited and a wonderful opportunity for our student.


Fundraising Day 13th May


On Wednesday 13th May we will be holding a special Fundraising Day with GlobalGiving, who will match all donations. This time instead of the first donations being matched, GlobalGiving will wait until the end of the event and match all donations, this ensures that each donations gets matched and not only those who donate first. Please Participate! We really need your help! The event starts at 09:00am Washington DC time and ends the same day at 11.59 pm.


Dear friends, thank you all for having donated these last months and for all those who have given to us regularly each month. Thank you all for having faith in our school and supporting our children. We are so grateful.


From everyone at the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children - Khmer Cultural Development Institute

With his friends at school in the garden
With his friends at school in the garden


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A blind student learning the Chhing
A blind student learning the Chhing

What We've Been Doing Recently


In December, the Kampot Department of Social Affairs requested us to take into our care four new children. The children come from remote rural areas in Dang Tung District in Kampot. We happily welcomed these children, two boys aged 10 and 12 years and two sisters, girls aged 8 and 10 years.

The two girls in particular had severe health problems when they arrived at our school. Their parents had died and they had been left in the care of a female relative, however the relative neglected them both physically and emotionally. On arriving at our school, they were suffering from malnutrition and poor health. They both had so many lice in their hair, that their heads were bleeding and infected. It proved impossible to comb out the lice or use medication to cleanse their hair, because there were literally thousands of lice. In the end we had to cut off all their hair and then treat the infections caused by lice bites and itching. Their few items of clothes brought from home, were also embedded with lice and eggs and  we had to unfortunately burn them. We of course bought new clothing to replace the old ones. Our staff think that if the children had not come to our school in time, they would have died from malnutrition and complications due to lice-related infections.

We took them to the hospital where they received check-ups, vitamin prescriptions and vaccinations against Polio, Tetanus and Diptheria. The youngest girl suffered from frequent fainting spells and so was visited by both a heart specialist and a psychologist. The doctors diagnosed post-traumatic stress and advised our staff how to help the little girl.

Two months later these two little girls seem completely different people, they are now healthy, happy and play cheerfully with our other children, enjoy going to school and love singing and learning dance.

Our two new boys have also settled in well into our school and are enjoying their new friends, studies, music, dance and drawing.

For us, these episodes go to show the reality in rural Cambodia today. Although the Cambodian government is encouraging more foster homes, many cases have shown that Cambodian society in general, is not yet ready to take on this kind of responsibility. There is still a long way to go before the social consious develops sufficiently to take proper and loving care of children who are not care-giver's own children.


Exchange Program with an Italian Primary School

Our children have been having fun with a long-distance cultural exchange with paintings and pictures from an Italian primary school and a Skype call. Where both groups of children performed their own music to each other through Skype. Our Cambodian children then prepared their own pictures and greetings for the Italian children.


Visit to the Minister of Culture

The founder of KCDI together with teaching staff went on the 16th February,  to visit the Minister of Culture and were received by her in an official ceremony to give thanks for the many years work KCDI has done to restore and preserve traditional Cambodian culture and performing arts and with very vulnerable children. The Ministry of Culture is struggling to protect it's cultural programs in the face of anarchy and general corruption in Cambodia.


Our New Music Program for Blind Children

In December I was contacted by an Australian man who is himself blind, about the plight of 10 blind children in Kampot Province. This remarkable gentleman and his Cambodian wife are helping provide clothing and food to these children. Together we are partnering to meet the different and complex needs of these children.

Meeting with our staff, we decided to assist these children by providing free music lessons in Mahori music. Tragically in Cambodia there is very little attention given to the needs of blind people. Although Braille has been introduced relatively recently, there is no national program which provides vocational training and job possibilities to people with this disability. Many blind people are destined to live their lives on the street, begging.

Through the tuition of Mahori music, we would like to provide these children the possibility of a professional vocation through music, so that they may form their own Mahori ensemble when they are older. Mahori music is performed with mostly stringed instruments, apart from the drum and the miniature cymbal. This music is used for festivals and celebrations, but also a branch of Mahori is used for weddings, "Plein Ka". Musicians sing through the wedding ceremony and traditional music is considered so important, that without it the wedding is considered incomplete and inauspicious. We have also offered our school space for any of these blind children wishing to receive computer and technological training.


Cambodia Today

During my recent visit, I was deeply shocked to discover the huge rift between the rich and the poor. A divide which has steadily worsened within the last ten years, with poor people worse off than they were a decade ago.

There are many reasons for this situation. Perhaps the first is the lack of democracy in Cambodia with the same prime minister (apart from a brief interval of 3 years) in power for over 30 years. The second is the massive corruption that takes place. Cambodia once rich in natural resources and minerals, has been stripped of copper, gold, stones and timber and these materials long with the wealth accumulated from the sale of them has gone out of the country, with no investment made in the country itself, so that there is no proper sanitation, infrastructure. Mega villas stand next to tiny huts and in Phnom Penh the back streets are filled with dirt, never cleaned and with, in some areas, open sewers running through them. No thought or planning has gone into this once beautiful city, just a race to get as much money and power as possible.

Together with large foreign business companies, many from SouthEast Asia, the country has been plundered, leaving forests and hill-sides bare and eroded like dusty deserts, rivers poisoned by luxury tourist resorts and ordinary Cambodians dispocessed of land and homes, as the rich and powerful forcefully take their land. Little islands are bought up to be used as luxury resorts. 

There is less and less land for Cambodian people. There have been so many landgrabs that in some areas people can no longer cultivate rice, yet rice is being exported in ton loads, the price of rice, the staple food of Cambodians has gone spiralling up and up. The luxury lifestyle of rich foreigners and corrupt officials in Phnom Penh has pushed the price of food up so high that many ordinary people cannot afford to eat properly. Our school is also struggling to buy enough food and rice.

Without proper rule of law and the plundering of resources by Cambodians and foreigners, so too has the dreadful practice of trafficking and abuse of women and sexual tourism with minors. Even Kampot still beautiful, thanks to the vision of the governor, is however prey to drunk and drugged tourists.

Here our school stands after 21 years, still focused on helping children from the poorest and most difficult backgrounds and to remembering and conserving Cambodia's traditional culture and performing arts; not for tourists, not for the corrupt, but for the millions of ordinary Cambodians struggling to live decently and who still love and still cherish their cultural heritage.


Help Us

Please help us. Last year we only raised a fraction of what we really need to run our school, which is $45,000. Yet our budget is very small if you think that we help up to 20 orphaned children in residence, give free music lessons and coaching for 10 blind children, give free tuition in the arts to over 400 very poor children from rural areas and free music tuition to 20 highly talented scholarship students. We have no wasteful expatriate overhead salaries or costs. All your donations go directly to our project.

Please Donate as quickly and as generously as possible, that we may continue running our school and helping so many. 


** Permission was granted to take and display photographs of students and staff

Some blind students during Mohori practice
Some blind students during Mohori practice


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Butterfly dancers photo courtesy of Silvia Gomes
Butterfly dancers photo courtesy of Silvia Gomes

Dear Friends and Supporters of Kampot Traditional Music School KCDI,

December is nearly here and on behalf of everyone at school I would like to thank you all for your marvelleous support to our program and to our children here in Kampot that you have given. In a short space of time we've raised over $2,000 and it's all thanks to you.

We recently completed a spectacular event which we hosted but which was organised by the Cambodian Space Project rock group, Intimate Spectacle Theatre group from Australia, Australian theatre directors and in partnership with the local contemporary art space, Lightbox. Our children and staff were delighted to be part of an incredibiliy imaginative and creative event, combining traditional Cambodian music and dance with contemporary music, theatre and stage effects! The story about a monkey who finds a piece of old space rocket in the jungle and decides to go to the moon, reflects the story of the migration of many Cambodians from rural poverty to urban living and the many challenges and changes they face along the way. We were honoured to have both the very famous Cambodian rock star Chanthy, as well as the great master Kong Noy, most famous of the Cambodian Chapeye musicians.

Our children were involved in workshops to create puppet space monsters, to paint their own ideas of space and to try out different sounds on their traditional instruments. They learned new choreographies and fused their traditional music and instruments with modern ones. Our staff and children learned many things not only about contemporary music, but also their own traditions and there was a happy mix of ideas from round the world, culminating in 2 evening performances at our school to packed audiences. The event was also widely publicized in Cambodia and abroad.

Here is what the theatre director said about our school,

"This project has been a fantastic experience. It is such a privilege working with so many talented people. The KCDI atmosphere is healthy and fun. Bravo to all the artists, students and teachers. (I felt) Very blessed to be part of the show!"

and the head of the Space Project rock band said,

"It's been an inspirational experience working with all the staff, teachers and students at KCDI. We couldn't have had a better project partner than KCDI" 

Recently we welcomed 4 new little children into our school, according to the requirements of the Ministry and Department of Social Affairs. We are now busy integrating them into daily life and helping them adjust to their new lives, which is certainly a big challenge for them and requires a long period.

We are preparing the way for university for our biggest girl who received her maturity exam and was only one of very few (30%) to be successful in the whole of Cambodia. We are looking into the possibility of reintegration through vocational training and apprencticeship for 6 of our largest students in their village of origin. 

We are creating our own miniature instrument making and Yike drum workshop and we are looking forward to creating our first Lakoun Sabaik Toch (Ancient small puppet theatre) for 2015...but I'll talk about that in our next report!


Christmas Appeal!

We have a big opportunity to reach our goal of $10,000 if you all join our Christmas appeal in December 2014.

Last week, we were turned down once more by a major donor, because we don't fit into their criteria. This happens very frequently, because we are involved both in the arts and with orphaned children, which can be quite awkward, although to us it feels the right decision. Also Cambodia is not on people's thoughts very often. Very rarely is Cambodia mentioned on the news and because of the appalling political fallout at the end of the Khmer Rouge genocide, many people througout the world, never got to know how dreadful it really was. This means that we have a double job of creating awareness about the past, in order to achieve recognition of our presence and our future. We are trying to be more and more economically self-sufficient and miniature instrument making and puppet theatre is a way forward, along with our CD sales and performances. However your help is vital!

From December 1st 00:00 (midnight) EST (Washington DC time) until 31st December at 11.59 pm we have been fortunate to have been selected by GlobalGiving to join the Year End Campaign. Please Join Us To and Make a Huge Difference!

We have to raise over $3,000 and have at least 30 different donors to be able to win $3,000 from GlobalGiving. We are aiming to have 100 donors!! Because we really want to ensure our school is supported through 2015.

All donations go towards feeding our chldren, clothing, medical care, teaching programs and child carers. There are no unecessary overhead costs and no expatriate costs. All contributions go directly to our school.

This is how you can help. If you have given an occasional donation, then please do give a donation to our school. Tell all your friends, use your social network, invite your work colleagues, everyone you think might be interested.

Please kindly take note of a few GlobalGiving regulations here below, so that donations can be made without any hitches! 

° If you wish to donate by cheque, please do so by 23rd December 2014.

° Giftcards and Texts are not valid

° Reccuring donors cannot be taken into consideration. if you have given an occasional donation, then you can still participate in our challenge, but if you are registered as a Reccuring Donor, sadly your donation cannot be included. 

Please make sure to donate to this project Education/Arts Orphans, Disabled Children Cambodia #16371

We have a Free Arts Training Project, please don't donate to this, because if some of you donate to one project and others to the other, then we won't win $3,000 from GlobalGiving. Please remember that all donations go towards all our projects at our school, because we are one entity and both our orphaned children and our arts-training children benefit, if our school is supported and remains open!!!

From us all in Kampot. Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a truly Peaceful and Happy New Year

Should I go into Space? Photo by Silvia Gomes
Should I go into Space? Photo by Silvia Gomes
Off to the moon! Photo by Sivia Gomes
Off to the moon! Photo by Sivia Gomes
Painting workshop photo courtesy David Rosenberger
Painting workshop photo courtesy David Rosenberger
The fishing dance KCDI
The fishing dance 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 Town, Kampot Province Cambodia
$117,104 raised of $200,000 goal
1,064 donations
$82,896 to go
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