Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
On February 20, 2012, I was able to visit the Kasumisou Foundation's project for Apsara Arts Program where youth and orphans, whether poor or rich, can learn traditional Cambodian dance, drawing, and music while not in school and during summers (instead of being on the streets).
There I was able to meet Sithen, the local Kasumisou foundation staff for this project. He welcomed me and sat me down to discuss his background, how he came to Kasumisou, and its current support for the Apsara Arts Program. His background was in accounting and management and had applied for the position, and now he has become an advocate of the efforts.
Additionally, I met the Apsara Arts Program director's wife who told me that before Kasumisou, the program ran in a small house. Kasumisou donated the training center where now many youth can learn traditional Cambodian arts and the culture can be passed down for generations to come. What kept her going? It was because it was preserving the culture, and although she sometimes felt discouraged when kids did not show up.. in the end "she kept going to preserve the culture for future generations". She was very happy and very grateful. I also learned that she was a former dancer for the Royal Palace back in her performing days - you can still see the grace and pride in her when she shares with visitors he meaning of the dance movements.
Every movement had a meaning - each signifying something in nature. The ages of the children (both boys and girls) ranged from age 3 to 20. 9 children were orphaned and were able to live at the center, and the most talented went on to become teaching assistants - a way to make a living and to break their cycles of poverty. Earlier in the day, I met 3 children that had attended the Apsara Arts Summer Program and benefitted from this project. They shared with me the song and dance they learned, and how they loved going.
The laughs of the kids were contagious (all had on traditional uniforms), and their focus was admirable. See HERE for a short clip of the training. Several of the youth who were part of the Kasumisou foundation support were present at the time (3 to be exact).
The funding is based on donor-support and highly dependent on it. Only 1 person managed this funding locally (Sithen), discussed increases or decreases with the Apsara director and staff, and provided accounting for the 2 main founders that visit every few months. Everyone were extremely welcoming to me, eager to share their experience with Kasumisou, and answer any questions I had. The common sentiment throughout the day was that all were so grateful for Kasumisou.
In the end, I was even was able to participate. I was dragged on stage even though I repeatedly oh-kooned (thank-you'd ) and declined, but to no avail.. up on stage I went and was guided with clear English 1,2,3’s throughout the entire dance (you can see me in one of the photos in the back with a green sweater)…
For more details and pictures about my visit please visit: JacquelineInTheField