Village Based Enterprise
In early 2013, our team floated the idea us assisting some of the poor farmers in rural Cambodia. Essentially the poorest of the farmers are able to harvest one rice crop a year on their small family plots, and if that crop fails (frequently due to floods), they end-up with no food and no money. Many have to sell their land and end-up destitute, many others hire themselves out as labourers in horrible conditions, often on farms in Thailand.
So in late 2013, we set-up our Village-Based Enterprise - the idea was to teach villagers how to make something that will be sustainable and not reliant on the weather, or the land. We concluded that we would be able to tap into the Khmer heritage of carving in both stone and wood and hired a carving teacher.
Our first village was in Kandek Commune, about 20 minutes from Siem Reap and our classes started in early November 2013. Anyone is welcome to join in the program. We provide the teacher, as well as the carving tools and the materials (stone and wood) and once the carvings are ready, we undertake to buy all that the students can produce at a fair price, giving them not only on-going income, but also the incentive to be productive and increase their income.
Once the carvings are complete, we attach an information piece including a photo of the student carver and add a little bit about their lives. The finished products are displayed in Project Y and hotels around Siem Reap and sold with the entire wholesale value donated to our NGO, ultimately making this a self-sustaining project.
Our plans are to replicate our Village-Based Enterprise in another village as soon as our current carvers become proficient with their carvings. We see this as another way to breaking the poverty cycle through education. This project is designed for those who are poor, need a steady income and are motivated to help us help them to break the poverty cycle - this project is not for our School and University Sponsored Students.
Here are some of our carvers at our vocational training program. For most of them, this was a whole new skill, so they started with the basics - learning to draw. It takes on average 7 days to complete one statue, depending on the size and level of detail. They have learnt to carve Buddha Heads, Buddha Hands and Elephants.