This Cambodian Circus Helps Kids out of Poverty

Running away to join the circus is dream many kids have. In Cambodia joining the circus can be the best thing a kid can do, and they don’t need to run away to join the fun. Phare Ponleu Selpak is the circus program, after similar in style to Cirque du Soleil, for youth and functions in two Cambodian cities, Battambang and Siem Reap. What makes this Cambodian approach unique is the attachment to education beyond the circus. Youth who participate in the program get a full education alongside their circus training.

I’ve been to their performance at their school in Battambang, and trust me, it’s really really impressive!

“Cambodian youth are transforming their lives through art, breaking the cycle of poverty,” says Khuon Chanreaksmey. “They are discovering their own talents and realising that with hard work and opportunity anything in life is possible. The salaries they earn performing in the circus help support themselves and their families. Today’s artists are paving the way for the younger generations.”

Phare has fired imaginations around the world on its overseas tours. “Phare is amazing – its performers are so talented, especially since most of them are kids coming from the street, and obviously there’s a lot of hard work and creativity behind the scenes,” says Ravindra Ngo, chairman of the Hong Kong-based Cambodian Society, a non-profit organisation that promotes the country’s art and culture.

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The Cambodian Forest Protectors Risking COVID-19

Forest

Deforestation in Cambodia increased dramatically this millennium due to multinational corporations exploiting the country’s natural wealth. Obviously, this removal of trees has bothered people and damages entire ecosystems. As a reaction to the destruction in their area the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) launched to police the it local forests. They document and report on illegal logging operations and expose the activity to authorities and other non-governmental organizations.

The work they have done is great, and now with COVID-19 it’s more important than ever before. Cambodia has cut back on their enforcement of environmental laws (like the USA) which has led to an increase in illegal logging that the PLCN is trying to hold back.

The PLCN continues their fight despite the increased workload and risk from COVID-19.

Established in 2000, the PLCN has a core of about a dozen full-time activists across the four provinces spanned by the 432,000-hectare forest, and about 600 “volunteer” members.

Patrollers – many from indigenous groups that live in and around the forest – use GPS technology and a purpose-built smartphone app to log tree stumps, new roads and logging camps.

Their data is paired with publicly available satellite imagery – that has shown deforestation, timber stockpiles and sawmills – and is published periodically with researchers from the University of Copenhagen.

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Good Coffee for Good Causes

coffee

A coffee chain in Cambodia is more than just another place to get an espresso. Feel Good Coffee is a social enterprise that runs cafes and sells coffee wholesale to improve the lives of the average Cambodian. One of the really neat things they do is train their staff to basically get jobs elsewhere, the company gets better trained employees while those employees are free to apply elsewhere with increased skills like management or customer service. Employees are paid a living wage for serving good coffee and pastries, if you’re in Cambodia you should pay them a visit.

In our business, empowerment means giving people meaningful options an the power to transform their choices into actions and desired outcomes.
For our farmer-suppliers, this means theyset the price for their own coffee, using their knowledge to grow and process their coffee without interference, we respect their autonomy and treat them as equal partners in our business, and help them to access tools and training about new processes and technologies that can make their farms more sustainable and profitable.

For our employees, it means sharing information, rewards, and power with our entire staff so that they can take initiative and make decisions, solve problems, and improve performance and service, and direct their own career path.

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Clean Water from a “Hamster Ball”

Clean water is hard to access in a lot of places around the world. Sometimes water is accessible but not potable, this problem inspired a graduate student to create an easy to use way to purify water using something similar to a hamster ball.

Liow’s design was driven by a need to help the 900 million people around the world who lack access to safe drinking water. Over two million children die annually from preventable causes, triggered largely by contaminated water. It is an increasing problem in developing nations due to rapid urbanisation and population growth.

‘After visiting Cambodia in 2008, and seeing the immense lack of everyday products we take for granted, I was inspired to use my design skills to help others,’ Mr Liow said.

Mr Liow’s simple but effective design is user-friendly and durable, with a weather-resistant construction, making it well suited to people in hot, wet, tropical climates with limited access to resources.

Read the rest of the press release.

Weapons Make for Neat Looking Furniture

peace chair
In Cambodia, some weapons are being turned into furniture. I like this idea of repurposing old machines of death into useful things for everyday use. It’s a great sign of human creativity. Although I do wonder how comfortable that chair is.
Don’t forget that there is always coffee machines made from old weapon casings.

After more than 30 years of civil war, ending in 1998, the Cambodian gouvernment destroyed 125,000 weapons across the country. In this time (name withheld by request), a small arms specialist with the European Union, and British artist (a different name withheld) saw an opportunity, and decided to create The Peace Art Project Cambodia (PAPC) in November 2003. The Peace Art Project Cambodia was a sculpture project turning weapons into art as expressions of peace.

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