Women's International Group Christmas Sale

Yesterday was the annual Christmas sale at the Intercontinental organized by the Women’s International Group. It’s an event all small shops and sellers want to get into and unfortunately we didn’t hear about the registration until it was too late. Luckily, a friend of a friend was generous enough to give up 1/4 of her table to us. It was a great chance to sell some products and meet with other vendors who are involved in similar social enterprise projects around Cambodia. Overall, I think we did quite well and had many, many positive comments about the project and, of course, the products. Children loved the monsters and one 2-year was besides herself with delight over her new Greta the Cat.I also met two knitters (!) who live in PP. I mentioned that CK will likely start a knitting group (S&B) and possibly lessons for newbies at a local cafe in the new year and they were both keen to get in on the action. We will knit the town in...

Rambo

Sorry for the lack of updates this past week, but things have been so busy I just haven’t had the time. Tomorrow is the annual Women’s International Group Christmas Bazaar at the Intercontinental Hotel and we’ve been frantically trying to prepare enough stock to sell. Two knitters from Toul Sambo, Vireak and Koun, joined us in the workshop for the week to help out. This was great not only because we needed the extra hands, but because it demonstrated to the trainers how far their students had come. I had been in contact with Hagar for a few weeks, trying to meet with them to and hire a couple of their students. Hagar is another local organization that uses the social enterprise approach to help women from difficult (often devastating) backgrounds get back on their feet. I met with two of their graduate students and hired them on the spot. They both have training in sewing and work experience in this area, but were keen to try working with knitted items instead. They won’t be doing any knitting, focusing on assembly instead. Finally, I have to write about the latest addition to what is a plethora of massage options in Phnom Penh. One of the greatest things about living here is the availability of cheap, amazing massage. The options are almost limitless. You can go to a fancy spa on the riverside and have a 25$ Swedish massage, go to an arty French-run spa for an Indian head massage for 10$ or, one of my favourites, pay only 5$ for an incredible, stress releasing accupressure massage at Seeing Hands...

Graduation

Yesterday we had a very informal graduation ceremony to give the TS knitters certificates of participation as well as the completion bonuses from sponsors. Mony gave each knitter a grade based on how well they knit, attendance and attitude and this was marked on their certificates. I also finally had a translator with me, so I’ll be able to send out more info on your knitter to all sponsors this weekend. We had planned on having a small party to celebrate the end of the training, but unfortunately, we received terrible news just as we were leaving town: the community where Tyna and Rofi live was ablaze. They quickly returned home to check on their families. We were too worried to stay at Toul Sambo too long and returned as soon as we could in case there was anything we could or needed to do. The blaze, which went on for most of the morning, destroyed over 200 homes, most of them being wooden. Everyone from CK was lucky, though, and their homes were spared. The houses next door to Rony, who now works from home, was burned down, but hers was not....

Welcome, 18 new knitters

Yesterday was our last day of training at Toul Sambo. That’s a total of 15 training days spread out over a month and the results are fantastic! Today I went back to the community with Mony to talk to each of the knitters (I finally have a competent translator) and they were all pleased with the training and what they had accomplished. Several of them said they really enjoyed the training because it gave them a chance to sit together in a relaxed atmosphere and talk while learning. Others were, of course, looking forward to earning an income. The very good news is that Mony accepted over 60 finger puppets that had been knitted during the training. There are more still to be collected but they had not yet been mattress stitched together. Knitters at Toul Sambo will do all the knitting and stitching minus stuffing the head, putting on the eyes and attaching the head to the body. That will be done at the head office for consistency. About 5 of the knitters are still not confident with mattress stitch and Mony, Tyna and Rofi are going back out on Monday for a day of training on this. On Thursday we’ll give each knitter a certificate of completion and have a small party to celebrate the hard work of all the...

100 hundred hats

Sorry for the lack of updates. More to come soon, I promise. I’m flat out busy with everything here, but soon… In place of any local news, I direct your attention to this: http://onehundredhats.blogspot.com/ . It’s one woman’s quest to knit 100 hundred hats in one year, all to be donated to charity. Her hats are all beautiful and knit with love for those who could use a little extra warmth in the...

Finger Puppets for Christmas

With the training coming to a close at Toul Sambo next week and about half the knitters there ready to start knitting for us, we’re ready to take orders for finger puppets! These will make great Christmas, or any occasion, gifts for kids and adults alike. One friend even suggested that they might make good USB drive cozies! The way to order is to send me an email and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice for the total amount, including shipping. Once we’ve received payment, we’ll prepare and ship your order asap. If you are in Canada, however, and can wait until December, I can ship the puppets to you from Canada at lower cost that shipping from Cambodia. If you’re in the GTA we can even get them to you directly. Just send me an email and we’ll discuss the options. Have a look at the order form below (click on the picture to see it in full size).There are three options for shipping as follows: Regular mail via Cambodia Post: This is the cheapest option, but the slowest. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to get to you. Express Mail Service (EMS): This is much faster but more pricey. Package will arrive within 1 week depending on where you are. TNT: The fastest and best service similar to FedEx or UPS. You get a tracking code and you can follow your package all the way to your door through their online tracking service. Package arrives in 3-4 days. Prices are listed below for orders of 1, 2 and 3 or 4 sets of...

Knititng patterns for everyone

As I wrote earlier, many of the knitters can not read or write. Interestingly, all the male knitters can read, while only a few of the women can. This is a reflection of how wider Cambodian society values women and education. Many, including professionals and those at the Ministry of Education, are quick to say that poor people do not value education and that this is the reason why so few send their children to school or support them past primary level. Others, who’ve worked with poor communities and in the education sector, know that this is simply not true. Poor people value education very highly and are eager to send their children, all of them, to school. They both understand and value what it can mean for their future to have educated children. However, informal and unofficial costs are prohibitive for the poorest of the poor and they simply don’t have enough money to send them to school. Unfortunately, girls are the ones that get less chances in poor families. If a family can send a child to school, and only one out of a handful, that chance will usually go to a boy. Not because boys are thought to be smarter, but because girls help more at home. They wake up earlier, do more chores and go to bed later. They do the housework, cooking, fetch the water, they feed the animals and take care of the younger children. Why send a girl to school when she has so much to do at home? So this is why most of the female knitters can not read. One...

First puppets from Toul Sambo

Yesterday, the trainers went out to the community armed with plastic eyes, tapestry needles and coloured thread. Each knitter got to make up one or more of their finished puppets to keep for themselves or their children. I went this morning and some of them were wonderful! See photos below: Finally for Lena: your knitter, Touch Chayron with her first monkey. Ven Thy and Chan Thyda. Soy Srey Neang. Sin Soeun and Noun Soka. Krouch Koun, and the best monkey of the lot. Our champion knitter, Ven Vireak. All this is very good as we have a handful of orders for Christmas and will need more knitters soon. Hopefully, we get more orders to we can keep purchasing from the TS knitters and keep them working. I got some of our smaller items into Baitong Restaurant yesterday. They support several other NGOs and social enterprises and have a small shop area at the front of the restaurant to display items such as honey from Mondulkiri, baskets from Battambang and pepper from Kampot. All good projects, all providing jobs. Oh, and the website looks better organized (www.cambodiaknits.com) but the links are still AWOL and I want to put more information on it over the coming week. I also hope our graphic design guardian angel in Amsterdam gives us some...

Website Drama

Deep sigh. Of frustration, not relief. We decided a few days ago we need to get he website up and running. Only been thinking about that for months, but of course, there is always something else that needs to be done… Yeng and I thought that if I did a nice layout in Pages it would easily export to HTML and make a nice start to a website. If only life were so easy. The layout went completely wonk, no links, pictures too small, just all wrong! Why is this so complicated and frustrating!? This is what it should, and hopefully soon will, look...

5 days can equal 7 days if you want it to

A story of misunderstood logic, if you can call it that. So this morning, Bunda came to the house and gave us an envelope with an announcement of the 7 days ceremony for her aunt’s death. She had spent all of Thursday night last week taking care of her aunt, so I assumed that the aunt had then, unfortunately passed away on Friday, later in the day. Bunda had been really tired and fell into a deep sleep and we sent her home to get some rest. So when I saw the 7 day ceremony flyer, I assumed that the ceremony must be this coming Friday or later since, clearly, her aunt was still alive this time last week, until at least Friday. We were given the flyer as a way to ask for a contribution, which is normal and fine. I was just saying to Yeng that we should give Bunda Friday off and wondered how much cash we needed to give her. He then told me that the 7 day ceremony had been today. I scratched my head, confused. “But Bunda was taking care of her aunt on Thursday night…” I say.“Yes,” husband replies.“So she was alive 7 days ago?” I continue.“Yes. She died on Friday,” the reply“Um, so shouldn’t the 7 day ceremony be on Friday then,” say I, utterly dumbfounded. And then, “they can choose when to hold the 7 day ceremony.” It was one of those I-don’t-know-how-to-even-start-to-respond-to-that moments… Why call it a 7 day ceremony if it doesn’t actually have to be 7 days after. Why a 7 day ceremony if it canbe 4...