Chou Maily, 14 years old when I met him at CCPP, painted with so much love and so much dedication, that those qualities radiated out of his handsome face. I was invited to his family home for an interview during my stay and there I was awed to see evidence of his passion adorning the walls of their humble and lovely home.
I must apologize for the delay in posting as I attended a most inspiring event in Denmark for the last week about a template of peace for world youth. I will be posting the past due entries back to back in the next few days to catch up with that as well as with comments
Thank you so much for continuing to comment and view the blog during my intermittent presence.
photo: a little girl in Sihanoukville who is attending the program of the CCPP (Cambodian children’s painting project). I watched her for days as she painted so elegantly and with so much quiet concentration. It was a delightful scene to witness. Projects like this offer such a great opportunity for children to find a better future through art. What a great example for an ‘art that does something’!
It is a great wonder how we humans who live on this planet can look so different. We belong to different races, these races or tribes have different skin color, body shapes, average heights, eye color, face shape, voice, hair, strength… and the list goes on. But something that unites us all is what comes in and out of the eyes no matter what color or shape they are. It has been said that all creatures that have eyes possess a soul. Maybe that which lives inside each of us that we cannot see is using our eyes to communicate and to see. When someone wants you to be honest with them, they ask you to look them straight in the eyes, because the eyes, or what looks through the eyes, is not able to lie. The truth of us, of who we are and of what lives inside us has the eyes for its gateway. If electrical impressions can come in to the eyes, then it would suggest that they can come out in the same way. So much mystery lives in our very own human design…
photo taken: a little girl learning to draw faces at CCPP in Sihanoukville.
In Sihanoukville there is a bright and wonderful project growing that brings hope and a better future for hundreds of children. The Cambodian Children’s Painting Project enrolls children in a program where their local staff and volunteers instruct them daily in painting, arts, and basic learning and help them to sell their artwork in order to have a better life away from the streets. I had the great chance to spend a few days with the children and staff of ccpp where my face hurt from the constant smiling, because being around such a bright endeavor, the only thing you can really do is smile. Happy children, joyful and caring instructors, warm volunteers, beautiful art, just a wonderful environment!
photo taken: Children during an english class at CCPP in Sihanoukville.
Every single place I have been to around the world has shown me that the local people are the tarot of that place. They are the ones who process its energies, who live with the angels of that land and who give expression to its unseen worlds.
Whatever mystery and beauty radiates out of Cambodia is clearly seen twinkling in the eyes of its people, especially the children. It is their warm smiles that stay with you and make you dream of going back. Yes, it is a beauty that goes much beyond the physical surface, and their bright eyes are just gateways to a whole other world awaiting to be discovered.
photo taken: girl at the CCPP center in Sihanoukville, a fantastic project aiding Cambodian children to make a future through art. I encourage you to explore their website and their inspiring work. I will be posting quite a few photos from there this month.
Photographs are funny things. They can capture the state that you and your subject were in when you clicked the photo, and each time you look at it again, you are magically transported to that moment and it all returns, the smells, the weather, the sounds, the colors, and your emotional state at that time.
This photograph was during my last day with the children at CCPP ( The Cambodia Children’s Painting Project) in Sihanoukville. It was very hot and very humid like every other day I experienced there. I remember thinking that it is going to be so difficult to leave this place. The smiles, giggles and joy of the children were so contagious and so attractive to be with.
But on that day, this boy caught my attention in such a different way. He was not painting, not laughing, not smiling and not even remotely aware of the camera or me as I photographed him for at least 5 minutes. He seemed so engrossed in his thoughts, thoughts that were perhaps too much for him to handle. I wondered for a long time and remained haunted by his look, by his state. He seemed to be locked in his own bubble of sadness.
I so wished I had magic dust, a wand, a circus, or anything that would take away his pain.
Children are meant to be protected, cared for, shielded from pain, allowed to be children. Whenever I see a child having to meet the pains of adulthood it tears me apart. I always think of my child and how I would do anything in the world to protect her from hurtful experiences. Doesn’t every child deserve the same parental shielding? Aren’t children coded with the potential of our future? It is so crucial that we help them, that we allow them to become who they are meant to be. I am always so grateful and in awe of people that I meet who dedicate their life, efforts and talents to help children in need.
Such a glory is found in the giving where a gift is needed. Such an honor it is to give respect and value to the potential of a child and to be an instrument in unlocking it. And whatever this child is doing now, I hope he is smiling and being a child.
Sombath Srey Toch is a 13 year old girl who has been coming to the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project for two years. Srey Toch never smiled when she first started coming and she had no good reason to. Her mother died leaving her and her brother to the care or rather abuse of an older father who drinks heavily, is unemployed after a job related injury and beats Srey Toch and her brother regularly.
She also lost her front teeth and therefore was very shy to show her smile.
As part of what CCPP does, Srey Toch received free dental work that fixed her front teeth. And a contract was made with the abusive father that promises him help with his home rent (and home is a one room and one bed that the whole family shares), and some weekly rice allowance if he refrains from hitting his children.
And of course the daily painting sessions bring a glowing smile to Srey Toch. Every time I saw her at the center she gave me one of these beaming smiles that should never have been hidden in the first place.
I just love it so much when I come across people in my life who do so much good, have so much dedication, offer so much service without realizing how much they do. Most of the time these people do not hear enough “thank you” or “wow” or “amazing”. They are so much into what they do and the love of it that they are content and satisfied to be in the doing.
And because of this selfless quality they grow and develop qualities and skills otherwise not easily attainable.
Such a person I met in Sandi Bassett. Sandi is the art manager at CCPP http://www.letuscreatecambodia.org and during the few days I spent around her and around the children artists of the CCPP, I was more and more amazed at how she handles, teaches and assists sometimes over 150 children at the same time.
I remember coaching in art camps myself and finding it a challenge to handle a few children at a time and that was only for a few weeks. Sandi has been doing this every day, all day for almost 2 years and plans on continuing to do so.
If you have ever been to Cambodia and felt the heat and humidity that people endure all year round, you would realize the enormity of such service. I was watching Sandi, who is a Canadian artist, coach these children so gently, keeping track of everyone’s progress never stopping or wavering her attention. Hugs were given in between, sharing of food, playful teasing, serious instruction, jokes and so much love throughout!
Sandi has children and a grand child in Canada that she says she misses so much and gets to see in the summer, but she has found her calling in this service of children who need her so much. Because of her service and the service of others in CCPP, these children get to gain confidence, earn decent money from their work, go to school, stay off the streets and beach, get medical care and most importantly feel loved.
Huge smile always on the ready, willingness, brightness, intelligence are a few of the qualities that emanate from Chab Chamreoun, also know as “James Brown” around the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project.
He was studying for 8 years at a wat (Cambodian Temple) near Sihanoukville. There he studied and received a degree in social work. Despite coming from a very poor background, he has hopes to continue and do his masters. ” My dream was to become an engineer, he told me, but I ended up only becoming a teacher”. He obviously loves what he does despite not becoming an engineer.
He was hired by the CCPP and is a figure of inspiration for the 160 children registered there.
I was so lucky to be able to visit some children’s homes today on the back of the motorcycle of Chamereoun. There we were on his motorbike with 10 year old Syvaren squeezed between us as we went to visit his family.
You are so lucky to meet one or two inspiring people in your life, but on this adventure “by art we live” I am meeting so many.
So many more stories to tell…
First photo is of Chamreoun, second photo is on the bike ride and the last photo is with Syvaren, his sisters and grandmother.