Prom Raiy (above) is the oldest. He was a former hair dresser, but it wasn't an enough remunerative job for him. Now he is passing on his skills by teaching the others in here how to sew.
After few hours we need to leave and get back to our tuk tuk to visit another group of artisans based just outside Phnom Penh. They are the ones making all of the recycled tyre wallets and women bags. Before leaving we manage to get a group photo where everybody actually looks at the camera!
The journey to get to the other artisans is almost an hour so we decide to stop for a brief lunch for which we are also joined by our fun tuk tuk driver.
Rice is not missing as you can see!
We arrive at Sokha and Korng's house which is where they work. Korng is the main artisan and he taught his wife Sokha to sew and work with the tyres. She was previously working at a souvenir shop in Phnom Penh and that is where she learnt english. Korng doesn't speak english and he seems to enjoy his wife conversations with us by smiling from time to time. They show us our new designs that are now almost ready. We discuss some more details and then we just keep talking with Sokha whose stories and smiles makes us feel welcome and home away from home. But it comes the time to leave, it is another hour to drive back to Phnom Penh. Tomorrow we'll be meeting Chamroeun again.
(Alessia looking at the new bags)
(Sokha & Korng)
Our morning is free today before Chamroeun comes to pick us up in the early afternoon to go and choose some new fabrics for the bags.
We take it easy and go for lunch at Romdeng which serves local dishes, including the tarantula (well..subject to availability!). The most important thing about Romden is that it belongs to the Tree Alliance which is a social business with the ultimate goal of providing young people, many of them former street youth, with the skills they need to become employable in the thriving hospitality industry. So after a restoring lunch is time to go. Chamroeun brings us to a market where there are different shops selling fabrics. We settle for some new colours which will be also used for some of the wallets. We are not going to disclose here what colours would those be, but you can look at Marvi trying to choose carefully!
We say Chamroeun goodbye and thank him for being such a wonderful host in those two days.
Another day is gone, tomorrow we are meeting with the other producers group, Craftworks Cambodia, the one that makes our recycled bullet cases jewellery.
Vichet is the manager of Craftworks Cambodia, we meet him at their showroom 20 minutes further south of the Russian Market, the most famous and touristic market in Phnom Penh. We arrive there in the early afternoon. Vichet greets us with a big smile and after a brief chat we all head to visit Chenla the artisan that together with his wife produces our jewellery.
(Craftworks Cambodia showroom)
Chenla leaves outside Phnom Penh, it is over an hour by tuk tuk and this time it feels like a really long drive. He also works from home where he has a little workshop. He and his wife greet us and invite us in. Chenla tells us a bit of his story. How he learnt to make jewellery thanks to an NGO that trained him when he was younger and gave him the skills to provide for himself and for his family. Chenla is 39 years old now and he has two daughters. He is Christian and the only one of his faith leaving in his area. Every Sunday he and his wife prepare lunch for the kids that live in their neighbourhood. His dream, he tells us, is to earn more money so that he can build a bigger workshop and teach his skills to others and give them a better future, like the NGO has done for him before.
Chenla is a very smiley and positive person with a strong can do attitude. Alessia shows him the new designs she has in mind, while outside a chickens fight takes place.
It's late in the afternoon now and we need to head back. We are very grateful to Chenla and his wife for their kind hospitality and the much appreciated bottles of water they gave us for our journey back.
We jump again on our tuk tuk while waving goodbye.
(From left to right: Vichet, well you know..Marvi, Chenla and his wife)
On our way back, we get stuck in traffic. We pass in front of the garment factories and the shifts are finishing. It is peak time. There are loads of trucks carrying the workers. Their salary improved slightly since the last time we came, but there is still a lot of work to do. They travel up to three hours everyday each way to go and come back from the factories and most of them work seven days out of seven to make enough money to survive. We are told that they also pay for the trucks to bring them to and from work around $40, a third of their monthly salary.
(A shot of one of the trucks passing by our tuk tuk)
It is our last day here in Phnom Penh and before we leave we decide to visit another project that employs artisans with disabilities. It is a local social enterprise that is called Watthan and is by the temple that goes by the same name. Watthan was set up in 2004 and managed to train and provide work to many, including Chamroeun who was once working for them and now is collaborating with them.
We get to see the workshop and look at the wonderful textile that is handwoven in the Takeo Province, south of Cambodia, with which they produce bags and accessories.
This is all very inspiring and what made us fall in love with Cambodia. People's resilience, their will to build a better future for them and for others. It is all a life lesson for us.
(Watthan Artisans Cambodia workshop)
After our visit, we get back to the hotel to prepare our suitcases. It is time to leave Cambodia until next time. We had a wonderful time, we have learnt more about the people that make our products and we hope that with us you did too.