At many of our events, we have collected donations of unwanted craft supplies that are sent to Cambodia to be used by my friend Sally at Human and Hope Association with their children's programs. Today we have a guest post from Sally, talking about their very successful sewing program.
Breaking Down Barriers to Sew
When Saney was in her early 20’s, she dreamed of being a seamstress. However, for someone living in poverty and only having enough food to eat twice a day, this dream was out of reach for her. Fast forward to when she was 28 years old, Saney’s neighbour told her about a new sewing program at an NGO she had just graduated from. Eager to study, Saney asked her husband for permission. He said no. She asked again. He said no. She continued to persist until her husband eventually agreed for her to study in the year long sewing program at Human and Hope Association in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Saney’s story is not unique. A big challenge we face in recruiting students into our sewing program at Human and Hope Association is their families. Coming from families classified as the ‘poorest of the poor’, our students’ relatives (and also the students themselves) often don’t understand the benefits of education. It is a hard concept to grasp, that studying for a year will enable them to gain a skill that can move them out of poverty when all but one of our sewing students never even finished primary school. Our students’ families see the program as a waste of time, especially when they need money immediately to pay for basic living costs.
This is where our daily stipend comes in. We provide our students with 1kg of rice a day in return for them studying with us three hours a day, five days a week. Our sewing students also have a patch of land at Human and Hope Association which they are responsible for taking care of. We assist them by teaching them chemical-free farming techniques (unusual for Cambodia) and when the vegetables are ready they receive them instead of rice. Fully involving our students in our program, from feedback sessions to life skills workshops to bringing back successful sewing graduates is what is needed to engage them and retain them in our program. I am not going to lie; it is tough going. We have lost very promising sewing students due to the pull their families have over them, the need to move to Thailand to earn an income (as they see this as the only option) or health issues.
However, our team don’t give up. This is because we have seen first hand how our sewing program transforms lives. The students who complete our program have increased confidence, the ability to earn an income through machines they borrow through our microfinance program and a better understanding of how to overcome personal issues they are bound to face.
Our most outstanding students are chosen to be our seamstresses and make products for us, earning a fair wage and also reaping the benefits of employment with Human and Hope Association, such as constant development, even after they graduate. Their confidence continues to increase as they learn how to make new products, apply their creative flair to existing products and see the photos of happy customers who buy their work.
It is a long journey these marginalised villagers face, but with our support and their commitment, they will reach their end destination; moving out of the poverty bracket and ensuring a better future for their children.
To purchase Human and Hope Association’s products please visit our online store. All income supports the payment of fair wages to our seamstresses and funds our education, vocational training and community support projects.
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