Thursday, August 04, 2011

Crafty Cambodia: The Travel Adventures of Jess

Greetings from The Kingdom of Cambodia! I know you all have been missing me pretty hard back in Denver, so I’m checking in! I am currently spreading crafty joy throughout Southeast Asia and I want to share my latest adventure.

Us and the kids
I spent the last 10 days volunteering at an NGO orphanage/school outside of Phnom Penh. Save Poor Children Of Asia Organization, (SCAO), offers an alternative to children who's families can no longer afford to have them live at home. Currently there are 17 children living at the center. The main focus of the organization is to help decrease the poverty levels in the countryside of Cambodia by education. The kids that live at the center, as well as about 300 local kids from the surrounding villages, attend the 4 free English classes offered Monday thru Saturday. A few of the kids come to more than one class a day. Volunteers mainly teach the English classes. My boyfriend and I both taught English everyday, but I had the joy of teaching my very own sewing class every afternoon to the kids at the center. 

The machines
When I first arrived and walked by their sewing room while a class was going on, my heart just about melted. I have wanted to teach sewing/crochet this whole trip and now I get to! For 10 whole days! The items made in the sewing class are sold to volunteers who come through the center, and they sell a bunch!! So I came up with a few ideas that traveling volunteers might be interested in, and we got started ASAP. 

Our sewing hut
The sewing room was in a little hut with a tin roof and 3 sewing machines to work with. And every one, a treadle machine! It was my first time getting to work with treadle machines...let me tell you, they take some getting used to. Usually I might call myself a wizard being able to fix any problem that might come up while sewing, but not on these bad boys. They have weird wires and knobs that I wouldn't know which way to twist or pull. I needed a lesson how to thread it properly, especially having the bobbin hidden under the machine. When I arrived, one of the volunteers' mothers was in town and jump started some great craft projects for the kids. The first couple days we made notebook covers and cute little purses to sell at the center. My star student was Lim, she was eager to learn the next project.

Srey Lim and Srey Jan

I decided that it was not only necessary to know sewing on a machine, but hand sewing! Hand sewing is such a great craft to learn, and its fun. Immediately I contacted Fancy Tiger, and the next day we were to make our own little Edmond the Owl.

Srey Lim learning blanket stitch

Now, you have to picture myself, and a few teenage Cambodian chicas, in a hot tin hut (about 110 degrees), scrummaging through their craft supplies for the perfect pieces to make little Edmond. There is no Fancy Tiger Crafts around these parts so we had to make due with what we had. We did however find some solid colored cotton fabric, enough scraps of fabric for the stuffing, a sewing needle, and luckily I had some left over embroidery floss. I taught the girls the blanket stitch and they were so excited (and good at it). When the boys caught wind of the owl making, I must have had 6-7 kids around the center making these little guys. They very much enjoyed embroidery, many of them wanted to write their names or SCAO on the stomach of the owl. SO CUTE!
He decided to embroider SCAO with an arrow pointing to it surrounded with hearts
So, as many of you may know, I am what some may call a hook master. I LOVE crochet. I might bleed yarn that’s how hard I love it. I was eager to teach the kids some crochet. In Cambodia, there were bracelets being sold EVERYWHERE. I thought it would be nice to teach them how to make them. Mrs. Samith (the owner of SCAO's wife) and I headed to the local market to seek out crochet hooks and yarn. Crochet hooks that are available in other countries are a 100th of the size of ones we use on a regular basis in America. We got back from the market and I was immediately swarmed with kids ready to learn. Unfortunately we only had 3 hooks! I taught Mrs. Samith and 2 of the girls right away and they were…hooked ;) I think I must have taught crochet for about 6 hours that day. Everyday following, there was another kid who would come up to me and want to learn. I taught them a simple chain stitch and making them into bracelets was such an adorable idea! Especially for the little kids to accomplish a project after just learning. Needless to say my arms are flooded with bracelets! And my heart, filled with joy.

Srey Hoy, Srey Jan, and Nita learning crochet

Happy Srey Lat
The next project would be cute little camera cases. I love mine, and I know other travelers would pick them up in a heartbeat. I taught Lim a very simple way for having finished seams (thanks to sewing 101!) and she was excited because the project was easy to learn and well put together. We had to make due with the supplies they had in the sewing room; a rusty pair of scissors, a tape measure (no ruler), a table with a small space for cutting and one bag of fabric. Surprisingly it got us pretty far. It was difficult for the kids with small hands to do the cutting with over-sized rusty scissors. Measuring and cutting was a lesson of its own. As far as the buttonhole, since working on treadle machines, we hand stitched them. One of the girls has been fixing clothes for everyone at the center for years and she taught me a new stitch! It looks so perfect and…"button holey".

Lim, sewing master
The sewing classes were so rewarding, not only for them, but for me as well. Learning how to sew is something they can take with them into adult life. Especially in Cambodia where there is a huge market for handmade items. 

Check out those scissors
Sharing is caring!

I had such an incredible time getting to know everyone at SCAO and being able to spread my love of craft to them. If you would like more info on SCAO check out their website, or fly to Phnom Penh and teach them your favorite craft!!

Love love! 


Lauren said...

I think my heart is going to explode.

Sewing Geek said...

What Lauren said. :)

rocketlettuce said...

the URL is actually what a wonderful opportunity for you and for those lovely kids!

Chatti said...

Jess you brat! Why didn't you tell me you were here. I would have taken you out in Phnom Penh! So happy you came and enjoyed it! Come visit again when I'm here! Missing the fancy tiger family!

Jeanne Lois said...

Chatti!!! I didn't know you were in PP! I would have totally gotten a hold of you!!! I'll be back don't you worry <3