THE HENG FAMILY - NOV 2009
Over the past few months I have been going back to Prek Bongkong and visiting the Heng Family a half dozen times. It’s a pleasure for me to get away from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and enjoy the simple country life on the island village. I feel rejuvenated as the ferry crosses the Mekong River and I start seeing the lush farms filled with vegetables and tropical fruits. When I drive up to the Heng Family’s home, they welcome me with such enthusiasm and hospitality. Therefore, when I get an opportunity to get to Prek Bongkong, I go.
The Heng’s silk weaving and production is truly incredible. They are artists and each scarf they create has been manipulated from raw threads into a masterpiece. Sometimes, I just sit back and meditate on how swiftly their hands grace the antique wooden tools through the tapestry of shimmering silk strung atop the broad looms; it makes me appreciate each finished scarf that much more.
In August, I placed my first custom order of scarves. Although it was tricky conveying the exact color patterns and length which is desired, they were patient and accommodating to the selection. They usually make scarves 160 centimeters long. Based on preference, I wanted the artists to make extra long scarves which could be wrapped comfortably and in many different styles. Thus, they graciously accepted the request to make scarves which were 200 cm in length.
At the end of September, Naysim Heng called me with the good news that the first batch of scarves was ready. I remember looking through the bundle and feeling an overwhelming sense of success. It had taken me quite some time from my initial search in the local markets, where I was confronted with only frustration and failure because of the lack of hand-made products and the surplus of Chinese and Vietnamese machine woven junk, to finding the loving Heng Family who made scarves which are amazing hand-made pieces of art. The thing that really got to me that day is the way that the family members were so overjoyed as they accepted the money to compensate for their art work. Naysim’s eyes wide held her hands out to take the few hundred dollars and said, “Thank you, sir. With this money, we will be very happy this month.” The soft few words were deafening.
I drove through the countryside village of Prek Bongkong after the scarves were securely fastened onto my moto-bike. I looked across the rice paddies to find children playing on the risen mud paths. They looked so happy and innocent taking dried rice stock and slashing it down on the dirt as they hopped along in unison. They soon came closer to the road from where I was parked and one after another yelled a big, “Hello!” It was probably the only English they knew and they did it with much laughter. I smiled and greeted them reciprocally. I thought to myself what potential they had to be that guiding force for Cambodia’s future; then it hit me hard that these children don’t have near the amount of access to opportunities as my peers and I were fortunate enough to be offered in the US. I wanted to help them in some way. I had a great desire to help foster their growth, and it struck me, what better way than educational material.
I went back to Phnom Penh with a greater sense of awareness and excitement for the next steps of the Cambodian Threads project: 1) send the hand-made, fair-trade silk scarves back to the states, 2) give back to the disadvantaged village from where the scarves are being made, and 3) continue my efforts with the Heng Family and help them economically with their artwork.
BUY NOW AT WWW.CAMBODIANTHREADS.COM