The tuk-tuk, freshly loaded with 200 notebooks, 300 pens, and 7 maps, rolled off the ferry and onto Silk Island, destined for the village of Prok Bongkong. Our trusty tuk-tuk driver, Sia, churned his sleigh up the dockside rubble, bouncing the huge box of notebooks with every bumpy pothole. The early morning sun lifted the fog from the expanse of farms along the riverbank. The morning salutations from the local children as the tuk-tuk passed created big smiles as we breathed in the anticipation.
We were greeted by the Heng Family with a breakfast of fresh mangos and young coconuts. It was not long before Naysim, Naychheng, Barrie, our videographer, and myself were taking the short ride to the Preah Takov Primary School. This was our fourth donation to the community of which the Cambodian Threads silk artisans live. It was really positive seeing the reactions from the students and teachers as we rolled in; they remembered us and their eyes lit up. That day, Cambodian Thread’s targeted students were 4th-6th graders. The children quickly moved under the shade of the courtyard trees and, as their teachers orchestrated them into neat lines, their attention turned to what Naysim and the English teacher from America began to say. The message about the importance of education being a vehicle for empowerment and positive change was emphasized in simple terms, first in English and then translated in Khmer. Everyone could see how proud Naysim Heng was. Ms. Heng, standing in front of the very same school from once she attended, was radiating. Her family’s silk craft brought the community at large necessary school supplies, and she knew her effort was the foundation.
The donation went very smoothly and both the children and the teachers were very appreciative. After, we went back into the classrooms to give the world maps and play the “Find That Country” game. It was another fun rendition and everyone enjoyed it. We left the schoolyard as the lunch bell was struck. It was a successful round of donations!
We arrived back to the Heng home and relaxed with a coconut. I looked around and it really was apparent how much effort their craft requires. Mama was dyeing the new collection of raw silk. The younger daughter was spinning on the bicycle wheel while the Auntie was setting a new design on the looms. Soon Naysim, Naychheng, and the younger brother were all working together to set the loose silk threads using an elaborate method. This was taking place simultaneously as lunch was being prepared by Mama, Naychheng, and Money. They work as a family and live as a family; their bond is so strong that through their efforts, they can better themselves. They are not being broken up by modern domestic trends, nor are they forced to leave their home to the grim alternatives of factory working. The Heng family is able to sustain themselves through their art and empower their community in the process; they are admirable.
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