» Artisans' Success Stories

Artisans' Success Stories

At the Artisans’ Association of Cambodia (AAC), we keep on focusing on the people behind the products. All together, AAC members are improving thousands of lives with a wide range of employment opportunities. When you deal with Fair Trade principles, the most important thing to remember is the people with whom you achieve social changes. Find out some of the greatest artisans' success stories:

 


Chhoy Naret - 41 years old - Fashion and Jewerly designer, brand entrepreneur and seamstress
From Genevieve's Fair Trade Village


 

Naret had to go through difficult life experiences because of her disabilities. From her very young age, she struggled to find a place in her family. In Cambodia, most of the people think that disabled people are unabled to do things like the others. They are considered worthless and useless. Since her parents outcasted her, she had to live with her uncle, who died when she was 15.

"The word "disabled" was thrown in my face every single day." This is what made her fight. So, she devoted her life proving to these people that they were wrong. 

At the time, she had to work really hard to make ends meet. Her passion was sewing. However, it took her a long time to have enough money to take sewing classes. 

"I had one goal: to buy own sewing machine. It became a dream, and it helped me to fight." 

When she started working at Genevieve's Fair Trade Village, she considered every remark people could make on her work. People kept telling her: "You can do it, you can sew. Your work is beautiful !" The judgments from the past and today's appreciations are giving her the will to keep on improving her work. 

Recently, Naret launched her own brand called Nareth - Wear Your Elephant. The elephant is her spiritual animal. Part of her dream was also to earn money from her own shop. Now she sews every single day and her weaknesses became her strengths. She is really proud of who she has become. Now she is opening her business, and her dream is turning into a reality.  

"The elephant walks slowly with strength. So do I."

Her wish for the future is to help disabled people and share her knowledge in sewing. She wants to show the world that disabled people are actually abled people. "Where I come from, the disabled are not allowed to dream."



Nom Yaun - 39 years old - Seamstress
From Rehab Craft Cambodia

 

 

In a country where an estimated 3% of the population is disabled, Nom Yaun is reluctant to see herself as a victim. She used to be a dancer, until her life was turned upside down when she accidentally trod on a hidden landmine in the mountains of Kampot Province over 20 years ago. 

“After the accident, it was hard to work and hard to dance,” Yaun recalls. “Most of the time I just stayed inside the house.”

Yaun tried to make the best out of her situation. She started weaving baskets from home to sell them at the local market. But she remained frustrated, because of her inability to leave home and develop new skills that would help her earn an income to support the family.
She eventually decided to move to Phnom Penh to train as a sewer at one of the city’s many textile training centers. During her time at the center, she heard good reports about a small Cambodian NGO that was looking for seamstresses in order to extend its range of handmade products.

Yaun applied for the job at Rehab Craft Cambodia and it was a success, the first of many positive changes in her life.

“I know that life is much better for me now,” Yaun says. “I am not discriminated against here like I was when I stayed at home.” She has spent the past ten years developing her skills at Rehab Craft as a sewer and is now supervisor of the production team.



Pok Kosal - 32 years old - Wood carver 
From Watthan Artisans Cambodia

 



Pok Kosal grew up in the countryside in Kampot Province, he is from a farmer family in Samrong village. He went to primary school and completed the last grade (6), but then he stopped going to school.

" In 2000, I got sick, a bone disease paralyzed both my legs."  

At this point, he lost hope. He thought he would never settle down nor find a job, until that day, when some people from a NGO knocked at his door.

« The NGO offered me a wheelchair, and reassured me with their kind words, saying not to be sad and hopeless. » 

They also told Pok Kosal about vocational training, an opportunity to finally enter that world of work he thought was so inaccessible. Then, a teacher from one of those training centers introduced him to wood carving. First, he was not really enthusiastic about this job, but the teacher finally convinced him that it was suitable for him. So, he started the vocational training. In 2010, he completed the training and found a job immediately at Watthan Artisans Cambodia. He has been working there for seven years, so he is definitely loving his job. Carving at Watthan also allowed Pok Kosal to start a new life, from no ressources, he finally had the possibility to buy his own motorbike soon after his recruitment, he got married in 2014 and even bought a car.

« I am proud of my work ! »

 
 


Serey Kong*- 35 years old - Responsible for quality control
From Kamonohashi

Serey, started working for Kamonohashi since 2008. She is now working at the quality control desk.

Before working there, Serey used to be a housekeeper in Siem Reap. Since Kamonohashi firm is located 35 km away from the city, she was happy to work closer to her hometown, so she could take care of her mother and family. This job helped her to improve her everyday life because she has been learning a lot about general knowledge, like various skills related to sewing. She also feels more secure since getting a regular income every month. Something else changed her life: she has more confidence than ever. Indeed, she can make decisions by herself, has more responsability and life skills, and the most important part is she becomes independent and can entirely support her family.

Her next accomplishment would be a quality control manager in Kamonohashi. "I am considering buying a bigger house with the money I can put aside."  


*The name has been changed.

 


Keo Sarun - 22 years old - Weaver
From Stung Treng Women’s Development Center (SWDC) - Mekong Blue



 

When 22-year old Keo Sarun first began working at the Stung Treng Women’s Development Center (SWDC), she was not sure she would be staying for long.

“I found it very difficult as I had never done any work like this before,” Sarun recalls about her first 6-months working as a silk weaver at Stung Treng Women’s Development Center (SWDC) vocational training center in Stung Treng Province. “The silk kept breaking and I didn’t think I would complete my training and be given a job.” Five years since completing her training at the local humanitarian NGO, Sarun now excels at weaving, having recently been given the responsibility for training other weavers at the center.

“I love weaving and I love my job,” she exclaims. “I particularly enjoy having so many friends here. Before I had to work on my own and had very few friends, which was very hard.” Sarun’s situation has changed in many ways over the past five years. Before arriving at SWDC, she earned a meager income working in the rice fields during the rainy season and planting vegetables and catching fish during the dry season. She also lacked the confidence in herself that learning new skills, including English and IT, have given her.

But perhaps the most important thing about Sarun’s work is that she can now earn enough to help support her family, something that has always been a challenge for her parents and twelve brothers and sisters. Right now, there is very little that Sarun would want to change about her life. As she explains: “When I was working in the rice fields, I was always thinking about how I might get a job and earn enough for myself and for my family.”

“Since coming to SWDC, my dreams have finally come true”, she adds.

 


Theavy Kan - 37 years old - Executive director
From Smile for Hope

Theavy’s life path has never been easy and smooth. Coming from a disadvantaged family, she did not have a lot of professional opportunities to make a living. Regardless of the financial situation they were facing, Theavy never gave up ambitions. « I had the fighting chance to become the person I wanted to be. »  

She started working in collaboration with different NGOs who were supporting women’s empowerment. In early 2017, she launched her own organization called Smile for Hope. It gives a shelter to disabled people who are discriminated against, or to women who are willing to leave the sex industry. She is providing employment opportunities for these people. Smile for Hope is struggling since its recent creation. Theavy is working really hard in order to turn her social enterprise into a success.
"This is what makes me fight. At the end of the day, all I want is to guarantee a peaceful future to the people of my organization. » 

Sadly, Theavy is seeing her childhood friends facing difficult financial situations and compromised health. Quite a few of them are weakened by HIV. In the neighborhood where she grew up, she is the rare exception of being successful in her life. « As I’ve experienced it myself, I know how hard it is to break free from the vicious circle of poverty."  



Chantha Thoeun - 36 years old - General manager 
From Angkor Bullet Jewellery


 

Chantha has experienced a traumatic childhood, since he saw both of his parents die during the Khmer Rouge period. Orphan at the age of 8, he was extremely vulnerable. Despite the tragical events of his childhood, Chantha remained positive. Thanks to the help of an orphanage center, Chantha could go to school and had a vocationnal trainning to become a jeweler. 


Chantha has spent over 10 years working for NGOs in Phnom Penh. In 2011, he made it to launch his own business, Angkor Bullet Jewellery. With a team of home based artisans, the organization is recycling bullet and transform them into jewellery.
 
"I am further inspired today from the wellbeing of my family and this motivates me to help and support others in my community."
 
His job has turned his will into a reality: get inspired from the atrocity of the past in order to build a prosperous future in Cambodia. 
 
"I want to turn something negative that was used to kill millions of Khmer people, including my dad, into something of beauty, hope, strength and endurance. From war to peace !"