Monday, September 28, 2009

Future Knitters

I wanted to post this since our visit to the community last week, but didn't have a chance until now.

On Friday Davy and I visited Toul Sambo again to have a short meeting with community members to tell them about Cambodia Knits training, working for CK, training dates and so on. When we arrived, Hope, a health organization (I have tried to look it up, but there are at least a dozen orgs with HOPE somewhere in their names) was there giving basic check-ups, distributing ARVs and holding a short meeting to pass on some health messages.

We introduced CK to everyone there. Some had met us the week before, but most people had been away for Pchum Ben so it was there first time to hear about the training and the possibility of working for us. I showed some of the completed monsters and they were very well received (lots of smiles from the kids). Everyone was very eager to give knitting a try, to see if they could learn how to make the funny creatures.

Surprisingly enough, there are several men who want to try as well! I had presumed that only women would be interested, as knitting is generally considered in the
feminine domain (not saying I agree, but really, that is the generalization) perhaps even more so in Cambodia. I had always imagined that the project would be about helping women in these communities, but if men want to join, I can't and won't have any objections. One of the men used to work as a motodup (motorbike taxi driver for those not savvy in the ways of Cambodia) before the relocation. The city is too far for him to travel to from Toul Sambo. He has five children to support on his own and if knitting for CK is going to help him do that, all the power to him!

Some potential points of conflict: another organization, a medium sized international NGO working on various projects around Cambodia, has talked to the community leader and the vice-governor about setting up handicrafts training in the community. Their support, however, will stop at training and not provide any access to markets. Also, the community leader, who encouraged the community members to accept the relocation and who currently lives in PP in an apartment given as thanks for these efforts, is drawing up a proposal to get funding to build a handicrafts center and 20 sewing machines. Ultimately it will be up to the community to decide which is the most advantageous and suitable for them.

That being said, the above two proposals are 'in the air' and no one is certain how or indeed if they will materialize. Its important, however, to be aware of the other things that are in motion in the community and be prepared for any possibility. Again, having the support of Davy, who knows the community well will be invaluable. In the next few weeks, we'll visit the community once a week (myself and three knitters/trainers) to introduce the first steps of knitting, find out who is willing to commit to the training, collect some basic information about each family and start to build relationships. Building relationships based on trust and respect is not something that many businesses aim for with their employees, but for a social enterprise, I don't see how we can have any hope of success without it.

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