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Volunteering in Phnom Penh

by becca on November 14, 2009

Nate and I spent the past 5 days doing a quick volunteering project with an NGO in Phnom Penh called Sak Saum. In Khmer (Cambodian language), Sak Saum means “dignity.” They provide a safe environment for women in Cambodia who have been or at risk of being trafficked through a one-year program that combines counseling, mentoring, skills training and education. The program teaches the women to sew and their products are sold in the United States. The income generated by selling the products enables Sak Saum to pay fair wages, provide job security to those in the program and allow for the sponsorship of more at-risk females.

To help with sales, we created a catalog to showcase their current line of products. We spent a day and a half photographing bags, pillows, aprons and table settings then another three days writing copy, designing and laying out a 20 page catalog. All of the products are named after people who have contributed to the program, and in the catalog you will find the Nathanael men’s apron and the Rebecca handbag. Nate’s mom connected us with Sak Saum. She helps out by selling bags in Baton Rouge and has sent designs over for inspiration. So, there’s also an Anne bag.

We had a great time hanging out with the girls in the program and Emily, the adminstrator of the program, who showed us around Phnom Penh and the surrounding areas for a truely unique view of the city. Sak Saum is part of a larger ministry called In His Steps that helps orphans, widows, and poor families in a province outside of Phnom Penh. We were lucky enough to be brought out to the province to meet some of the families and learn about the problems they are facing. We brought sticky rice treats, which the children seemed pleased about. We also got to watch the children at the community center rehearsing for a Christmas program. Everyone was so beautiful, even the poorest, the uneducation, the HIV/Aids infected. Everyone wore a smile and received us graciously.

The final catalog that we created for the Sak Saum 2010 Collection looked pretty good and it felt really satisfying to help out. Sak Saum is always looking for additional distribution channels in the states, and the things the girls make are high quality and quite hip. If you’re interested in buying or finding out what you can do to help, contact Ginny Hanson at eghanson (at) juno.com.

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