Monthly Archives: June 2012

Aware in Cambodia: Chumkriel Language School

While working to increase the skill set and ability of women in Kampot to earn a sustainable livelihood, I took some time out this week to visit the reason Dorsu exists.

 Not only does Dorsu offer women a safe, creative, and empowering place to work, it’s profits contribute to the operation costs of Chumkriel Language School (CLS). Spending time at the learning centre, meeting the staff, the students, and hearing about all the wonderful things they are doing blew me away.
CLS began in 2005 when Mr Nget Sothy (current director), a Khmer teacher recognised the need for language and life skills education in the community. CLS is located amongst rice farms in the Chumkriel village, in Kampot, Southern Cambodia. Many families in the region can only afford to send their children to school for two years, have trouble accessing water and hygiene, and lack viable transport options.
CLS is open to anybody who wants to learn, and on top of that offers scholarships to assist with attending and conducts bus runs to pick up children who live too far away to walk. I was able to see first hand the hygiene, agricultural and nutritional programs CLS has in place, took a tour of the library, activities room and computer lab, whilst listening to a very lively English class in the background. The work this locally run organisation is doing is really addressing the needs of those who, for various reasons, cannot access the conventional education system.
Profits from the sale of the crocheted products made as a result of Wool for Women will be going to CLS, and I’m happy to announce that we will be working with CLS in the future to provide resources and assistance in their arts and crafts activities. The first batch of craft supplies will be delivered this week!
If you are interested in supporting CLS or volunteering your time, more info can be found at and
Written by volunteer, Stacey
Categories: Cambodia, Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aware in Cambodia. Part III: Learning to crochet!

One week of Wool for Women crochet lessons down and the project is a huge hit.

Kunthear, Samorn, Socheat, Sothy, Saphorn, Srey tooich and Hanna have quickly picked up the skill and have gone from practicing granny squares to making broaches ready to sell in a matter of days.

Their Granny Squares will be hung up around Dorsu to display their achievements and brighten the place up, we have now built up stocks of adorable baby hats and cute flower broaches.

Everyone is getting involved, including “Lucky” the cat. Check out these photos from the week gone by:

Written by volunteer, Stacey

Categories: Cambodia, Projects, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aware in Cambodia. Part II: Dorsu

Sua s’dei from Kampot, Cambodia!

First, I just want to tell you how lovely the women at Dorsu are. We’re two days in to the Wool for Women project, and they have all made us feel at home. Plus they have taken to crocheting with enthusiasm.

Second, let me tell you about Dorsu and the women behind it. What is now a beautiful store one block back from the river in the relaxed town of Kampot was conceptualised in 2008 by a local seamstress Kunthear and traveling Australian volunteer Hanna. Volunteering at the Chumkriel Language School (CLS) and living in the Kampot community Hanna got to know Kunthear and her sewing skills. The business they created was based around selling clothes and gifts to tourists to raise money for Chumkriel Learning Centre (CLC), a safe and creative learning space for children. Hanna and Kunthear set up their sewing machine in the corner or the loud room and got to work. By 2009 they rented a small loft in town to allow customers to see their garments being made and then moved into a shop in 2010 where they were able to operate weeklong and grow their team.

Today, Dorsu employs six women and produces a range of dresses, bags, shirts, pants, skirts, shorts, and more. They offer passersby the opportunity to purchase local and handmade goods that have a positive impact on the community.

I encourage anyone traveling in the area to pop in, alternatively Aware has a range of their goods to sell in Melbourne which you can purchase at markets or contact us at to get more information on how you can help support this fantastic community!

For more info on Dorsu see

Written by volunteer, Stacey

Categories: Cambodia, Projects | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why focus on women?

seventy per cent of the world’s 1.3 billion people living on less than US$1 a day are women or girls.[1]

This is an unacceptable truth and a reason for Aware’s newest programme, Wool For Women. This art-based empowerment programme aims to train and work solely with women to create sustainable income through craft. Many aid and community development projects focus on women’s empowerment, so what is the value of working with women?

Investing in women and girls’ health, education, and livelihoods has a multiplier effect on poor communities around the world. In the long run, no Development project can succeed without a commitment to gender equality. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) # 3 is to ‘promote gender equality and empower women’. One of the best paths to accomplishing this goal is in the economic realm, because women and girls yield economic returns for society, which impacts families and the community as a whole.[2][3]

Women are the ‘poorest of the poor’, and the ‘third world woman’, because she cares for the children and maintains a traditional home, bears a greater burden of poverty and lack of mobility. A greater market orientation for women redistributes not only money, but also the fulfilment of basic needs and personal aspirations of her family and community. Through microfinance and capability training, letting women manage the money increases the likelihood that the entire household benefits. Whereas men are more likely to spend financial aid or income on personal livelihoods, women invest in food, education and medicine.

Women’s lack of participation in the economic sphere is a structural problem. According to the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), family codes, violence against women, civil liberties, ownership rights, and other social and cultural institutions limit the access of women to employment, inheritance and financial loans.[4] That is, ‘the ability of a woman to transform her life through access to financial services depends on many factors—some of them linked to her individual situation and abilities, and others dependent upon her environment and the status of women as a group’.[5] Women’s lack of control of capital is one facet of how the cycle of poverty and powerlessness replicates itself throughout generations.

Women in Cambodia have an immediate need for work and money, and a strategic need for equal rights. Aware is excited to take part in working towards both of these goals with the commencement of Wool for Women.

[1] The World Bank. 2012. Gender Equality as Smart Economics. Washington DC: The World Bank.
[2] United Nations. 2011. ‘Millennium Development Goals.’ Accessed 15 March 2011.
[3] The World Bank. 2012. Gender Equality as Smart Economics. Washington DC: The World Bank.
[4] Organisation for Economic Co-opeartion and Development (OECD). 2012. Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). Paris: OECD.
[5] Cheston, Susy, and Lisa Kuhn. 2001. Empowering Women through Microfinance. Research sponsored by the Women’s Opportunity Fund. UNIFEM.

Written by volunteer, Sara

Categories: Are you aware?, Cambodia, Projects | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Aware in Cambodia. Part 1: social enterprises

Two days in Cambodia and I’m already inspired and mesmerised by this place.

In case any of you are thinking about traveling here, I wanted to share with you some places I found that will help you engage in community development while you go about your holiday. Phnom penh is buzzing with social enterprises –  causes that use trade to fund social programs.

If you head to the Russian market, Psar Tuol Tom Pong, a number of stores around the market boast fair-trade or ethical products. Among them is Nyemo which helps disadvantaged women return to work. Rajana which supports 130 producer groups through the principles of fair-trade. Alongside Rajana is Cafe Yejj, although its quite a western cafe, it does achieve a social impact through responsible employment.

Closer to the National Museum you will find Friends ‘n’ Stuff, a charity style store full of handmade and up-cycled goods. Next door is the very successful Friends restaurant which is run by former street children and their teachers. I must say that they food there is amazing and the staff are lovely. Check out their cookbooks here.

These are just few of the many social enterprise shopping and dining options, I encourage anyone spending time in Phnom Penh to check it out and make sustainable travel choices.

Written by volunteer, Stacey
Categories: Cambodia, Projects, Stories from Volunteers | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

In preparation for Wool for Womeen

Late tomorrow night, two AWARE volunteers are flying to Cambodia to teach women how to crochet. Volunteers Louella and Stacey have been testing out patterns and perfecting their skills.

I cannot wait to see the teddy’s, cardigans, hats, and broaches that they make through Wool for Women. This program focuses on bringing new skills to women through crocheting to help build up their arsenal of skills to ensure they can earn a decent livelihood. AWARE is partnering with Dorsu to help give women in Kampot, Cambodia the tools to work towards their ideal future.

Thanks to you, we received hundreds of dollars in donations and in kind gifts to bring wool and crochet hooks to Cambodia. Wool was arriving by the box!

Last weekend, Stacey and I took a trip to the Bendigo Woollen Mills to purchase even more wool! After a  long drive from Melbourne, we arrived at the mills to be greeted by every crafters favourite sight: skeins upon skeins of wool!

I’ll be bringing you live updates from their work in Cambodia!

Categories: About AWARE, Cambodia, Stories from Volunteers | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aware is … Anna M., fundraiser

Over the next couple of weeks, we want you to get to know the fabulous volunteers that make Aware tick. We’ve profiled all of our volunteers, and we can’t wait for you to get to them!

What’s your role at Aware?

Hi, my name’s Anna and I am helping raise funds for a number of Aware’s projects, specifically organising market stalls to sell the wonderful bags, clothes, scarves and lots more made by the fabulous women at Dorsu Cambodia. We’re hoping to get out to a couple of markets in the next few of months so keep posted for the details.

What’s your day job?

I am studying a Masters of Social Work which is keeping me very busy at the moment but absolutely loving it.

What sparked your interest in volunteering for Aware?

I was inspired by Stacey’s passion for the amazing organisation she had created. Also, looking at the huge success of past programs, and hearing some ideas for the new Melbourne based programs I wanted to help out in some small way.

What has been some of the highlights for you in volunteering for Aware?

Hearing stories from some of the programs in Kenya and Honduras, meeting the other volunteers and just getting involved in some of Aware’s fundraising events, whether that’s been having a beer with Karma Kegs or coming along to film nights. It’s been great to see such support for a fantastic organisation.

Categories: About AWARE, Stories from Volunteers | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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