and Our Story
© Stitches of Hope & Design Sense Graphics & Web 2016
There is a time to mend. - Ecclesiastes 3:7
From humble beginnings, Stitches of Hope Cambodia, now (in 2015) manages a children's centre for 24 homeless children, two sewing centres that provide employment for 20-30 people in Phnom Penh, a community development centre in the north of the country and, in two poor rural villages, provides care, dignity, aid and farming enterprises.
The year after the 2004 trip that stirred her heart, Kay first began visiting Cambodia. A special friend of Kay's was living and working in Phnom Penh. She organised a group of women in a village and a childhood development centre and soon after sewing classes commenced in a women's prison close to Phnom Penh. It was beyond Kay's wildest dreams and encouragement came from unexpected places. Sewing machines were purchased and given to village women to enable and empower them to start a business and support their families.
Kay developed a wonderful connection with Narith and Chanthy, who became Stitches of Hope’s In-Country directors for eight years. The following year when Kay needed an interpreter for the sewing classes, Chanthy was the perfect person. She too was keen to learn to sew and her desire to help others less fortunate than herself meant that together she and Kay formed a very close bond. As they shared their heart's desire, the projects have multiplied and the sewing program strengthens each year.
The purchase of silk and mat looms for several villages provided the means to generate an income. Over the years, many wells, toilets and water filters were financed by generous West Australians to help the people living in these villages. Medical aid was given in many situations to alleviate suffering and emergencies.
People living in the village of Svay Rorlom were regarded as outcasts. This was due to the poor living conditions and lack of any essentials or schooling for the children. When the funds were available, these village people used them for education, nets to sleep under, clothing, homes and home repairs, filters, fish ponds, rice and even the purchase of a tractor to plant the rice. Over the next two years the area became a model for other villages to follow. What a blessing to see the improvements take place in these areas. This village had the support of a West Australian charity "Partners Against Poverty" who gave the people of Svay Rorlom guidance and direction to establish businesses and a secure future.
Rather than giving a hand out, Stitches of Hope's philosophy is to give a hand up. It takes so little, by western standards, to assist these people become self-sufficient. Loans were given to those who were keen to improve their lifestyle and provisions for their villages and families, taking them out of the poverty mentality cycle which has been part of their generational line. The loans to village people were as small as $100 to enable them to purchase the necessary stock or equipment to fulfill a dream they have had in their heart for many years.
On one occasion people gathered to welcome Kay and friends to their village. They shared a little of their life as they walked along the track to visit many of their homes. "They loved having us there and the leaders discussed with us how we could help them," said Kay. "We financed material for new roofs for 30 homes and bamboo for the floors, many of the homes were in a bad state of disrepair. We also paid for 30 water filters, a second hand motor bike for the leader of the community, five bicycles to enable some of the village people to transport their vegetables to market. Tables and chairs, books and pens, and white board and markers were secured to start some of these precious children in their education."
These developments were funded by family and friends and so the charity gained momentum. It became Kay's full-time job to fund-raise in WA for the poor in Cambodia. She and husband John had shed parties, trash and treasure sales, garden parties, movie nights, barbecues, sold assets, anything, all to generate funds for those who, with no intent to do so, just happened to be born into poor circumstances. Their grandchildren and friends gave money to the poor in Cambodia at birthdays and Christmas instead of giving gifts to each other.
The governing Board was formed in 2009 and Stitches of Hope was registered in Western Australia as an incorporated body in July 2010. It is a registered charity (Licence Number CC21105) to promote human rights for the people of Cambodia. The annual budget has grown to be in the order of $150,000. - In the decade to Dec 2014, at least 1000 Cambodians have benefited for Kay's vision and action. Her passion continues unabated. What's achievable is multiplied by the open-handedness with which many others now give. Bringing hope to the underprivileged is both energising and good for the soul.
The call to Cambodia proved to be exciting and fulfilling as one of the greatest needs in Cambodia is to be trained in a skill which will bring them employment, security and self confidence. Kay's certificate in Commercial Dressmaking and her passion to empower the women and young girls became the tools to enrich their lives and encourage them to believe they were capable and valuable. Sewing has been the foundation of the charity but many other extensions have blossomed and succeeded over the years.
The desire to educate the children was of paramount importance and funds were raised to allow this to happen in many places. Looms to create silk fabric and to make mats, along with trainers to teach the skill to the village people, created enthusiasm and an income.
As sympathisers continued to visit the villages the need for improved sanitation, wells, water filters, finance for small businesses and educational supplies were provided by generous supporters.