and Our Story
© Stitches of Hope & Design Sense Graphics & Web 2018
You will not die but be a blessing to the nations.
- Psalm 27:10
I was born in 1975 to a privileged life in Australia, with loving parents, safety, free public healthcare, quality education and opportunities to pursue my dreams. In this same year, Pol Pot and his brutal Khmer Rouge started their radical attempts to reform Cambodia. Over the next 4 years, while I was being nurtured, nourished and loved, the Khmer Rouge wiped out 25% of Cambodia’s population through overwork, starvation, torture and executions.
It is impossible to visit Cambodia, learn a little of its history and meet the beautiful people, without feeling ashamed at the lack of international intervention during the genocide, inspired by examples of resourcefulness and resilience, and compelled to do something to make a difference.
It was an absolute privilege to experience Cambodia through the eyes, heart and hands of Stitches of Hope. They really are bringing hope to Cambodia by doing small things with great love.
To share this perspective-recalibration experience with my 12-year-old daughter, who has also by accident of birth grown up to know privilege and boundless opportunities, and with my mother, who inspires me daily with her kindness, compassion and hard work for the good of others, was precious beyond measure.
And in the words of others more famous than me….
“In this life we cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa
“Never forget, no matter how overwhelming life's challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. ” ― R. Buckminster Fuller
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ― Margaret Mead
C is for CHILDREN with big smiles, warm hugs, who love to play, be CREATIVE, learn and practice their English... my new friends
A is for AWFUL HISTORY of wars and people suffering, but AMAZING come-backs
M is for MIKAYLA, MUM & Gran enjoying precious time together, delicious MANGO smoothies and laughing (especially at Gran falling over in the MUDDY rice field!)
B is for BARTERING to BUY BEAUTFIFUL silk scarves and colourful BAGS to sell in Australia to raise money for Stitches of Hope. The markets were hot, colourful and full of interesting smells!
O is for OH MY GOODNESS, they eat fried insects, and other surprising things!
D is for DESIGNING puppets, playing games and DOING fun things to teach the children about their rights and to practice English.
I is for INSPIRING to see how Stitches of Hope is making a difference to the lives of poor children with big dreams.
A is for APPRECIATION for how lucky I am to be able to go to school, have a Mum & Dad who love me, not have to work at the markets, to be safe from exploitation and to get to travel, swim, eat mango and play.
Mikayla, aged 12, from Loxton South Australia
Going overseas to help create better lives for other people, that's been in my dream pipeline for a long time now. I finally got the opportunity to experience this thanks to Rotary of Perth.
Since my return, I've been raving to everyone that it has been an eye opener, not because of how different Cambodian lifestyle is, or the poor living conditions, as I've travelled to many Asian countries similar to this, but more so being able to physically do something about the issues there.
Being able to interact with children and teach them how to make paper planes and draw is something that I thought I'd never do, as I don't have the patience, but after experiencing how well behaved the children were and how eager they were to learn and improved, just made me want to help them even more!
The fact that even giving them a simple plastic ruler or a loaf of bread and even just being there could spark a huge smile on their faces, just makes me think how lucky we are, so much so that many of us have buried the ability to appreciate the simple gifts in life.
Being able to film and document the whole trip was just the tip of the ice burg and I hope that the final contents will spark more awareness globally of both the Stitches of Hope project and the issues many Cambodians face.
This was a team effort and I have to thank every one of you who had a hand in organising this trip as well as the team who came along. I've made many new friends and I enjoyed the trip very much with every one of you.
I can tell you that it's far more fulfilling than just a relaxing holiday.
We have something exciting to talk about!
Earlier in the year some friends of Stitches of Hope birthed an idea which would benefit under privileged women and girls in Cambodia and the countless numbers of homeless people in Western Australia.
Shipping company McClintock International Shipping offered to cover freight costs. The process of training the Cambodian staff, purchasing the requirements to make the sleeping bags and the awesome task of processing the Cambodian Government’s customs paperwork took several months to complete.
The staff have achieved excellent results in completing 500 sleeping bags in an array of fabrics which are an awesome gift to the many people both young and old who are “doing life” extremely tough, mostly through no fault of their own. People who have been made redundant from their place of employment, failed businesses, family dysfunction, drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse and for many other reasons many Australians are without a home to live in.
Distribution of the sleeping bags has been an exciting venture and with rewarding results. The appreciation shown by those without the warmth and comfort of a bed at night has been worth the tremendous amount of effort. A huge thankyou to the West Australian supporters, who include several Rotary clubs, Inner Wheel Clubs and many private donations, who donated $40 per sleeping bags to enable this project to achieve its goal.
Hundreds of bags have now been delivered to various places who work to provide support to the homeless people. Some of these include Riverview Church, Passages in Mandurah, RUAH in Northbridge, Men’s Community Support in Albany, Northreach Church Homeless Connect, Passages in Northbridge and a Homeless need in Fremantle, plus several other requests for sleeping bags for the desperately needy.
Stitches of Hope would love to continue this program and would seek your support in enabling this to happen.
During our visit (November 2011) we had the thrill of treating the children, sewing teams and the widows and their children (54 in all) to a fun night at the Adventure Park and meal at Super Grill. It was an exciting event and one they will never forget. What pleasure it gave us to bless them. “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
During January 2011 we had a university educator, Marika and her school teacher son Patrick volunteer their time to give into the women and children's lives at Chrey Vien. They taught practical lessons in dental hygiene and general cleanliness to the village people in fun and memorable ways. Lessons on cleaning their water filters and safe storage for food gave the women skills they had not known. Music was popular with the children as Patrick taught them new songs, followed up with ball games and sports.
As some of the young ladies living at Sewing Centre 1 received the same opportunity to improve their hygiene skills and were taught about the importance of looking after their teeth.
The 70 children at Chrey Vien go to the Development Centre school wearing school uniforms thanks to creative talents of a Wagin school teacher. Kind-hearted Narrelle Parker told her lower primary children of the needs of these children. With the assistance of parents they held a "Cup-Cakes-For-Cambodia" day, selling cupcakes that the parents made at recess and lunch time at school. From the amount that was raised, there were sufficient funds to provide every child with a school uniform.
Most eight year old girls like to celebrate their birthday with a fairy-themed party or maybe a sleepover, but Cheyanne Arnott instead took the opportunity to help the less fortunate.
Cheyanne invited 12 of her school friends to a fundraising birthday party in the Swan Christian School Home Economics room on 1st September 2011. The birthday girl encouraged guests to make a monetary donation to help Cambodian orphans instead of bringing presents. The donations were passed on to Stitches of Hope, a charity set up by her grandmother, Kay Eva.
Cheyanne picked a Master Chef theme for the party. “I cooked cupcakes and pigs in blankets and pizza,” she said. “I like to cook and sometimes watch Master Chef on television.”
Cheyanne’s father Brett said how the charity has grown over the years. “Kay has visited Cambodia twice a year from around 2005,” he said. “They aim to build a Children's Home in the future and help businesses.”
Theary, 24 in 2017, married in 2014 and by 2018 has two young children. However, in her growing up years, it was not evident that things would turn out so well for her.
The eldest of four children, her family was disrupted when her mother died in about 1998. When her father took another wife, the children looked after each other, and survived by selling fruit at the market. Her aunt, a poor widow, suggested she learn how to sew and asked Chanthy, at the Stitches of Hope sewing centre to help her niece. Theary went to live in the children’s home, followed by her younger sister Theara, then the other children. At age 16, she decided to trust God with her life.
Theary finished high school and went on the study nursing. “This was a BIG change in my life,” said Theary, “going from poverty to education and opportunity. If it were not for Stitches of Hope, I would be poor with no money and unable to do what I would like. Now I am in a good place, with a good job, a good husband and I can eat and buy things.”
Channi grew up in Prasap Troyon village, attending school until Year 2. Her house flooded, the family separated and she went to live with an aunt. She has four brothers and two sisters; she is the third child in the family. Then in 2008, when she was 13, her mother died and her father found a new wife. Channi went to live with a aunt, who although she wanted Channi to continue school, was too poor for this to happen.
So at age 13, Channi started work in a restaurant earning $25 per month which she gave to her aunt. She worked there for six months before going to a sewing factory, earning $45 per month, living in with the other workers. She worked using an overlocker for 14 months before the factory closed. Then she found work in a restaurant, for six months, before returning to her village. That’s when she met Kay of Stitches of Hope and went to live and work in the sewing centre, the first place she felt safe and happy and cared for.
Her family wanted her to work in Malaysia as a house keeper and earn better income. There she lived with a family and also did sewing, earning $250 per month which she sent home to her father, brothers and sisters. She learnt a little bit of the Malay language, but she was from a poor family and had no one to care for her. Many men abused her and took her money. Channi’s 3-year working visa in Malaysia was a hard time for her. When she found herself alone and pregnant with no money, her thoughts turned to the kindness she had received from Stitches of Hope staff. She asked Chanthy if she could live at Stitches of Hope again.
Out of compassion Chanthy said “yes” to Channi, gave her food and housing and work to do. “She is a good worker,” declared Chanthy. Channi’s baby was born premature and died. Stitches of Hope paid for her medical bills and five days rest in hospital. Now she is back in employment at Stiches of Hope sewing centre.
It is easy for her to sum up the differences in her life. Channi has never known caring employers before, with Stitches of Hope she feels like it is a family and she lives amongst thoughtful people at the sewing centre. Channi is able to support her father, who has a fish farm, and her younger brothers. She dreams of cooking food to sell and would one day like to work in a restaurant again. Channi is grateful for the kindness of belonging, and the love that has spoken volumes to her.
Born in 1988 in Chrey Vien, Puthea’s parents had four children. Rice farmers, they are now old, but always told her to go to school and study hard for her future. She completed primary and secondary schooling and went to university in Phnom Penh, gaining a degree in education. In 2013 Puthea suffered a motorbike accident which took four years to recover from. Still in pain, she takes medication with unwanted side effects.
When Puthea was little she wanted to be a teacher. With permission from her parents to attend church, she come to believe in the Christian God when she was 13. There, five years later, she met a kind man, Bunthoeun, who encouraged her to be a leader. A natural magnet, she would gather children and taught about 70 of them, with love and compassion, Bible stories and how to sing.
Gaining a tertiary qualification was important for Puthea, so too was returning to her village in 2014 and improving the lives of the children by giving them improved employment opportunities through education. The children go to a government school and receive supplementary education (in English, mathematics, health and hygiene, Bible and song) at the Stitches of Hope community centre. With two others to assist, she teaches 120 students, aged 5 to 17, six days a week. Being married with two children just means Puthea takes her little ones to the classroom each day.
“After finishing my degree in Phnom Penh, I just wanted to come back to my village and teach children. Working for Stitches of Hope, I can teach love and want to see the children grow up with a good education,” she said.