After visiting I want to spend my time helping Cambodia.   It is one of those places that once you go there stays with you.  It is a place you go to and leave with a lot of mixed emotions.   If you are not familiar with Cambodia’s recent and brutal history, I suggest you take a moment and educate yourself.   It is a very beautiful and moving place to visit.   It is also a very fragile place that needs a lot of help and support…  As many of you know I have made several trips to Phnom Penh to work with a charity there.  I am going to share my story of going there and the work the charity is doing there.   Thanks for taking the time to read it.

I spent several afternoons exploring the different areas around Phnom Penh…

Monks in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Monks in Phnom Penh CambodiaThere was an area right off of the main street where a large group of monks lived…  It was fascinating to walk around and see daily life in Phnom Penh.   I stopped and spoke with lots of different groups of monks.

Monks in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Monks in Phnom Penh Cambodia

I ended up making prints of the photos I took for this young monk and his friends…

Monks in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Phnom Penh Cambodia

Lotus flowers wrapped up for sale in one of the markets…

Phnom Penh Cambodia

My trips to Cambodia were to document the work being done by the charity The Tabitha Foundation.   Tabitha is an organization founded in 1994 by Canadian Janne Ritskes.  Tabitha works exclusively to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor.   Tabitha has worked with over 1.8 million Cambodians in the country’s poorest communities.    They run sustainability programs such as savings, house building, wells for clean water and income through a Cottage Industry to create jobs through products marketed and sold around the world.   It is hard to understand the amount of help needed in Cambodia and the significant impact these programs have on the lives of the people it touches.   I was speaking with one woman in one of the villages we traveled to and she told me that people commonly refer to Janne as ‘God’ as she can change your life forever once you meet her.

The majority of rural Cambodian families sustain themselves through farming.   Much of the year the country is in severe drought…

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

and I mean severe drought…   The land becomes useless for raising animals, growing crops and just about anything else.    This is where the vicious cycle begins in Cambodia…

Dry soil in Cambodia

It is hard to understand the extreme poverty this cycle causes.   When the land becomes useless the fathers often need to travel to Bura, Thailand or other countries for work so they can sustain their families.   Often it is still not enough to sustain the entire family.   Sometimes they need to make the unthinkable decision to ‘sell’ one or a few of their children.  That’s right…sell their children.  Could you imagine being so desperate that it is even an option for you?

Often these sales are under the guise of domestic help but sadly many of them, both boys and girls, end up being trafficked into the sex trade.  This is a very difficult fact to listen to and hard for most of us to even understand.

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Water literally changes lives in Cambodia… My previous company and many of my friends are big supporters of Tabitha’s Wells Programs.   I spent a lot of time while in Cambodia trying to understand the economics of what Tabitha was doing.   Many of the families have a monthly family income of less than $50 USD a month.     Could you imagine supporting your family on $600 USD a year?

With a well that allows them to produce crops all year round, the families can increase their income 10x to $500 USD per month.  Imagine the change a 10x increase in your income would have on your life…the life of your family.  Last year Tabitha built wells for 5,200 families.   The cost to build a well is about what you and your significant other probably spend on a night out on the town…

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

At the time I was in Cambodia this should have all been dried up and brown…but thanks to a Tabitha well this family is growing rice to sell.

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

This guy thought I was pretty funny…

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

I thought this scene was pretty powerful… on the right side you have a family with a well and on the left side you have a family without a well.   Their lives are night and day…

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Tabitha's work in Cambodia

Let me try to further put it into perspective…  This is the house of a family without a well.

Housing in Cambodia

This is the house of a family with a well… This is literally ‘upscale’ housing.

Upscale housing in Cambodia

One of the biggest impacts on the families once they have an income to sustain themselves is that their children are free to go to school…  One of my guides was telling me about the schools that Tabitha was building and I asked her if they could bring me there.

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Tabitha has built 22 schools and currently has 10 more schools being built as we speak.

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

One of the many employees supporting Tabitha’s efforts across Cambodia…

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

I am not sure I could do this problem… could you?

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

This is probably more my speed…

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

This cute little girl was going to the school the next year but would come each day and stand in the door and watch the class…along with her friends.

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

As we were leaving the school headed to another village we passed these young boys playing in a well…

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Little girls heading off to school…

Tabitha Schools in Cambodia

Another day we headed over to see some farms that are being supported by Tabitha.    Remember brown is the color of the season…

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

This farmer was getting the field ready for planting…

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

This cow was incredibly untrusting.  It didn’t matter which way I went, he was always staring at me…

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Crops being grown to be sold…

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

It is amazing the lives and communities changed by these wells…

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Now that these families actually have ‘extra’ money…they can raise livestock.

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

A grave of a farmer that had passed away…

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Farming supported by Tabitha Cambodia

We hit a small traffic jam on the way to the last village…

Cambodia

Tabitha also supports the people of Cambodia through the creation of a Cottage Industry.  If you are not familiar it is a industry where the creation of products and services are home based, rather than factory based.   They are often producing unique and distinctive products due to the fact that they are not mass produced.

We visited the homes of several families that were creating sheets of silk from raw product.

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

It was fascinating to see the process they went through…

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Silk Cottage Industries in Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Me on location…

Dave on location in Cambodia

Once the silk has been dyed and dried it is then painstakingly tied so it can be dyed again.

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Until the final patterns appear…

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Could you imagine having to set this up by hand?

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

The precision is amazing…

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

These fabrics are ultimately sold to make products such as bedspreads, pillow cases, bags, etc.

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

The house on the right is where this family lived before they were supported by Tabitha’s programs, now they live in the house on the left.

Creating Silk Products supported by Tabitha Cambodia

Janne also runs a store in Phnom Penh where she sells a lot of the goods made through the Cottage Industry.

Tabitha Cambodia

Take a moment and read the tag that comes on all of the Tabitha products…

Tabitha Cambodia

I spent a full afternoon photographing and speaking to the staff at the workshop and store.  Many of them have worked there for 10 or 15 years…

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Worker at the Tabitha Store in Phnom Penh

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Tabitha Cambodia

Meet the unfatigable power that is Janne… Believe it or not, there is no hospital in Cambodia to treat women’s cancers.   Janne considers this unacceptable and has decided to build her own.

Janne Ritskes from Tabitha Cambodia

This is her map of Cambodia… a lot of work left to do.

Tabitha Cambodia

A few of my partners in crime…  Meet Steve, Anna and Gary along with Janne again.

Tabitha Cambodia

I shot this on the way back to our hotel on the last day.  I think this image does a good job of capturing Cambodia… it is beautiful but very fragile and in need of care.

Lotus in Cambodia

I found their work very powerful and each of my trips to Cambodia very moving.  It’s hard to imagine how much you can impact people with so little.   I have donated a lot of my time and money supporting their efforts as I really believe in what they are doing.   They need a lot of support to continue the work they are doing.  Please consider donating a $1, $5, $100 or whatever you can to help this mission continue.  Think of ShootTokyo as a pay for website only for today and your fee for all of the images you get to enjoy is a donation to any of Tabitha’s sites;

Tabitha USA

Tabitha Canada

Tabitha Singapore

Tabitha UK

Tabitha Australia

Tabitha New Zealand

Tabitha Netherlands

or buy products from one of the many stores selling products from the Cottage Industry.

Thanks for stopping by today and taking the time to read this…and hopefully making a small donation.

 

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