Helping Cambodia

Helping Cambodia

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.

 

48 Comments

  1. The best ever.

  2. Hey Dave,

    A lovely collection of photos which reminds me very well of my time in Cambodia.

    Really nice work :)

    Cheers,
    Alex

  3. Your images are beautiful, as usual, especially when you capture the beautiful faces of children. In this series you have put the images to work to raise our awareness of a pocket of poverty that deserves our attention.

  4. Dave this is a really amazing writeup and fantastic photos.

  5. What a beautiful & touching display of photo’s & stories. You managed to capture the lives of young & old & their living conditions. I will repost on my FB page & donate. Thank-you for bringing much needed awareness to this part of the world. Sandy Easley

  6. Hey Dave
    i’m in love with this colorful, awesome collection of photographs from Cambodia !

  7. Excellent pictures – did you use the M9 and the Noctilux ? And if yes, for all of them ?Really good work !
    Georg

  8. Georg – I was shoot my M9 with a mix of lenses and I was also shooting a Nikon D3S with a 24-70mm and a 105mm macro. I got my camera sensors very dirty changing lenses as it was so dusty.

    Sandra – Thanks Sandra… very much appreciate it.

  9. Thank you for answering so quickly ! Of course I would be very curious – and I guess others too- to know which were the lenses you used for the different pictures. Especially as apparently you manage to achieve the same amazing feel with all of them ! But maybe there is a reason you didn’t ?

  10. Amazing images and such a wonderful cause! Thanks for sharing this Dave.

    My best,
    Leighton

  11. Thanks Leighton…

    Georg – For the most part, the images in the field are shot with my Nikon, a few of them were with my Leica. The images in the city were all are shot with my Leica M9 and the image of me was shot with my Leica M3.

  12. These are really touching photos which catch the heart of what this foundation represents…

    Great color, emotion and detail

  13. We take so much for granted…..

  14. Great Story and images, but I Think that cow that kept watching you was thinking, I Leica that guy…Mooo

  15. Very beautiful captured, Dave. Your photos tell the story of living life in Cambodia. Were these photos from your previous visit or had you been there recently again?

    Regards,
    Vath.

  16. Inspires me to travel to Cambodia now. I am involved in helping the poor in Thailand and we contribute to making their lives better, particularly through water and educational related initiatives. So many similarities when it comes to the very poor and dispossessed.

  17. Wow, amazing photos. I followed a link from Darren Rowse on Twitter to find you. I am going back to Cambodia in a couple of weeks. I enjoyed Phnom Penh – in an eye-opening sort of way, last year on a visa run from Thailand. I am considering writing a book while there this time. The photos are amazing! Thanks for sharing them – I’ll not forget my camera either!

    I just wanted to point out a book that I think should be required reading for everyone on the planet… about Cambodia’s past. I took the link straight from the author’s site – so, she gets the sale at Amazon and commission if you buy through it. An amazing tale of the Khmer Rouge and what it was like as a young child to go through it… it’s called, “First They Killed My Father” – http://www.amazon.com/First-They-Killed-Father-Remembers/dp/0060856262/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325535877&sr=1-1

  18. life is very beautiful there, of course, the pictures are stunning, easy-touch easy person to provide assistance to them. God bless.

  19. The series of the boys playing in the well is wonderful.

  20. Hi Dave, Thanks for sharing. The photos are powerful, and I am very touched by your post. I will check out the charity and help out when I can.

  21. Thank you very much Sherry…

  22. Thanks Vath – These are from the trips over the past 2 months.

    Vern – Thanks for sharing the book. I saw it when I was in Cambodia. I spoke to many people about the time of the Khmer Rouge. Pretty horrifying. I spoke to one woman who said her entire family was sent out to the country side to work. 30 of them went and 26 were murdered over 2 years and only 4 returned at the end. The amazing thing is people mention it sort of ‘matter of fact’. There no anger but more disbelief…

  23. Keep getting the message out there! Beautiful shots and a great programme. We have seen Tabitha’s work its fantastic. We work with the Khmer teachers providing professional development.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Susie

  24. Great photos! They make my desire to return to Cambodia even greater! Most people don’t realize the importance of water and what a difference it can make for a family.
    My husband and I donate to this organization once a year for a well to be built in honor of our son who was born in Cambodia. Thanks for bringing this to people’s attention.

  25. Fantastic journey of photos Dave. Cambodia is one of my favourite countries and I just love the people there. I travel over with a regular group from Tabitha Singapore and build houses there, have been 5 times so far, last year I took my 15yr old son. It was a wonderful bonding experience for us both.I’m going to share your story via my facebook page. Thank you

  26. Fantastic Dave, Brilliant one. God Bless my friend.

  27. Planning my first trip so enjoyed your photos. I was very surprised by the problem with draught but it makes sense. Congratulations on your work!

  28. A beautiful tribute to the work of Tabitha and to its founder Janne Ritskes. Thank you for posting these amazing photos/commentary on facebook. I’ll do all I can to pass your site along to others.
    Terry Ann Carter
    past Chair
    Tabitha Foundation
    (Canada)

  29. I went in Cambodia 2 times and the kmer people capture my heart.I m planning to go again next year after new year.I m a nurse I m still working full time and I keep all my holydays to go and live with them.Next time I go I hope may be to have the chance to meet one of you.Now I m helping a kmer family but may be I can do more like a nurse.Your pictures are very very nice…I m from Canada…

  30. Although extreme poverty and the lack of law enforcement are mainly to blame for child sex trafficking in Cambodia, I think the Cambodian people’s casual attitudes toward sexual predation also contribute to the problem. Cambodians generally look up to foreigners, especially Westerners, as wealthy and benevolent. It’s unfortunate that some foreigners are in the country to take advantage of children.

  31. I enjoyed your photos, really reminded me of the work we do there. Steve Evans

  32. Dave, your photos and comments are just fantastic. I have a request on behalf of Tabitha Singapore – We are always looking for more photographs to use on literature we use for raising donations in Singapore. Would it be possible to use some of your photographs?
    Eleanor Craig
    President Tabitha And Nokor Tep Singapore

  33. Dave,
    Thank you for sharing those outstanding photos! I have supported Janne since 2007 when I met her and together we started the first school project for Tabitha and Pace ( UWCSEA) in Prey Veng. The pictures are so beautiful and express what words could not. Together with your captions, they are perfect and incredibly moving.
    It says everything I feel about Tabitha and the life saving work that goes on each day, beginning with one thread, one well,one house, one pig, one school at a time…

    Regards,
    Angie

  34. Hi Elanor – Thanks for reaching out to me. I’ll drop you a mail and connect you with my Singapore based partner in crime on this photo project.

  35. Absolutely fabulous and beautiful documentation of the wonderful work being done by Tabitha in Cambodia. Your photos really illustrate better than anything else I’ve seen what a true difference Tabitha is making in the lives of Cambodian families. I think you should publish them in a book/booklet to further promote Tabitha in places like Singapore that support the efforts in Cambodia through sales and fundraising. Thank you for the time you spent taking them and putting this together.

    Jo Ann Spitzer
    former Treasurer
    Tabitha Singapore

  36. I was involved with Tabitha Singapore and housebuilding from 2001 till 2010. The savings scheme and everything that follows on from that should be an inspiration to the rest of the world. If only more people could get involved. I can’t wait to go housebuilding again. Congratulations on your wonderful photography which captures so much about Tabitha and the Cambodian people. Keep up the great work!

  37. Fantastic pictures.

    I also went out to Tabitha recently with a group of school kids from Singapore. I was asked to go as I’m a photographer and they wanted to capture some pics of the kids house building and school painting. I did ok but your photos have inspired me to go back next year and do better! Mind you I did manage to record some quite cool time lapses of house building and painting!

    Thanks for sharing these – great stuff.

  38. Thanks Tom. I bet a time lapse of the house building would be very cool.

  39. Thanks Stephen, the work there is very touching…

    Thanks Elanor – Glad you like them. I have connected you to my Singapore based partner in crime for this project.

  40. Thanks Elanor. My Singapore Partner for this project Steve is chatting with Elanor about this. We were thinking a similar thing… I think a book would be a great way to raise funds.

  41. A beautiful record of your time with Tabitha in Cambodia, Dave, and a great tribute to the wonderful spirit of Janne. We are fortunate to be leaving Melbourne in mid-June for a three week service project with some of our senior students in Cambodia. As we have done on the previous eight trips, we’ll be visiting the Tabitha workshop in Phnom Penh to meet Janne, and then travelling to a village to build six houses for deserving families. Your photos have whetted my appetite for this lovely country and its people.

  42. Thanks Garry… The work there is so touching. Have a great trip!

  43. Awesome photos, and a fantastic tribute to both the spirit of the Cambodian people, and the achievements of Tabitha, its local employees, and the volunteers across the globe. And, of course, a fitting tribute to Janne’s drive and achievements. I am proud to be part of such a great team.

  44. WOW- What wonderful, absolutely beautiful pictures.

  45. Breathtaking; There are far too few Janne’s!

  46. Far too many Jannes…

  47. Dave,

    Gorgeous photos of a beautiful country. You captured it very well. I hope to visit there again soon.

  48. Thanks Kevin. It is an amazing country that needs more visitors to help it…

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