Dave and I have been in Siem Reap for over 2 weeks — hard to believe. Sometimes it feels as though we arrived yesterday, and at other times, it feels so familiar, as if we never left.
The week began with a friend of Osman’s, Fabian, a puppeteer (see his amazing shows at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWpn6iSoe9w). He showed the students at EGBOK Mission a few tricks, and the students loved the challenge of keeping a fabric bag in the air.
The week was filled with meetings with hotel general managers and new vendors to prepare for four Cornell students to arrive and help identify the best opportunities for a product that will yield a high profit margin for EGBOK Mission. I’m setting the stage so when the students arrive, they can hit the ground running.
It isn’t just a product that we are seeking — we are also interested in creating a story that will resonate with tourists who stay at the leading hotels that are our supportive partners. Our goal is to have products placed in hotel gift shops, and ideally, promoted in the guest rooms. Most of the vendors I’ve identified are from NGOs that already have relationships with EGBOK Mission, including the The Kamonohashi Project, where local women (former victims of sex trafficking or those at risk) make beautiful woven products — ranging from book covers to wine carriers — from reeds. We visited the project and saw the production in action. Not easy work, but the women welcomed the camaraderie and safe environment.
Another possible partner is the Park Hyatt-Life & Hope Association Sewing School, directed by the Venerable Somnieng at Wat Damnak (temple), which is located just two minutes from our learning center. The Venerable is now getting his masters at Harvard University.
Other possibilities include a product with Kampot Pepper from the Indochine Spice Co. where the young woman above, Kim, explained how her “sponsored father” from the U.S. runs the export business from San Francisco where he was a Stanford professor. Her family of six siblings and a mother is another story of struggle that has led to determined success. Typically, a helping hand is all that is needed to initially give the people here an opportunity to thrive.
Dave and I also continue to help our guesthouse owners, Chanthou and Socheata, develop promotional programs, including a new Happy Hour with food specials. Today,we had an official taste test and tomorrow we launch the promotion!
All in all, a very good week.