Remember your life at 12 years old? Days spent at school, playing sports in the afternoon, complaining about homework. Not everyone has it so easy. In Cambodia, young children are often trafficked to Thailand for work, illegal and without protections. But thanks to NGO’s like Phare Ponleu Selpak and our partners, some children are able to escape this life and grow into something better, through vocational trainings like our Animation at Phare.
Bor Hak, now 28 years old, was born in Kampong Thom province, but says he feels no connection to that place. When he was just 12 years old, he travelled to Thailand to work illegally. Over 1 and a half years, he worked on a pineapple farm, in a harbor, and in a clothing factory. But in 2005, he was caught by authorities and sent back to Cambodia.
With few prospects and little hope, Bor Hak found his way to Phare Ponleu Selpak. Looking back, he remembers « I was surprised to find an art school in Battambang, I really didn’t expect it.”
Life at Phare Ponleu Selpak
Bor Hak found a home in our old Child Protection Unit (CPU), which housed children under 18 on our campus. Today, we have replaced the CPU with our Child Protection Program, which finds safe, loving foster homes for orphans, or reintegrates traumatized children into their original families.
For Bor Hak, Phare became a new home and a new family. He lived in the CPU until he turned 18, taking daily drawing classes at Phare and learning to express himself through art. During this time, he met many other children with backgrounds similar to his. Friends who had also worked in Thailand, but now found their passion in drawing and modern art.
Once he turned 18 it was time to head out on his own. He found a new home with three of his friends in a house on the outskirts of Battambang. There, they opened Romcheik 5. Today, it is one of Battambang’s premier art galleries.
The four young artists from Phare opened Romcheik 5 first as a workshop, but eventually, it grew into a modern art gallery and museum. And the artists grew with it. Over the years, Bor Hak became more adventurous in his sculpture, creating emotional pieces that captured his experiences in his youth.
But making a living by selling modern art is not easy, especially in a country like Cambodia where few people have the disposable income to collect art.
Studying Animation at Phare
When Bor Hak learned about our new vocational training in Animation at Phare, he was excited by the chance to gain new skills. He signed up immediately, eager to increase his knowledge and develop new artistic skills. Although he already has an income making modern art, he believes in the power of an education.
“As an artist, we need to keep training. The more skills we have, the more opportunities we can find.”
Today, Bor Hak is in the third year of the Animation program and will graduate in June 2017. He is currently working on his own animation film, a cautionary film about wearing helmets while motoring around Cambodia. Putting his own unique spin on it, he is using folkloric imagery unique to Battambang to tell the tale.
It is stories like Bor Hak’s that best illustrate the vital importance of an artistic education at Phare Ponleu Selpak. Not only has Bor Hak been able to make a living through his art; it has given him hope, passion, and a new family.
Do you want to support the dreams of Cambodian artists? A donation to Phare Ponleu Selpak will directly support our efforts to provide artistic educaation to Cambodian youth.