The seed of Phare Ponleu Selpak was planted in 1986, in the Site II Refugee Camp on the Thai-Cambodia border. In the camps, nine young Cambodians began taking drawing classes with Veronique Decrop, a french Humanitarian worker. The sessions worked as art therapy, allowing the children to express through art the emotions that they couldn’t put into words.
In 1992, the young group returned from the refugee camps in Thailand to try to rebuild their lives in Cambodia. The country was still recovering from decades of civil war, and the city of Battambang was worst than most. At that time, many of the children in Battambang were suffering from trauma, poverty, and abuse. In 1994, the group of young men from the refugee camp came together again to create Phare Ponleu Selpak. They wanted to help reintegrate the children and rebuild society.
In the beginning, the organization offered drawing classes out of a single building. That original building still stands on campus today. But a much bigger organization has grown up around it.
Two years later, in 1996, PPSA added music classes to its curriculum. In 1998, circus was added. Growing by leaps and bounds, the organization now offers classes in seven disciplines, as well as kindergarten, a library, and comprehensive support from trained social workers.
In a country where the artistic culture was destroyed through years of conflict, Phare Ponleu Selpak promotes a sense of Cambodian pride and identity.
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