A while back, we posted about an organization, BuckHunger, which we started volunteering with here in Phnom Penh. We wanted to take some time today to update you on some of the work we’ve been doing for them. Since we don’t have a set schedule or list of tasks (other than weekly accounting), the time we spend helping the organization really just depends on the week. In the past couple of weeks our involvement has increased as a few things have come up and some projects have come to fruition.
One thing we got a chance to work on was a grant proposal for BuckHunger to receive additional funding. This grant specifically says that it will not sponsor food purchases, so we applied to get money so that BuckHunger can re-initiate their footwear program. When it first opened, BuckHunger gave flip-flops to kids and adults who didn’t have anything to protect their feet. As funding and donations ran low, the program stopped so that all the money could go towards meals. We’re hoping that this grant will be given to BuckHunger so that more kids can be supplied with something as basic but essential as shoes.
At the end of our previous post about BuckHunger, we mentioned that we were working on a secret project. Although we haven’t shared it on the blog, we have been working on the project and it actually wrapped up last week. We thought it would be really great to try to get our high school involved in helping to support BuckHunger. We asked Jane’s sister, Leah, to help us, and she was happy to. We also had a teacher contact who helped Leah with the logistics of starting the project. After throwing out a few ideas, we decided to photograph some of the kids enjoying their free meals and use the pictures to put on donation boxes. Leah created all of the boxes and made some really nice posters for the school. She even went on the Action News to publicize the fundraiser! On our end, we wrote up a proposal for the project that included information about the organization. We also wrote an e-mail that was sent out to the staff to try to gain some more support. When we talked to Leah earlier this week she had already counted $220, but we can’t wait to hear the final tally. We’re already impressed with that number!
The other main fundraising project that has been going on for BuckHunger is a silk scarf project. This is a fundraiser that the creator of the organization, Johnny, set up a while ago and is currently in the U.S. expanding the project to an even greater scope. He recently ordered a big shipment of silk scarves and needed us to ensure that the order was correct. We were more than happy to get a chance to go to Silk Island and meet with the family that hand makes the scarves. Johnny had told us a bit about the wonderful people he orders scarves from. The scarves come from a family business that had been running for over 100 years. The Khmer Rouge exterminated nearly all of the family, but two of the youngest family members have now re-started the business. So the Cambodian Silk Scarf project supports not only BuckHunger, but also a wonderful family on Silk Island.
We took a short ferry ride from downtown Phnom Penh for only 25 cents round trip to get to Silk Island (really Mekong Island). We’d been in touch with Johnny’s contact on the island, Naysim. She met us at the ferry to bring us to their home factory. She arrived with two motos (we were picturing a tuk-tuk…) and told us to each hop on one. It was our very first time on a moto, and a bit scary at first, but by the end we absolutely loved the ride. The island was beautiful and very local and quiet. We rode on surprisingly smooth dirt roads for about 15 minutes before arriving at their home. Naysim immediately sat us down and served us cold water, mango, green orange, and red banana. Red banana is by far the strangest fruit we’ve ever eaten. We then counted and put together Johnny’s order. The scarves were great quality, and we even watched as one girl was making one. They make many different scarves – different sizes, colors, and materials (raw silk, fine silk, cotton, etc.). The fibers are locally sourced (mainly within Cambodia) and it takes about two days for them to weave one scarf. We, of course, couldn’t leave without a few scarves to bring home. It was nice to support women who we got to meet and talk to, and nice to support a craft that is still being done by hand.
Although volunteering with BuckHunger was an opportunity we stumbled upon later in our time here, it certainly has been rewarding. It has provided us with a chance to really get involved with a grassroots organization that is growing and developing. Of course, it helps to see and say hello to adorable little kids when we walk in the door!
- Gretchen & Jane