CACD Retreat #3

The CACD retreat gave many of the church and NGO workers the opportunity to see some of the projects started by Bishop Olivier. One of them is CoCo de Takeo, a social enterprise which makes candy and useful and decorative objects from coconuts–of which Cambodia has an abundance!

Coco de Takeo mostly employs people with disabilities and single, poor mothers with no other source of income. Here a Little Person works with large coconut hulls. Notice the teapot and the coconut hull to its left which is being carved to be a decorative holder for the teapot.

Women then extract and trim the coarse, hairy inner shell of the coconut for use in various projects.

Some of the coconut shells are preserved, lacquered, and arranged into decorative hangings that one might find in a restaurant or a tourist business establishment.

Of course, an enterprise centered on coconuts generates a huge pile of husks that cannot be used.

Vietnamese New Year

Bishop Olivier

There is not much of visible Chinese Catholic community in Cambodia but there is a huge Vietnamese Catholic community. Yesterday Bishop Olivier celebrated the Sunday mass on New Year’s Day with one Vietnamese parish. Here he is on his way to mass with them.

After mass with the Vietnamese community.

CACD Retreat #2

As part of the CACD retreat (Catholic Alliance for Charity and Development), we visited a social enterprise center where Bishop Olivier has created basically cottage industries to give employment mainly to people with disabilities and poor women who have no source of income and no possibility of jobs like in the city.

One source of employment is weaving khramas (scarfs) and other cloth on these massive wooden looms.
Weaving is a simple process basically but it looks rather complicated to the untrained observer. Here a woman guides a shuttle with white thread across the loom while the shuttle with green thread rests on the finished product.
Here a woman weaves a solid-color piece of material. It is a slow process, basically weaving one thread at a time.
Another view of the process.
This woman is able to bring her toddler child to work with her.

What’s Cambodia Like #4?

I don’t intend to dwell only on the negative aspects of life and culture in Cambodia but there are so many of them. They certainly can’t be ignored in daily life.

It seems almost every day, literally, there is another story of some government official or military officer or village chief arrested for fraud, selling government land, appropriating land of indigenous peoples, cutting protected forests–you name it.

Lunar New Year’s Eve Preparation

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve for the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit and many people in Cambodia are preparing for the celebration. The Lunar New Year is not an official holiday in Cambodia but many, many people claim some Chinese ancestry and take two or three days off to celebrate. There were signs of preparation along the streets of Phnom Penh this week.

Vendors had plenty of chrysanthemums on sale and also lots of oranges. Both are preferred because of their golden color promising wealth in the new year. And then there are the Chinese lanterns and decorations to make for a festive house.
One international school welcomed its students with many lanterns hung in the entrance-way while another chose pots of chrysanthemums to create a spirit of celebration.

Water Festival 2022

Today is the first day of the annual three-day Water Festival. It is held in November, at the end of the rainy season, when the Tonle Sap River reverses its flow and starts to empty water out of the Tonle Sap Lake at Siem Reap. There are normally boat races in Phnom Penh with hundreds of boats and tens of thousands of paddlers.

This year, though, the boat races have been canceled because ASEAN is having its annual summit meeting in Phnom Penh and the government decided it would not be wise to try and organize high-level government delegations (President Biden is coming) and a million-plus Water Festival revelers at the same time. We still have the three days off but there are no boat races to watch.