Sunshine Centre

Today I had the priviledge of working with some lovely young people at the Sunshine Centre. It has been set up for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in the part of Phnom Penh where I live. The children here would often spend their days roaming the streets looking for rubbish to sell. Many of their families would earn under $2 a day, which is not enough to feed them let alone consider an education. The Sunshine Centre provides a place where they can go for food, education and some health care. However the whole family is important and regularly visitied by staff to try to help them with their children.

I was working with the older children helping them to design artwork for Christmas cards which are going to be printed for fund raising. It was so much fun just seeing them work with the ideas I had come up with and put their own twist on it.

Most of these children have had very little opportunity to do anything creative except when they are at the Sunshine Centre. Most of the art work they have done is copying with a pencil or coloured pencils. We were working with collage and paints which was a new experience for them and they just did not want to stop!

It was really hard to come up with a design idea which they could make their own, have Khmer elements and appeal to the overseas market! The difficulty is, there is no traditional Khmer symbols for Christmas all have been borrowed from the west and very rarely have any Christain content. So trying to explain why we needed a crown or present was quite hard!
Hopefully I have come up with something which will work with a Khmer twist…all will be revealed and I will let you know when they will be on sale if you would like to buy any!

By the way these were pictures from my first session …not today. We have made a few changes to the origonal designs!! So sorry no sneaky peaks until next week!

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On the second day of Khmer New Year we saw….

Lots of families out at the mall…and yes there were shops open!
I followed a tuk tuk to Sovanna Shopping Mall from near our house. It was full  ( about 10 people in it) They went into the mall and had stopped at the bottom of the escalator unsure of what to do. It was so lovely seeing the delight on the children’s faces as they jumped on and were carried up the escalator, then calling down to the older ladies to get on too! I think they must have been visiting Phnom Penh from the province.

One friend here commented on how many Khmer had stayed in Phnom Penh this year compared to last year. There is a shift in families who no longer are based in the provinces but are now all living in Phnom Penh. Lots of our neighbours are away but there were a few which have stayed the whole time at their house.

I have noticed these little hanging spirit shelves outside peoples houses, some of them look new as if they have just been put there. Not sure if they are special to Khmer New Year or not…anyone know?

On the first day of Khmer New Year we saw……

Flags up at the Temple
A deserted market on the tourist side….
…but plenty of action on the food side outside the market..well everyone has to eat!
Abandoned idol shelves outside the temple wall
(not sure if it had anything to do with Khmer New Year but a few looked like they had been there recently)
Houses decorated and shrines outside the house or just in the doorways

Khmer New Year

Tomorrow is the biggest Khmer holiday. It is a festive time which involves time spent with families. Most people leave Phnom Penh to visit family in the “homeland” as they call their home province. It is estimated that about a million people leave Phnom Penh ( Phnom Penh is about 1.5 million according to some statisitics could be more!) so it is very quiet almost like a ghost town/city. Most businesses shut down and all the markets are closed which will be interesting. I went down to the market today to see what was going on. there were lots more stalls set up along the road and the food section was busy. There were lots of these banana decorations. I think they are for taking to the temple and spirit shelves in your house. Lots of people were carrying bunches of flowers which I think are also used for the same purpose.

Lady making banana decorations..these are everywhere.
Extra stalls of bananas were on every corner today too!
Russian Market (Psaar Toul Tom Pong) in the food section was so busy!
My favourite stall where I get veg from.
Yummy desserts I like to get from the market…honestly they do taste nice! 
(The one I like is the pink one right at the back!)

Here is an explaination I found to help you understand a bit of what Khmer New Year is about:
“Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival and national holiday. Khmer New Year begins on April 13th or 14th, depending on the ancient horoscope, “MohaSangkran”. The majority of the Khmer populations are farmers. Farmers reap and harvest their crops from the rice fields all year long, except during April. In April, there is no rain and it is very hot. Therefore, the farmers rest from working in the rice fields and celebrate the New Year.
The first day of New Year is called “Moha Sangkran,” meaning “welcoming their new angels.” This year is the year of the Rooster (Mon), and Moha Sangkran of the New Year will begin on April 13th. The leader of Angels is named KimiteaTevi. Khmer people clean and decorate their homes and prepare fruits and drinks to welcome their New Angels. Elderly people like to meditate or pray the Dharma because they believe that any angel who comes to their homes will stay with them and take care of their family for that whole year. In the morning, Khmer people go to the temple to offer food to the monks and to receive blessing.
The second day of New Year is called “Wanabot,” meaning “to offer gifts to the parents, grandparents and elders.” In the evening, people go to the temple to build a mountain of sand to remember those ancestors who have passed and have the monks give them a blessing of happiness and peace. The third day is called “Leung Sakk;” that means “the year starts to be counted up from this day.” In the morning, Khmer people go to the temple to perform the ceremony of the mountain of sand to get blessed. The last ceremony is called “Pithi Srang Preah”, meaning to give a special cleansing to Buddha statues, the monks, elders, parents or grandparents to apologize for any mistake they have done and to gratify them. Khmer New Year is not just a great traditional festival. It is also a generation passing on traditions.” ( http://ihdcsf.org/2009/05/cambodian-new-year-festival-2010/)

 It is a Buddhist festival and involves going to the temple. This is really hard for the Khmer Christians as they want to spend it with their extended family but often come under pressure to join in all the ceremonies.Pray that they will know what is the right thing to do.

 When the last sale is done count up the money…look at the rubbish left behind!