Saturday, March 15, 2014

WOW...Just Wow!

Many of you will recall that I taught embroidery to the youngsters at Honour Village two years ago. (If you click here, it will bring you to a blog that I wrote about that experience.) It was a huge challenge that proved to be extremely rewarding, and I was truly looking forward to continuing needlework lessons this year. 

In preparation, I joined the DMC Mentor programme, who sent me several mini-kits to teach beginner counted cross-stitch. I assembled 60 more mini-kits of two additional designs, and gathered a substantial amount of embroidery floss, aida cloth, several pattern books, and some larger, more advanced kits, all generously donated by family and friends. 

Not too long after we arrived, it became evident that my help was needed in Kindergarten. Sue, the founder of Honour Village, had been unwell for some time, and hadn't been able to teach. I've always said volunteering is not about what I want, it's about what they need, and so I set aside my plans to teach cross-stitch and plunged myself wholeheartedly into teaching English to 4 and 5 year-old Cambodian children. It's been a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work, and I've even succeeded at organizing the kindergarten teaching materials and introducing some different teaching tools and methods. 

In the meantime, a couple of new volunteers came on board who were willing to teach cross-stitch, even though they'd never done it themselves. I took some time to 'teach the teachers' and set them loose to work with the kids. From the results I've seen, a lot of kids started and gave up, and some did 'whatever', not the projects I'd planned. Of the 40 or more that made a first attempt, there were two that graduated though the three kits, and have gone on to do a further more complicated project. I'd call that success. I'm hoping the volunteers who taught those kids got as much pleasure out of it as I did two years previously.

I have to admit, a little part of me was bummed-out about not being able to teach needlework, and a bit saddened at seeing so many kits started, not finished and just wasted. I just kept reminding myself that there was a bigger picture I wasn't quite able to see yet.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance encounter with Glenys, the woman who heads up 'Women of Worth Cambodia'. When I mentioned I'd come here to teach needlework and ended up teaching kindergarten, she asked if I'd like to share my skills and knowledge with her ladies. Women of Worth has set up a 'collective' of eight ladies from a very poor village outside Siem Reap who make and sell items,through the WoW (Women of Worth) shop here in Siem Reap. Some items are also sent overseas or sold online. The women receive the bulk of the profit from the items which provides them with an income and helps them to better their lives. 

It worked out really well, because I could teach the ladies in the morning two or thee times a week, and still get to my kindergarten classes at Honour Village. On my first visit, I brought several bags of craft materials, yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, and more! I spent the first hour talking about some of the ideas I had for them, and the next hour we did a fairly simple, quick, and fun craft.

Teaching the ladies to make flowers with yarn and plastic canvas.

Five ladies out of eight caught on very quickly
and had their flowers finished before the class ended

We sent them home with enough materials to make another flower.
The following week, blooms were everywhere!

The next session, I decided to start cross-stitch.
It was a challenging session because we didn't have a translator.
It took a while to get some of the ideas across, and once they 'got it'
they were stitching up a storm.

The first cross-stitch project was a ladybug.
Only two colours - red and black
and many of them were well on their way to completing it
before the two hour session was done.

Intense concentration 

We sent them home with a whole sheet of plastic canvas
to cut out their own shapes, and several lengths of yarn
to make more flowers.
We also sent them home with two more mini cross-stitch kits,
featuring a butterfly and a bouquet of flowers

Cross-stitch was REALLY challenging
and for some very frustrating.
Not having a Cambodian interpreter made it all the more difficult.
To make sure they'd come back for the next session,
we enticed them with the prospect of learning embroidery!
I showed them my 'sample bag',
which is the project I did with the kids two years ago.

On the back is a project that I completed on my own afterward.
It's a sampler of many different types of embroidery stitches.

All the ladies were excited about learning embroidery,
and it was much simpler to teach.
As I'd done with the children, I showed them the stitches one-on-one.

Most of them caught on really fast and were excited to return
for the next session.

We worked together on embroidery for two sessions of two hours each. The second session was held on a Saturday morning, in the shade of a hut in the very poor village where these ladies live. Seeing their homes, and the meagre conditions they live in, made me so aware of how difficult their lives really are. One of the women who works in a restaurant in the city came home on her break to learn a few stitches. Now THAT'S dedication! By the end of that Saturday, I was confident that most of them had learned all the basic stitches, and those who hadn't could learn from the others.

There was only time for one more session, and we needed supplies to complete the project. Glenys and I met for lunch the next day (Sunday), so I could direct her to the 'sewing corner' in Old Market, which is tucked away down a very narrow, obscure aisle and hard to find. We were in search of some special items and particular fabric for a fabulous project I was goig to teach the following morning. Sorry folks, I can't reveal what it is, because that will ruin the surprise gift a few of you will be getting from me! Suffice it to say, we are hoping this item is going to sell like hotcakes and will net these ladies a ton of money!

Last Monday, we worked together sewing up this new article. Although not everyone was able to finish, they have the design well in hand. At the end of two hours, it was time to say goodbye, and wish them all good luck. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched when each of them presented me with a gift of their own handicrafts as a thank you!

Some of the beautiful gifts I received.
as a 'thank you' from the ladies

A big 'thank you' gift from Glenys,
who runs the WoW program..
a handbag made from sarong fabric
that one of the ladies has made.

Earlier on this year, I used to wonder what my purpose at Honour Village was. Perhaps It might not have been about Honour Village after all. Amazing how things turn out sometimes.


  1. Wow, and YOU are a "woman of worth".

  2. What a great bend in the road!

  3. I loved reading your blog. I love to create and make things as well so I can only imagine how rewarding it was for you.