“Social assistance is the worst way to help the poor because it makes them helpless and never lets them get out of marginalisation. I teach them to work for two reasons: to have confidence in their own capabilities and to get the maximum benefits of hard work.” Father Pedro Opera
I studied 3D design in Plymouth, England and as a student I was inspired by the arts and crafts movements which advocated economic and social reforms and which opposed the servile labour of working people. I have always been concerned about oppression, injustice and the unjust social and political structures that oppress the poor. Therefore in the beginning of 1992 I went with a Christian agency to work in a Thai refugee camp with Cambodia, Laotian and Vietnamese refugees escaping war and persecution. In 1993 UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority In Cambodia) assumed control of key sectors of the country’s administrative structures in order to build a stable environment conducive to national elections. At the same the UNHCR oversaw the successful repatriation and resettlement of some 360,000 refugees and displaced persons. Many of the refugees I was working with repatriated back to their homeland to start a new life, many after living 16 years in camps.
In At the end of 1993 I moved to Phnom Penh with a British NGO and founded the “Rajana arts and crafts association” to provide skills and income to with some of the returnee refugees and young disadvantaged Cambodians. The project also equipped staff in accounting, marketing, computer courses and English in order to maintain and rebuild Cambodia’s rich cultural traditions, damaged in the country’s wars. In 2001 I moved to Siem reap to set up a Rajana branch, as well as to open Saomao, a social enterprise and handicraft outlet, I speak fluent Cambodian and have been continuously involved with artisans, producers and the handicraft industry Cambodia. I have a M.Sc. in Poverty reduction Policy and Practice from SOAS (The London University).
There have been struggles, obstacles, conflicts and misunderstandings along the way, but with patience, resolution, love and respect for each other we have overcome unbelievable obstacles and have impacted hundreds of peoples lives for the better