By: Arthur Nguyen dao
Phare is running a fundraising campaign to get the means to buy a land in Siem Reap for the artists to call it home. The idea is to create a sustainable employment platform for the graduates and the students from Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang.
Your reporter went to the school on the other side of the Tonle Sap Lake to meet and talk with the people of the organization. For the coming weeks, you will get to know more about the opinions, the feelings and the stories of those who are Phare Ponleu Selpak.
During my stay in Battambang, I got to see a rare moment in the year: an empty school. Indeed, it is summer holidays in Cambodia and Phare Ponleu Selpak center is unusually quiet. The brightly colored buildings of the public school host no children. The grass field is resting before welcoming hordes of kids playing all day long. Rain comes and goes, it is rainy season. Flowers bloom, cats and dogs enjoy the empty space.
There is something peaceful and smooth floating in the air. The founders wanted to create a preserved and safe place where children could express themselves, find their talent and learn about art without any fear for their security. They clearly succeeded.
It is something to read about Phare’s mission and philosophy on the internet or a newspaper. It is a completely different experience to actually see and stay in that place for a while. Even without seeing the students playing and learning everywhere in the area, there is something palpable in the air: this place is a sanctuary that closes deep wounds and opens the gates of creation and talent.
At night, the staff football team plays against other teams of the province. It is a unique and funny occasion to see a team where all the players call each other “kru” [teacher, in Khmer]. Football is not the privilege of teachers, students and graduates play almost every day at 5pm, even if it rains. Some students are still in the area for their last final exams, the communication team is on the move. When not playing at night, teachers organize this year’s lessons during the day and graduates come to rehearse for private events. Workers are constructing the new building for the Visual Arts School and the café cooks lunch for the entire staff. Accounting and Finance Departments never really stop their activities, the directors of the different schools welcome new recruits and if you look carefully you can find some journalists hanging around to find inspiration for their articles.
In this heaven of peace and creation I got to meet people who created Phare Ponleu Selpak, people who transmit the philosophy of Phare and people who got their lives changed thanks to this center. The next series of post is about them.
Stay tuned for the next post, one of the founders will tell you his secret dream.