Some people may feel bored, stressful, isolated or even irritated when they are advised to stay home.
But imagine waking up every day not knowing how you are going to feed your family. This is the reality for many parents around the world, particularly those with disabilities who still have to earn a living to support their families.
A number of people with disabilities who live in Siem Reap made their livelihoods sustainable by producing handcrafted products to sell at a retail shop.
Since tourism and textiles – the largest industries in Cambodia – were dramatically hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the shop was forced to close and now the disabled handicraft makers have no income at all.
Genevieve’s Fair Trade Village (GFTV) was a small social enterprise that operated as a not-for-profit retail shop. But despite its closure, all is not lost as it is working hard to assist people with disabilities and their families to survive through the hard times.
A few weeks ago, GFTV started operating a permanent food bank and launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign, “Hang on! You are not alone”, to support people with disabilities in Siem Reap.
“Their goals are to help feed families with disabilities until they can return to taking care of themselves and to continue operating as a social enterprise so that the families have something to come back to when things improve,” says Jenni Parker, a volunteer marketing coordinator at GFTV.
The food bank, founded by Naret Chhoy, a director and trustee of GFTV, and led by another Cambodian Phalla Yai aka Fara Yai together with four expatriates as volunteers, had originally planned to meet the food needs of its artisans and their families during the pandemic.
Parker tells The Post that recently, the food bank team delivered food care packs to 28 families living with disabilities in and around Siem Reap. They also delivered 1,400 eggs to ABCs and Rice, a local NGO, to help feed the 70 families they support.
The GFTV family care pack provides basic food essentials for a family of four people for about one month.
The families who received the care pack have at least one member with a disability. They are artisans with disabilities who sell products through the GFTV retail shop.
There are also families who live at Full Belly Farm – a small urban farm that provides transitional housing for people with disabilities – and a group of tuk-tuk drivers are also disabled people under the GFTV’s new Workshops and Wheels project.
“Our shop also supports six families in transitional housing at Full Belly Farm. These families were previously homeless and have at least one member who has a disability. Recently we committed to assisting 10 tuk-tuk drivers with disabilities,” says Parker.
However, Parker, who is from Perth in Western Australia, says the ABCs and Rice families are not necessarily people with disabilities, but people who are extremely poor.
The products, ranging from artworks, accessories, bags and baskets, bracelets, carvings, clothes, drinking straws, food, jewellery, handmade paper items, and woven items were sold at the GFTV’s shop.
They were made by local artisans living with a disability or by organisations that provided opportunities for local people to learn and produce hand-crafted products to help them earn a fair and sustainable income.
Visitors can also participate in the child-friendly workshops where they learn from a local artisan how to make their own handmade paper, notebook or a piece of jewellery.
“At GFTV, we are very aware of the impact we humans have on our environment. Many of the goods the artisans produce are made from recycled materials.
“We do not currently offer online shopping and our in-store product used to vary depending on what handicrafts the artisans consign to the village for sale,” says Parker.
However, Parker says GFTV is now in the process of resetting its operations to create an online shop to generate some income.
It says it would take a modest amount of cash, and a lot of time and energy to get the online store operational. In the meantime, it urgently needs public support to continue assisting the disabled families.
“We need more funds to help these families battle the coronavirus pandemic. Together as a caring global community, we can help them hang on and let them know that they are not alone!,” she says.
Parker says the donations through its GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign and other means online will be used in three areas in the short-term.
“The first priority is to feed people with disabilities who are in need. Part of the funds raised will assist GFTV to survive as a social enterprise.
“And finally, we have to cover the setup costs to create an online shop, so that the artisans can continue selling their products over the coming months.”
She says as the World Health Organisation reports that “the impact of Covid-19 may be more significant for persons with disabilities”, their survival is a priority.
Though it does not operate in Cambodia, Parker chose GoFundMe as the platform to collect donations as its fees are quite low compared to other crowdfunding sites.
Funds raised through this campaign site are automatically transferred into an Australian Bank account and then transferred into GFTV’s ABA account in Cambodia.
“To ensure GFTV has a continuous cash flow to purchase food and other essential items throughout the coming months’ money will be transferred to GFTV’s account on a regular basis as funds become available,” says Parker.
No matter how big or small, your donation will make a difference. For details on how to donate and other ways you can assist, visit the GFTV website: www.gftv-sr.org/covid-19.”
GFTV which was located on Sen Sok road in Siem Reap town, is now closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For more information, you can visit Genevieve’s Fair Trade Village (GFTV) on Facebook or contact 070 499 709 for more details.