While in Cambodia, the timing of my internship worked out so that I could go visit the school center where Phare’s circus performers are trained. It was the graduation celebration and annual family day on their Battambang campus. There is a general public school that is free and vocational art training for the high school level. My entire department of sales and marketing went, and we had lunch after at one of the founder’s houses. He spoke about how much hard work had been put into the NGO and its social enterprises. It had started all with nine boys — refugees from the civil war — and their art programming. It grew into a huge organization today, and they were even able to recently buy their own land in Siem Reap to host the circus and the only big top in Cambodia.
While I was there, I also interviewed more artists and got their stories. Many of these were students more recently coming from training, and I loved seeing how the organization of the non-profit and the social enterprise had developed each generation. They talked about the opportunities that Phare could give them to travel and earn a decent wage, wherein the beginning many of the first generation students had talked about only coming by to get food to eat because they were hungry and the school provided free meals to children.
Their artists they produce — both in graphic design, visual arts, animation, and circus — are all trained to enter the workforce and help reestablish the art scene in Cambodia. I visited a few art collectives that held works from previous students. They were making the art that will help to define a generation and a time period of Cambodian history. It was a privilege to write some of their stories and hear what they had to say.