In the tourist area of Siem Reap, Cambodia, tuktuk cars and motorcycles scrambled into each of the hustling streets. At many street corners or footpaths, there are food stalls with small, plastic chairs and tables for their customers, compatible with the busy traffic aside. Wandering around the narrow lanes connecting the Bar Street, there is a fashion boutique in a very different style located among some western restaurants – SALASUSU.
In Khmer, the Cambodian official language, SUSU means “Cheer up” and SALA means “School”, which I got to know why after I really flip over “the curriculum” of this “school”.
“Sues-day!” Experience and Learn from the local life
I got a chance to be an intern at SALASUSU this summer holiday. It gave me a totally different experience from other internships I did in the past. All the SALASUSU products are handmade by local Cambodian women, and their names would be shown on each of the products they produce. Most of the women there, as I learnt, are from an underprivileged background. Yet, as I recall my time working at SALASUSUS, these women were always smiling, being SUSU and optimistic despite their hardships in life. From time to time, you can hear laughter from them, you can see their children run around in the open area outside, or obediently stare at their mother at work.
“Sues-day” means “Hello” in Khmer. That was how I started the conversation with my colleagues every day! I can recall how the entire factory emanated warmth, strength and hope. It was a very inspiring and recharging space for me!
During lunch time, the factory provides nutritious lunches to every producer. The menu is designed by the chef – lemon fish soup, stir-fried pork with ginger, pineapple and tomato chicken…the colour of vegetables changes frequently according to the season.
Not just a community factory, but also a school
The community factory supports vulnerable women in nearby villages, providing them with not just employment, but also access to education and other opportunities. Those women who joined the factory had never received education by any institutions before. The factory provides life training lessons to them every week. The factory-stationing instructor Mr. Kath Channa teaches the SALASUSU producers life training courses, in areas like emotional control, problem solving, work ethics, self-management etc, which are important skills for women, not only benefiting their working life in SALASUSU, but also gearing them as strong women capable to develop their own career in the future.
Graduation – moving forward to your future
SALASUSU offers a two-year contract to every producer. After that, the factory supports them throughout their transition by providing career counselling and company matching. So far, there are more than 20 women graduated from the factory, moved on and stepped-up to their career, which is an undeniably life-changing leap from the woman unemployment constrain existed in their community.
Perhaps we are all in a school of humanity right now
“I can’t change the world.” It should not be our prevalent mindset as indeed… We all CAN!
Everyone is capable to help, forgive me from being cliche but true that, we all take a part in an era and change is made by all the little differences we make. What I learnt from this “Cheer-up School” is that our care matters hugely to addressing the world inequality issues and so to the changes we make. Age, gender, race, social status and language are all rendered equally insignificant when it comes to organic, genuine human connections. That’s the starting point. We have to expand our can-do mindset and cultivate care to the underprivileged and establish the beauty of humanity in combating the man-made sufferings!