Small Art School
The Small Art School is a self-financed school, founded by Japanese art teacher, Tomoko Kasahara, with the aim of providing free art education to underprivileged Cambodian children - especially those who have the will to learn but lack the opportunity.
While teaching art in Tokyo public high schools [and on her way to celebrating 30 years in that profession], Tomoko made her first visit to Cambodia in 2003. She already knew she wanted to make art accessible for children living in hard conditions, but she just wasn’t sure where her school should be opened. A chance meeting with a Cambodian couple – who revealed to her that most of the artists and teachers were killed in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime – cemented a decision.
Four years later, Tomoko retired from her career in Tokyo and returned to Siem Reap, carrying just a suitcase – and a heart full of passion to start a great cause. One year on, she finally opened the doors of her Small Art School (SAS), and in the same year, welcomed her first SAS staff member, Hea Cheav. Hea ultimately became a Khmer-Japanese interpreter, and along with Tomoko provides free Japanese lessons through the school.
In the ensuing nine years, SAS has been privileged to teach about 400 children, and to hold exhibitions in Siem Reap and internationally on a regular basis. Several of the advanced students have made great achievements, and as such have become examples to the younger students. Some graduates are art teachers and currently work in local NGOs, as well as local and international schools in Cambodia.
Currently, all school-related projects, salaries, facility costs, etc. are funded by Tomoko herself, although within the past three years, the school has been able to garner some support from Japanese grants and private sponsors. The Small Art School is fully registered with the Cambodian Ministry of Education [No. 1484].
Cambodian Landmine Museum
The Cambodian Landmine Museum was founded by CNN hero, Aki Ra. An ex-child-soldier, he fought in the many armies that populated Cambodia in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.
After working for the United Nations clearing landmines, he returned to the fields where he had fought and began clearing landmines with homemade tools and his bare hands. From 1997-2007, he cleared perhaps 50,000 mines and unexploded ordnance. Some of these items - all safe - are exhibited at the museum, which tells the story of landmines in Cambodia and around the world through Ak Ra's story.
The museum also houses a Children's Relief Centre, which is home to over two dozen at-risk children. They are nurtured, and provided with education - including university scholarships. Money raised at the museum provides liveable salaries to its employees, plus helps clear landmines and helps build schools in rural villages, as well as providing for the children in its care.
The Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap is a Cambodian NGO, run for and by Cambodians, helping to make their country safe for their people. Jaya House RiverPark Hotel will contribute monthly donations to its cause.
The Green Gecko Project
The Green Gecko Project is a local Cambodian NGO founded in 2005 to provide support and opportunities to Siem Reap’s street kids and their families.
Green Gecko believes in a holistic approach with long-term health, education and social enterprise initiatives that support and empower the whole family – providing them with the means to break the cycle of begging, poverty and abuse, once and for all.
After a decade of hard work, courage and dedication - from the children, their families and crew - 100% of the Green Gecko children and young adults are now successfully reintegrated into community living arrangements. Some young adults are living in independent housing, some family groups live in kinship or foster care solutions, and most are back living safely with their families.
Jaya House RiverPark Hotel commends Green Gecko for the progress that has been made with these former street families, while understanding that community living comes at an expense – an expense that neither the families nor Green Gecko are able to bear alone. By donating monthly to Green Gecko’s Community Living Program, Jaya House is proud to be able to contribute to fundamental living costs - such as safe housing, rental, nutrition assistance, medical care and the supply of hygiene products - which allows these disadvantaged children and young adults to live and thrive in their communities.
The Music Art School
Siem Reap’s Music Art School was set up in September 2013 as a place where local people could foster their personal growth by developing their artistic skills, as well as somewhere students would be able to find a peer group to encourage them to greater achievement. To achieve this, the school links people, other learning facilities and organisations through art; coaching all the students, teachers and artists so they can develop their own skills.
Although art in Cambodia is everywhere - from traditional Khmer singing [and nowadays, hip-hop and rap] to sculptures and pottery, from paintings to the famous Angkor Wat Temples – the road to becoming an artist in the Kingdom is not a clear – or easy – one.
Historically, there has been a shortage of skilled teachers, as well as text-books and materials. In fact Art is not included in compulsory education, and is not a part of the national examination program. Teachers are trained at regional or provincial Teacher Training Centres, but few people apply to become an Art Teacher, and in any case the role focuses primarily on the traditional Khmer Arts.