Open workshop on women’s reproductive and sexual health

On 10 February Kinyei’s Open Classroom hosted its first women’s reproductive and sexual health workshop. Speaking to 17 participants from diverse backgrounds, a team from Battambang’s Romero Center presented the three hour workshop covering anatomy, mentrual cycles, sex, pregnancy, common diseases and treatments, when you need to see a doctor, and hygiene.

The second half of the day saw a “training for trainers” workshop, where fourteen social workers and housemothers received tips on how to present workshops on women’s health effectively. Most importantly, the participants learnt how to navigate sexual health issues in Khmer culture and how to help participants feel comfortable sharing their problems.

The workshops were attended by representatives of five different local NGOs, showing that the Romero Center’s program will have a lively future in Battambang. Participants enjoyed the workshops immensely, with one 40 year-old woman saying, with a beaming smile, “[t]his is very good, I have never been able to talk about these things before.”

Tedx Phnom Penh

110205-TEDxPP-068Channe Suy 'Building the Future of Cambodia Starts with Sharing'

If things have seemed a bit silent over here at the Kinyei site this is because the team has been busy helping organise Cambodia’s first TEDx conference! Over 150 people attended, with many more viewing via a live web feed as some of Cambodia’s most inspiring speakers presented on the theme “building the future.”

A representative team from Kinyei attended including Phalla, Untac, and Alex. Speaking for all the attendees, Phalla felt positively “motivated to make changes in society” after the conference. It’s hard not to agree after watching the talks, which are all available online here.

The team were particularly impressed by ex-ad-man Mike Rios, who urged people to ask not “how to make money,” but “how to make meaning.” Mike’s energetic style raised plenty of laughs from the audience and his theme of changing cultural values was carried further by Kounila Keo, who described how young Cambodians were finding unprecedented freedom of expression and escape from social restrictions through blogging.

Besides a change in values, many speakers suggested changes in Cambodians’ education. Sithen Sum urged people to take their education into their own hands, while Phloeun Prim reflected upon the importance of cultural and artistic education to a rebuilding nation.

In the context of Phloeun’s talk, the music, dance, and live visual art performances throughout the day, including live painting and chapei performance by Keeda Oikawa and Kong Nai, hip hop dancing by Tiny Toones, and traditional smot chanting by master Keot Ran and student Srey Peu showed the way forward for the “transformation of the nation through the arts.”

The event was received very positively, with Tharum Bun claiming that the line-up “collectively represent[ed] some of the brightest observers of modern day Cambodia,” and Thomas Wanhoff praising the day for being not just “rational,” but “emotional.” Blogger and social business entrepeneur Leigh saw the event as “an incredible blend of thoughts and cultures.” Congratulations to all involved!

Kickstarter completion!

Thanks to all who made our Kickstarter campaign such a resounding success! We managed to finish the 45 day period with $10,186. That’s $1,686 beyond our target! The extra funds will support staff wages and recoup unforeseen start-up costs (including the espresso machine customs saga). The support from the local and international community has been overwhelming, even past the Kickstarter completion date when all sorts of in-kind support has been offered.

Looking forward to a great year of Battambang espresso!
Listen to our favourite Battambang anthem!

How to tie a kromah

Srey Pheak and Sakkana helped put together a guide for those who will be receiving kromah scarves for donating $50 or more to our Kickstarter campaign. The distinctively Cambodian kroma is a ubiquitous, all purpose item that can be worn in many ways, including:

The "fisherwoman" and the "men's working belt"

The “fisherwoman” style sported by Srey Pheak (left), which is worn to help protect the wearer from the sun. Sakkana (right) is wearing her kromah around the waist in the style of male laborers, who use the kromah as a sweat rag and towel for a midday bath.

The daydreaming "market shopper."

Srey Pheak’s introduces the whimsical “market shopper.”

Stylish young people wear their kromahs on the way to work and on trips back to their homelands.

The 'grandma' and the 'rice harvester'

The “grandmother” kromah style is loosely arranged (left), while rice harvesters wear their kromah tied tightly across the forehead.

It should be noted however that this is not an exhaustive list and that your kromah will also make a handy grocery bag, nappy or makeshift concrete sieve, when required ;)

2010 Reflections – collaborative learning spaces and emergence vs control

Collaborative learning spaces like the Phnom Penh Hackerspace, Kinyei, Barcamp Phnom Penh, and unconferences around the world are born of two common realizations. Firstly, people actually want to learn, share ideas and make things together. Secondly, a lot of traditional institutions just get in the way of this. While Hackerspaces generally run with this principle in a very technical direction, Kinyei was started to adapt the same principles to community development, as a response to a lot of the well meaning but suffocatingly top-down and community development initatives you get from large NGOs. Our belief is that groups can self-organize, and that self-organized groups can do more, or at least different, things for their communities than any outside help can hope to.

Kinyei started in 2010 as a facilitating outfit for projects that came to us looking for a sounding board. business coaching, and help connecting with global conversations on their specific issues through social media. We’d just connect them with the people and resources they were looking for. As of the last few months we’ve been setting up a physical space for all this to happen in, which will hopefully grow the community of people doing things here, and the help they can give each other. The only structured thing we run is our popular open classroom: high school kids teach each other email and facebook, something they’d normally have to shell out at phone shops to learn; Travelling volunteers share their passions and groups run sessions amongst themselves on topics from Khmer poetry to child protection.

Next year we’re going to launch a fuller schedule and a few unconferences—barcamp-style conferences where the schedule is made by the participants and anyone can present—to get people excited about using the space as a platform for collaboration and peer-learning. The obvious wins for us have been the sessions that have grown organically out of being available; the basic tech peer-learning sessions have added real value in areas that are clearly important to people, and have cost next to nothing, and there have been a few social projects that have come a long way because they had the space to use to meet and present in.

Our successes have been met with as many dilemmas and questions about how to proceed. One of the main, ongoing problems is balancing between being “open” in a supportive way and being “open” like the park down the road is open. If you offer too much support then you bleed out all the initiative from people that they require to make their projects work. If you don’t offer enough, then why are you even there?

That’s been an ongoing issue that I’m not sure we’ll ever really solve. Every time a scheme stalls here we wonder if we got it right. There have been enough successes though to make us believe we’re on the right track, and as we continue to tweak the process and add fantastic partners into the mix, we’re really excited to see what will emerge from Kinyei’s first year in full operation, 2011.

Justin Lorenzon
Kinyei co-founder

St One and a Half cafe training

Srey Pheak with our first macchiatoni!

Institutionalised postage-corruption almost got the better of us, but the espresso machine arrived! Our electricians, it turns out, were more creative than qualified and the 20A line we had run for the machine terminated in a 10A socket. Once we had that sorted out, Jasper Coffee’s Shane DelZoppo kindly donated a Saturday to set up our espresso machine and adjust our grind through the internet.

Local coffee consultant Clay gave some advice regarding the largest latte ever concocted.

By the end of the day we were able to produce some acceptable brews. As Justin said, “I’ve had plenty of worse coffees in Melbourne.” Our macchiatoni doesn’t quite look like that by our remote trainer, K, from Gypsy Hideout, but as she says, “you just have to practise to make good coffee.”

Soksabike launch!

Last night’s Soksabike promotional launch at the Kinyei space was a great success. Soksabike bicycle tours is a social enterprise offering people all around the world aninsight into the traditional livelihoods of the Cambodian countryside. Soksabike places an emphasis on educating guests in the realities of life in rural Cambodia, and ensuring that your visits make a positive impact on the local communities – economically, socially and ecologically.

The aim of the project is to give visitors an honest insight into life in ordinary Cambodian communities and Soksabike guides, all Battambang students, are passionate about sharing and preserving their culture.

Tourism should not be a passive experience, and by allowing guests to connect with the people they are visiting, Soksabike offers a more satisfying experience to tourists, and a profoundly re-humanizing experience of tourism to locals.

The Profile Project

The Profile Project is an experiment in ad hoc collaboration in the international development sector. Short video profiles will showcase the human rights work being done on the ground in Battambang and screened at the Shine Human Rights Festival on December 10 2009.
The Profile Project works like this:

  1. International volunteer writes up an idea for a video
  2. Cambodian volunteers here in Battambang gather the footage for it
  3. International volunteer edits the video together and sends it over for the Human Rights Day festival in Battambang.

The project provided Human Rights-based documentaries on local the local NGOs

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association
Phare Ponleu Selpak
Pteah Teuk Dong
Khmer New Generation Organization

While the selection of NGO participants was fraught with difficulty, the project was a success with the five completed documentaries being shown at the Shine festival.