Hand Made Silk Keychains by "New Bloom"
at Cambodian Hope Organization
When my team and I were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, we came upon a number of shops that sold beautiful hand made crafts created by free trade artisans. One artisan is making floral keychains out of a stiff plastic mesh in pleasing pastel colors. I brought one of these keychains to the New Bloom seamstresses at Cambodia Hope Organization, CHO.
Without any translation, try this sometime, I explained to the ladies and one young man, that we should try to make a floral keychain. "Has anyone seen this type of plastic material in Poipet?" Blank stares. "OK, let me look in your cabinet of fabrics, and let's see what you have in stock so maybe we can try to make our own floral keychains and sell them at The Hope Transformation Center. OK?" Blank stares and a few forced smiles.
"Well, look here. This red silk is incredibly beautiful. I would love anything made out of this fabric. So, let's use this and make some floral keychains today. OK?" You know the drill....blank stares and a few more smiles. "What we need to do is...(I am trying to think as fast as I can on my feet, but I have no idea what I am going to say next.).....we are going to rip apart the keychain I brought with me, and we are going to make a pattern." I wish I had a video of this part!
Heng, the head seamstress, figured out right away what I was up to in spite of my ridiculus ramblings in English. We began cutting the silk, but adapting the size to make it slightly more full. Before I new it, New Bloom workers had many strips of silk cut and ironed in preparation for sewing. Heng even suggested using other colors of silk. They were taking off without me - such a great feeling to pass something on.
Heng takes off with keychains in other colors.
Next, we needed the actual metal keychain, some sturdy chord to connect the flower to the metal ring, and we needed material to complete the base of the silk rose. One girl took off on a moto(mo-ped) and returned with tons of keychain rings and the heavy chord. Heng said in Cambodian, Khimer, that she had some fabric at home and would bring it in after lunch. Fortunately, someone who knew a bit of English walked in to see what we were doing, so he translated what Heng told me.
We busied ourselves with making silk roses the rest of the morning, and we put them all together after a fine lunch break. The next day, I brought in a stamp and some tags, I had purchased for the trip from an office store in the USA. I told them....why I even keep talking is beyond me...but, I told and showed them how to use the stamp to make tags for their products. I left them with the stamp, tags and ink pad. They let me know through a translator that they could buy more ink at the market.
I know that a silk keychain isn't very big, but, I pray these silk keychains, and many more made in the days ahead, will help one little girl or little boy escape sexual enslavement in that part of the world, and change their world. One beautiful silk rose at a time.
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:40