STUNG TRENG PROVINCE, CAMBODIA
Born in Cambodia, Chantha Nguon was exiled for 20 years during the Khmer Rouge devastation of her native province. In a refuge camp in Viet Nam for those 20 years, Chantha learned nursing skills and served the medical needs of other refugees.
Moving back to her country at last, Chantha found that the societal and cultural fabric of Cambodia had been utterly destroyed. The women of her Stung Treng province were destitute; uneducated, illiterate, untrained to earn a living. Women were completely dependent on finding a husband, marrying at 18, and destined to have no income or voice over their lives.
Chantha began the Stung Trend Center in 2001, bringing her medical knowledge to women who did not know basic health care, and her weaving skills to train women in the proud traditional craft of her region that had been blotted out. Mekong Blue became the outlet for her to find a market for these weavings in the west.
Many of the more complex skills of Cambodian silk have been lost, the historically significant cultural language about to die, and is now carried only by a few master weavers. Chantha wants to partner with the Ibu Foundation to resuscitate and keep this language alive. And keep alive the women who are carriers of that language.
The Ibu Foundation is providing that training. A master weaver is coming to their rural center to elevate the skills of these weavers such that they may proudly carry their almost-but-not-broken tradition into the future. And support themselves and their children while doing so.
Women at the center receive education - reading, writing, and math skills - health care, child care and vocational training. For many, it is saving their lives. And in doing so, raising them into a new freedom and self-respect.
Chantha is our inspiration, a true Ibu of courage and commitment, working tirelessly to improve the lives around her. We want to work tirelessly with her.