Reminiscing and Looking Forward and a big THANK YOU!

Blog by Sue Wallingford

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Almost a year ago today the NCAS-I team only had about $500, a partnership with Tranisitons and a HUGE dream of going to Cambodia and working with girls who had been rescued from the sex trafficking industry.  With great enthusiasm, unbridled passion and a strong will to make our dream come true we had our first fundraiser, the first Painting Marathon Relay in October of 2011.  Quickly we were to realize that others in our community were also eager to take up the cause to fight against the trafficking of girls for sex, and by the end of our fundraiser we had engaged over 300 people and raised enough money to say, “Yes, we are going to Cambodia!”

From the moment we birthed the idea to now we have experienced such an outpouring of support for this cause, that I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all the seen and unseen supporters and to let you know how well your efforts paid off.

After the Painting Marathon in October of 2011, we had a few other successful fundraisers that helped to not only support the travel of 7 students to Cambodia, but also provided enough for us to buy needed art supplies for the organizations with which we worked.  We received a prestigious grant from the Jenzabar Foundation while we were in Cambodia and so are well situated to begin the seeding process of future fundraising events and trips abroad.

As stated in an earlier blog about the mission of NCAS-I and our intended work in Cambodia:

NCAS-I expands the boundaries of the Naropa University Community Art Studio from local to global. Rooted in the principle of collaboration and a belief in the innate wisdom, creativity, and interdependence of all, we, the art therapy graduate students and faculty, seek active engagement with social justice organizations around the world. We will use art therapy practices to help relieve suffering and maintain a vision of unity, as guests and learners in the communities we serve.

I marvel at the foresight we had in the very beginning when we wrote this statement. I feel proud and deeply satisfied that we have been able to accomplish what we set out to do and that our mission was fulfilled.  Our plan to bring healing through art to the people of Cambodia was wrought with active engagement (external and internal), and collaboration.  Our aim to bring relief to suffering through the practice of art making was realized and became our own practice as we struggled to work with the harsh realities of this country.

While our intention in the beginning was to work with one NGO, Transitions Global, we found ourselves being asked to join forces with other human rights organizations.  In the three short weeks we were there we also worked with Anjali House, an organization that takes children off the streets and provides free healthcare, food, clean drinking water and education.  We talked with Ragamuffin, a grass roots NGO committed to bringing the expressive arts to relieve emotional pain and psychological damage in children and adults, about how we might collaborate in the future.  We spent some time volunteering at an orphanage in Phnom Penh that takes in abandoned and disabled babies and young children.  There we held babies, painted, danced and played with the children.  They asked us to come back next year.  We visited Arn Chorn Pond’s country home and learned from him first hand about the atrocities that happened to the Kymer people during the rule of Pol Pot.  We visited his Cambodian Living Arts Center and played music with students committed to bringing the traditional arts back to the people of Cambodia.  We had long conversations with the hotel staff, our tuk tuk driver, NGO workers, ex-pats and many other Cambodian people about politics, religion, art and culture.  Assumptions and personal values were constantly challenged, transformed, sometimes dropped and sometimes deepened.

AND WE DID ALL THAT IN A YEARS TIME!  WITH THE LOVING SUPPORT OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE GLOBE!

Now, a year later, we are preparing for the 2nd Annual Painting Marathon, and ways to bring awareness to the issue of sexual trafficking and other devastating issues that plague the Cambodian people. We are forming new partnerships with other NGO’s in Cambodia and have widened our trainings there to include more populations in need. We are no less enthusiastic or driven.  The work we have done so far has only made us stronger and more focused on our mission.   This year’s team is bigger and strongly dedicated to what we began a year ago.  I am as proud of this team as I was the first.  It is such a blessing to be a part of this incredible journey with them and with you who continue to support us.

THANK YOU for your continued love and support, we could not do without it!

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