Back in Cambodia Again!

Blog by Sue Wallingford

“Being at peace means being at one with one’s surroundings by acting as a vessel for another’s will rather than asserting one’s own will.”     ~the book of illumination

One of the best things about teaching at Naropa, besides working with our amazing students is getting to go on sabbatical.  Part of my work for sabbatical has been to continue the work NCAS-I started this past May with the partnerships we formed….to deepen those relationships and learn more about how we can best serve these relationships when we come back May 2013.

I have been back in Cambodia now for a little over a week, and since returning I have been very busy!  The first few days I spent at Transitions doing several art therapy assessments with the girls, consultations with the Transition’s clinical team and a self care workshop with the staff.  I am not sure who was more excited at our reunion, the girls, the staff or me!  There were lots of smiles, squeals and hugs.  I brought with me 33 Naropa t-shirts, just enough for the Transitions team and the girls, which they LOVED and wore the next day, ….and the next….and the next.   It was very sweet.  Thank you Naropa!

The work I got to do in collaboration with the team was amazing. They are so receptive and eager to learn more about art therapy and have already instilled many of the self care techniques we shared in May.  I got to learn more about the ethos of Transitions and the level of care they extend to their girls.  It is truly an incredible organization, with a hard working and caring team.  While they don’t have access to many resources, there program makes up for it in other areas.  The staff and clinical team work very closely and consistently with the girls seeing them for therapy 2-3 times a week.  All the staff take an active role in their day to day lives, their schooling and their after care.  They have a house mom that takes good care of the girls and the staff and makes some of the best food I have eaten in Cambodia.  The therapists do not have to contend with managed care and other bureaucratic nightmares US therapists have to contend with, and they never have 60 clients on their case load.  They actually can keep the girls as long as they need help.  They are clearly making a difference in the lives of these girls and the art shows that!

I have learned so much and particularly about the importance of cultural sensitivity when working with others, regardless of nationality.  I am humbled and grateful for the constant reminders of the things I assume and take for granted without considering what another’s history, culture and personal story might be. Thank goodness the Cambodian people are gracious and forgiving enough to overlook my many mistakes!

Here is a picture of the team making artist’s trading cards using their own personal handmade stamps. We also made stories in the sand tray.  When I left that day they were still busy and happily making things!  I noticed little felted animals on their desks, evidence they have continued that activity we started with them in May, although they request more needles for our next trip. Add that to our list.


Following my week with Transitions I got a significant bout of some kind of intestinal nastiness that put me out of commission for about 3 days.  But after taking my Z-pac, drinking vitamin enriched coconut juice, and a tummy rub with tiger balm by a sweet Cambodian mom I felt better.  I actually think the tiger balm did it!

I will spend the next few days in Kep, at the most wonderful retreat center called The Vine.  The food is exquisitely simple and all organically grown.  It is so peaceful and lovely here.  The way I imagine all Cambodia used to be.

The juxtaposition of this place and the busy streets of Phnom Penh strike me most.

The busy, chaotic streets of Phnom Penh….


And the serene quiet countryside of Kep…..


When I came to Kep and saw the lush rice fields, the mountains and lotus ponds every where I had some recognition. The girls at Transitions draw a lot of country scenes; pictures of their real family homes or ones they wish they had, or perhaps one they are waiting to create for themselves, pure and simple, beautiful and serene.  The kind of place all of us human beings should have, not just some of us.

I have more to share, stories and pictures both, but for now, this is enough.

Thanks for staying posted to our blog, and thank you for your continued support.




Check out the write-up about us in the Fall issue of the Naropa Magazine



The Beauty Found in Trusting the Process

Team Dinosaurus Rex on their process oriented approach to the 48 Hour Painting Marathon:

“For our painting, Team Dinosaurus Rex took a heavily process oriented approach. This focus on process led to a theme emerging and evolving, but staying relatively the same throughout most of the painting marathon.  Some of the first marks included a sketchy image of a dinosaur.  That dinosaur changed and evolved throughout the marathon, but never disappeared.  Within the first six hours a tree emerged.  The tree went through many transformations throughout the 48 hours, finally serving as a space for our team of painters to represent their personal symbols in.  The final product is a collaborative piece that has captured snapshots of all the hands that have lovingly contributed to it.  With little to no direction our community of painters created a beautiful and intriguing image, an image that the viewers can look at for hours finding little secrets hidden within.  Our piece is evidence that beauty can be found in trusting the process.” 

AND…Last week to donate!

We’re approaching the last week of fundraising, so if you would still like to donate to the Painting Marathon and support the mission of the Naropa Community Art Studio-International, follow this link!  An anonymous donor will be matching all donations made through November 25, up to $1,000, so NOW IS THE TIME!

THANK YOU from the NCAS-I!

The Evolution of a Painting: TIME LAPSE and Snapshots from the 48-Hour Marathon!

Check out this cool time lapse video of the evolution of Team Soaring Hearts’ Painting for the 48 Hour Painting Marathon!


The talented Dave Meas generously volunteered his time to take photographs throughout the Painting Marathon.  Check out his photographs on Flickr here!

Team Dinosaurus Rex:  Final Painting

Team Tutulicious Animalz:  Final Painting

Time lapse video courtesy of Erin Shannon…thank you, Erin!  




She is beauty, let her be.          ~Kate

I was struck with this little message I found on my walk in Phnom Penh today … when least expecting it, and when I took the time to look close.  I felt grateful for this little reminder as I peered through the little window.  It made me smile and helped me to consider the important message this phrase portrays and how we can never have our inherent beauty reflected enough. I wondered who left it and how many people have stumbled upon it and how this random message impacted those who see it?

Tomorrow I will begin my work with Transitions, doing art therapy self-care with the staff and art based assessments with the girls.  I want to carry this message with me somehow, so they can see the beauty they have too.

Thank you to the person who left that message.  Thanks for noticing even when you don’t get to see the results.  And what’s through the window?


Cambodia Expectant about Obama’s Visit Today!


Today is a big day in Cambodia with President Obama’s visit.  I have heard words like proud, happy, and hopeful, especially concerning Obama’s initiative for human rights all over the globe.  I don’t think anyone is more expectant than my friend Mr.Sothea, who takes people to all parts of Cambodia on his beautifully adorned Tuk Tuk, while sharing stories of the rich history and present day of Cambodia. I spent a lot of time riding in Mr.  Sothea’s tuk tuk when I was here last in May, and learned so much about the Cambodian culture.  I look forward to hearing more today from him and others as our President is not too far away discussing very important matters.  I will keep you posted and please say your prayers tonight that Cambodian’s hope for a new day is in store for their future.

STAY TUNED for a Recap of the Marathon!

For now, we want you all to know that WE DID IT!  We had an AMAZING show of support leading up to and during the 48 Painting Marathon and have raised over $12,000 AND COUNTING!  The event resulted in three stunning, community created paintings and a studio filled with passion for an incredible mission.  We could not have done it without you…


With love and gratitude,

The Naropa Community Art Studio-International

From a seedling to a sunflower…



close-up of Tutulicious Animalz Painting

By Katie Hanczaryk

On Saturday night during the opening ceremony to the 2nd annual 48-hour painting marathon, I found myself so proud I was holding back tears. As a predecessor, I have invested countless hours into the project and have been totally and utterly invested for the past year and a half of my life. So much so, that I have been known to refer to the project as ‘our baby’. Sticking with that analogy, I was thinking about how the whole process has felt somewhat like a birth to me. During the gestation phase, we planned & raised money, threw parties, and raised awareness of the issue. We went to Cambodia, which felt like the pinnacle of the learning experience for me, but it didn’t end there. Now it’s as if I am watching the baby grow, and I am as proud as any Momma would be, of her beautiful, healthy child. In fact, I have never been so proud of my work, and the work the previous NCAS-I team has accomplished.

I remember clearly the conception of this project, Sue asking Meg and I – We are thinking of doing an international service learning component to the Community Art Studio, Are you in?” I remember, after the seed was planted, how patient we were to let the sun shine, and the rain come, before we saw any hint of a sprout. Now, it seems as though that tiny little sprout has turned into a maturing tree and as I watch it grow more and more each day, I am reminded of life cycles, and how a little TLC goes a long way. I am so happy for the next group as they venture on their journey to Cambodia, and how I can’t help but smile knowing how they may feel having been through it all myself.


Beautiful SIGHTS and SOUNDS coming from the Painting Marathon! 9 1/2 hours to go…



The NCAS-I teams and community support here at the Nalanda Art Studio are still going strong on this BEAUTIFUL Sunday morning…

Stay tuned for the Closing Ceremony tonight and the unveiling of the final paintings.  If you’re in the area, please join us from 7-9 p.m. tonight for a fun time and the grand finale!  

As always, THANK YOU for your support!  We’ve raised close to $11,000!

SATURDAY 2:17 am ……




At 9 pm last night twelve colorfully costumed “artists” joined together around a table offering a myriad of color to begin the 2nd Annual NCAS-I Painting Marathon Relay at the Nalanda Art Therapy Studio. The 3 teams, “Dinosauras Rex,” “Soaring Hearts,” and “Tutulicious Animalz,” were ready and eagerly waiting to make their first marks on the canvas.  At the sound of the ceremonial gong, the painting commenced accompanied by live music, dancing by “the cross-pollinating bee,” Himmat Kour, and a crowd of curious and enthusiastic witnesses.

For the next 48 hours over 200 people or more will have added their marks to one of the three  6′ x 8′ foot paintings in process RIGHT NOW.  While each team has as many as 5 painters painting at one time there is one ceremonial brush that will never leave the canvases for the duration at the 48 hours.

The paintings are a visual testament to the transformative process that art offers the creator.  Side by side the painters create, sharing inspiration, movement and a necessary trust in the process.  By the end, the paintings will have gone through many renditions of expressing the same idea – that together, with ancient wisdom, playfulness, grace, trust in the process, and soaring hearts, we can get through unpredictable moments, contrasts in ideas, sleepness nignts, darkness, utter chaos and icky messes and still create something quite extra-ordinary and beautiful.

Please join us, in body or spirit to help heal what ails us and celebrate what makes us soar.

NOVEMBER 9 -11TH  9PM FRIDAY TO 9PM SUNDAY (public hours 8am-midnight each day)


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To see more pictures go to our instagram album