Canvases for Cambodia Video Release!


Please enjoy our video and JOIN US
November 8-10 for
Canvases for Cambodia: The 48-hour Painting Marathon
Nalanda Campus
Naropa University

Public hours 8am-12 midnight
All abilities welcome, contact us at ncas-i@naropa for special accommodations

or donate at

Unveiling the Mandalas: Fundraising for the Service-Learning Trip to Cambodia. Come be part of the community!

An important piece of the service-learning trip to Cambodia involves fundraising through the annual Painting Marathon.  This year, the marathon, titled “Canvases for Cambodia”, has three teams including: The Creative Crusaders, The Sunbeams, and The Helping Hands.  Three canvases will be painted over the course of 48 hours to create distinct mandalas.  Sponsors support students by donating to each team as they paint.  This project serves to bring awareness to the service-learning trip, to the reality of sex-trafficking in Cambodia, and to build community support and connection.

canvases for cambodia

The Mandala:

Sanskrit for “sacred circle,” the mandala has represented a mystical symbol of the universe used primarily as a Buddhist or Hindu aid to meditation (Dellios, 2003).  An important part of Cambodian culture, the mandala represents, in this context, the coming together of community.  This is symbolized in the painters coming together to support this project, as well as the larger connection to a global community striving for social justice.  Come join us in connecting to the world through art and community.  Check out this years intentions from each team!  Follow the links to learn more about each team and how to be involved with them.

Introducing the Teams and their Intentions:  

The Creative Crusaders: Resilience, Empowerment, and Possibility

liz mandala

“This open-ended format embraces the whole spectrum of artistic ability, so whether you are a master photorealist, an intuitive abstract colorist, someone who relishes getting lost in intricate patterns, or EVEN if your talent with a paintbrush plateaued in preschool, your contribution has a place in the Mandala. In terms of what we will paint, team Creative Crusaders does not have any specific source images in mind, but we hope to draw upon the following themes for inspiration. A crusader is someone who fights for change in the world, and stands as the source for creating that change. Resilience, empowerment, possibility, justice, truth, courage, passion, and vision are just a few of the qualities we hope to evoke and honor in this Mandala. We encourage each artist to reflect upon your own associations of what it means to be a crusader for social justice. What symbols, colors, patterns, and images come to mind? Have a mandala that inspires you? Post it to our facebook page! We are so excited to create with you!”
The Sunbeams: Reminding us of Natural Cycles and Interconnection
“We create our image/mandala in honor of the Sun, a life-giving Mandala that we witness daily rising in the East and setting in the West.  It is a reminder that we are all united on Earth, as human beings, as nature.  It is a reminder that life is a cycle, always renewing, always rebirthing.  It is a symbol of hope and interconnection; the values we bring with us in our commitment to social justice.”
The Helping Hands: “The whole is greater then the sum of its parts”- Aristotle
“Helping Hands wants to represent each one of our painters over the 48hrs by having them create their own personal, individual mandala.  Each mandala created during your time painting will then create the illusion of a larger mandala.  Each small mandala becomes part of the greater image. Your marks help create the greater whole!”
How this relates to you:
If you live in the area, come paint with us!  No matter where you live, consider donating to support the 2014 team in their commitment to Social Justice, Art Therapy, and Learning.  This is one opportunity to be involve in something larger than ourselves while having fun in the process.  Don’t forget to follow the links to learn more about the teams or donate to them!
The General Donation Fund can also be donated to here.  We thank you for the support!
Dellios, R. (2003). Mandala: from sacred origins to sovereign affairs in traditional Southeast Asia. Center for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies.  Bond University.
Mandala Images Courtesy of:
Via the 2014 Team.
Compiled by Aiya Staller

The Service-Learning Trip: What is happening in Cambodia and what are we doing there?


The Service-Learning Trip:  What is happening in Cambodia and what are we doing there?

Take a moment to explore the service-learning trip map. Each destination offers a unique opportunity to connect with our partners there and the culture. Follow the links to learn more about each partner organization.

The journey through Cambodia begins in Siem Reap, where a settling-in process takes place. Acclimating to the culture, learning basic Khmer for communication, and becoming educated on cultural norms is an important first step in the learning experience. After being educated in the United States on Cambodian culture and history, students now have the opportunity to experience the culture first hand by learning through contact.

Angkor Wat, first a Hindu then Buddhist temple, is the largest religious monument in the world ( It has become a symbol Cambodia. This is also one of the largest tourist destinations there. Time is spent to reflect at this exquisitely serene temple.


One of our partner organizations, Anjali House, is also located in Siem Reap. They work with Cambodian street children to provide opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them. Students begin their process of serving the community here.

Phnom Penh becomes the next destination.  The Killing Fields, where it is estimated that 2 million people died, holds a painful reality that is alive in the world.  Emily Wilson, a current 3rd year Art Therapy student, eloquently describes an experience in her blog where she comes in contact with this reality.  Ragamuffin, an organization dedicated to bringing creative arts therapies to the world, also becomes a highlight of this trip.  Their beautiful space provides an opportunity to experience how creative art therapies can aid in the healing process.

Sisiphon is home to our newest collaborative organization, the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC).  This addition has become a favorite destination of many students who wish to connect with the women in crisis using Art Therapy.  Please keep in touch for upcoming blog’s about this organization!

The journey ends in the Kep Province where NCAS-I has partnered with WHADA (Women’s Handicraft and Development Association) to create products that can be sold in the United States.  All of the income goes directly to the women who make these products.


Our Journey continues as each evolution takes place.  We are excited to share this adventure with you as we learn more about the world and ourselves through service-learning.  The richness and resiliency alive within the Cambodian culture is evident in the stories shared by students who have courageously taken this trek to connect to our global community.   The 2014 crew prepares to continue this tradition and build upon the relationships cultivated over the last few years.

It is wonderful to share our journey with you, our community of readers and lovers of the world.  Thank you for the support.


Compiled by Whitney Haney and Aiya Staller.

Photos and site information courtesy of Sue Wallingford and previous teams.

Anjali House: an NCAS-I Partner Working for a Full Childhood for Cambodian Children


Anjali house, an NCAS-I partner, is a French and Cambodian-founded non-profit organization providing free food, healthcare and education to under-privileged street kids and their families in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Anjali House works to give childhood back to Cambodian children. Children have the right to good health, food, clean water and an education; basic items that many children in Cambodia do not have access to. Anjali House explains some of the specific ways they supports this mission:

Every day we ensure the children receive two nutritious meals, consisting of vegetables, meat and rice. We also provide filtered water for the children to drink. We are continually looking for new donors to support this program. To encourage families to allow children to attend, and to help replace income lost because the children are no longer working, we provide 3 kg of rice to each of the families we work with. This basic economic incentive is crucial due to levels of poverty within families and ensures their basic food needs are met. 

Children enjoying a meal at Anjali House:


Anjali House supports the health of Cambodian children by supporting their hygiene:

Due to the lack of clean water and the constraints of poverty, prior to the establishment of Anjali House many of our children had never used soap or brushed their teeth. Now every day the children bathe in clean running water with soap and shampoo, brush their teeth and clean their clothes. We supplement these resources with on-going education as to the importance of personal hygiene in preventing health problems.


With emergency grants and loans for parents who have no savings or collateral we have supported everything from cancer treatment and funeral expenses to care for broken limbs and motor injuries. Not providing these services would seriously impact not only on their health but also their ability to attend school and succeed as students.


Anjali House first registered the children at local public schools, provided them with school uniforms and all the necessary books, stationery and equipment for their studies. School attendance and performance is monitored through our social workers. School support is vital to ensure Anjali children have the opportunity to attend school regularly without any pressure to earn.

Anjali House offers its own English classes, which are led by Khmer staff, giving Cambodian children positive role models of their own culture, and making them able to get jobs in the future which require foreign language skills.

And the Arts:

Anjali’s arts workshops include theater, animation, dance, music and filmmaking. The arts offered at Anjali House support the belief shared by Anjali and NCAS-I in the power of artistic expression as a tool for building self-pride and an increased awareness of inherent capabilities.

Check out the Anjali house store, where you can directly help children by purchasing education materials, meals, and other items much needed by the children.

Through their website, you can also sponsor a child, learn about volunteering with Anjali House, and work opportunities.

Anjali House employees are a valued part of the organization. Meet Pheak Ean, a Cambodian woman who is an important part of Anjali House. She works for the organization, and her five children are a part of Anjali programs. Pheak Ean says,


“I am 29. I am working at Anjali as a laundress. I like my job very much because it’s a regular job. I was a vegetable seller at the market. It was really hard, I had to grow vegetables with little kids in my arms. I could only make very small profit just enough to eat day by day. Now my life is so different.”

James Huffman, a third year in the Naropa University Art Therapy program, traveled to Cambodia with NCAS-I last May. Here is a small piece of his account of the experience:

What kind of work did the NCAS-I do with Anjali House when they visited Cambodia? 

At Anjali House, NCAS-I worked with the morning and afternoon sessions of children to create toys for a sand tray, which we brought and donated.  We had several different rooms, which the children rotated through, each room creating different things for the sand tray such as houses, people, animals, food, fences, and vehicles.  We then ended each session using the sand tray to tell a story with the things that were created with the kids.

Anjali children with their new sand tray:


How did NCAS-I contribute to the Anjali house mission of helping Cambodian children to have a childhood? 

Hopefully the sand tray will enrich their school experience by adding another outlet for creativity and storytelling.  Also, in my experience, Cambodian children do not have access to many different art materials. A day spent making art, which can continue to foster creativity, is a valuable contribution to any childhood. There were also many smiles throughout the day. Childhood should have many happy days and new experiences.

How do you feel Anjali house helps to empower Cambodian children?

Anjali House helps empower Cambodian children in many more ways than I am aware of given the brevity of our stay, but these are some of the ways that stood out to me.

Anjali House provides rice to the families of the children enrolled with them. This in part provides motivation for the families to keep their kids in school, instead of working on the streets where they could be helping support the family. I believe it also communicates to the parents and children that their education is valuable.

Anjali House also provides free healthcare to the children. I believe this communicates to the children that they are important, and it is important that they feel good. I imagine many Cambodians living in poverty have to make hard financial choices between their children’s health problems and the greater financial needs of their families. By providing free healthcare, Anjali House tells the children that their health does not need to come second.

The quality of education provided would also be very empowering to the children. Many of the more prosperous businesses in Cambodia are supported by tourism, and require their employees to speak English. Anjali House provides children with the education needed to attain these higher paying jobs.

Take a look at Danielle Rifkin’s NCAS-I blog post on her experiences with Anjali House.

James and Danielle pictured here:


All photos and information retrieved from the Anjali House website. Take a look there for more information! Don’t miss their photo gallery with beautiful pictures of the Anjali community.

Blog courtesy of Whitney Haney.

How Does Human Trafficking Happen? One Girl’s Story of Trafficking in Jharkhand


Meet Suman Tutti, an 11 year old girl from India who was tricked into leaving her home with the promise of a way to support her family as well as a good education. Instead of a job and schooling, Suman Tutti was sold to a human trafficking ring for $24.

Tutti wound up working as a maid against her will; she was kept locked in a basement room and was sexually assaulted. Thankfully, Tutti was able to escape her captors and made it back home to her family. Many young girls are not so lucky, and those who are, are often not accepted back into their families; they are considered to be contaminated once sexually violated.

Girls like Suman Tutti are in desperate need of help. NCAS-I partner Lotus Outreach is dedicated to doing just that.  Lotus Outreach works with more than 30,000 at risk women and children in India and Cambodia, helping them get access to healthcare, education, and more opportunity. Join us, and organizations like Lotus Outreach, in our efforts to support girls like Suman Tutti and our dream of global social justice.

For a full article in India Ink, please see the link here.


Kumar, Raksha. (2013, September 23). Human trafficking continues to ravage Jharkhand. India Ink. Retrieved from

Lotus Outreach (2012) website

Blog courtesy of Whitney Haney and Aiya Staller