Student Blog Entry: Raising Funds and Raising Awareness – The Work Before the Work

“Raising Funds and Raising Awareness – The Work Before the Work”

by Emily Wilson

I am so incredibly excited, and perhaps just now realizing, that we are going to Cambodia to learn, to serve, to share our skills, and to build relationship.  That may seem strange, as this blog and project have been going on for over a year, a group of students already went and I had been accepted for this project months ago.  But for me, it is just becoming real.  So much preparation has been going on; learning about Cambodia and Trauma-Informed Art Therapy®, exploring cultural humility, discussing ethics, getting vaccines, figuring out the schedule logistics and NGOs that we will be partnering with, participating in community awareness events, and raising funds.  It is hard to believe that in less than two months, we will be on the plane to Cambodia getting ready to embark on a life changing experience.

So, how do we pay for the plane tickets, the art supplies to bring, the accommodation for students and supervisors while we are there?  The answer – A lot of hard work and all of you!   I began getting involved with NCAS-I at the beginning of 2012.  I helped serve in the role as Project Manger to organize the 2012 Art Auction Gala, then the 2012 Painting Marathon and now this year’s Art Auction Gala.  It took a dedicated and tireless body of student volunteers, community members, and faculty and staff to coordinate, and take responsibility for all of the moving parts to create these successful fundraisers.  Since the start of this project less than two years ago, we have held over 30 formal 2-4 hours meeting and countless one-off meetings, over 500 individually tracked tasks our control log, enough funds raised to ‘pay it forward’ to sponsor the next year’s trip each year, over 300 volunteers, 250 artists donating matchboxes, and numerous in-kind donations including entertainment, food and drink.

So, why do we do this?  Perhaps if each person took the countless hours invested to work a part time job, we could raise the same amount, or even more funds towards the trip. I have three answers for this:  

1. It builds community – This year’s trip will be undertaken by a group of ten students and two supervisors.  Through our time together and especially our time working hard to create these events, we are building cohesiveness in our group.  A sense of community, togetherness, with each member having an active and contributing role helps to describe group cohesiveness (Corey, Corey & Corey, 2010, Yalom & Leszc, 2005).  I am learning through our process of hard work that I can count on each person, I am seeing others’ many strengths, and I feel we are creating a bond that will hopefully serve us well as we embark on this adventure.

2. It brings awareness – These events also bring awareness to the community and create an environment for dialogue; about sex trafficking, about international work and cultural humility, about the ethics involved, about working with fair trade organizations and orphanages, about sending collective prayers and wishes for peace.  And in addition to the fund-raising events, we participate in many other community awareness events, such as the Longmont Street Festival, at which we talked about this project, and created prayer flags as a symbol for hopes and wishes.  NCAS-I members also spoke about their 2012 trip at a community event and spoke at a Naropa Board meeting to bring awareness within the Naropa Community.  We participated in CU’s Eye Contact event, which was specifically geared towards the issues of human trafficking.  We participated in Art Therapy workshops at BMOCA, a sex trafficking symposium with Transitions, spoke on KGNU, had a feature in Naropa Magazine and the Daily Camera, the Boulder Weekly and more!  We are sparking a dialogue and trying to bring a moment for discussion wherever we go.

3. It is FUN! Each event I participated in and even the work up to the event was FUN!  We laugh, we have exciting events, we create together, we eat great food, we express gratitude and it is super fun.  Rather than write anymore, I have included these pictures to express my sentiment.


Corey C., Corey J., & Corey M. (2010). Groups: Process and practice (8th ed.). Brooks/Cole: Belmont, CA.

Yalom, I & Leszcz, M. (2005). The Theory and practice of group psychotherapy. Basic Books: Cambridge, MA.

Be A Voice. Shine A Light.

In three days the NCAS-I will begin its journey to Cambodia.  Our main partnership with Transitions Global will give us the opportunity to help in supporting and empowering survivors of sex trafficking in a place where the trafficking industry is so prevalent.  We also hope to be a voice for survivors and shine a light on the trafficking industry as a way to combat human trafficking of the future.  Below are statistics from UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) regarding Human Trafficking worldwide.  They are staggering.

Human Trafficking Statistics from UN.GIFT

  • 161 countries are involved in or affected by human trafficking in some way
  • Approximately 2.5 million people are forced into labor as a result of human trafficking
  • 1.2 million children are trafficked each year
  • 43% of human trafficking victims – over 1 million – are forced into commercial sexual exploitation, AND 98% of these victims are women and girls
We have posted a number of times about Patricia McCormick’s new book, ‘Never Fall Down,’ Arn Chorn Pond’s story of brutality and survival in Cambodia.  McCormick also published a book in 2006 called, ‘Sold,’ a harrowing account of sexual slavery.  This fall filmmaker Jane Charles will begin filming a moving based on the book ‘Sold.’  Expected to release in the spring of 2013, Charles has released this 60 second preview to build momentum for the project, be a voice and shine a light:

Charles’ Inspiration:  “I feel like these are all our children, whether Cambodia, India, Russia they are all our children we cannot turn a blind eye to it anymore we have to create change,” Charles said.  “These girls could be my daughter, they could be your daughter or they could have been one of us.”

We hope the information provided here on our blog is educational.  Thank you for following us!  Stay with us as we journey to Cambodia – your support is so appreciated!

(Statistics from:

(Original 60 second preview and Charles’ quote from:

A Look at Contemporary Artists in Cambodia

In hopes of offering sustainable art practices for participants and staff at Transitions, as well as for those working in the community, one of our intentions for the upcoming trip to Cambodia is to research contemporary arts and culture.  For now, we’re doing our research from home, searching the internet for inspiration…

An excerpt from a 2009 CNN article Cambodian art: Past to present describes the artistic community in Cambodia:

Cambodia, which lost an estimated one-quarter of its population or at least 1.7 million people — including an estimated 90 percent of its artists — under the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, has a small but growing artistic community: there are some 50 practicing artists out of its 14 million people, according to Phnom Penh-based curator Erin Gleeson.

Here’s a look at the artwork of a few of Cambodia’s contemporary artists:

Sopheap Pich
"Cycle 2, Version 3," 2008, Rattan and Wire, from

Leang Seckon
"Cambodian Faces," 2010, Mixed Media on Canvas, from

Chan Dany
"Kbach Phni Vois," Pencil Shavings on Wood, from

Duong Saree
"Untitled," 2005, Oil on Canvas, from

A more recent article, Cambodia’s art revolution reaches global market, includes even more artists!

Transitions: Making an impact in 2011!

It’s been over a month since we shared the success of Small Resources = Big Possibilities.  Almost $9500 fundraised!  Here are some more exciting numbers from Transitions, as we anticipate leaving for Cambodia to work with Transitions in less than a month…

“2011 was a transformational year, full of progress, change and growth.”                             -James and Athena Pond

No kidding!  Check out these impressive numbers from Transitions 2011 Annual Report:

68 girls served———-58 girls reintegrated———-18 families served

Some of the details…

28 girls and their families were served through the Dream Home, STAR House, and Bridge Project

7 new girls came to the Dream Home through rescue and referral networks

8 girls were reintegrated from Transitions’ Programs back to families or independent living situations

You can take a look at the entire report @

Inspired: Arn Chorn Pond’s story in ‘Never Fall Down’

We will be spending an evening with Arn Chorn Pond in Phnom Penh and hear his story in person!  Check out the article below on Patricia McCormick’s new novel detailing his story of brutality and survival in Cambodia.

An Article By Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2012

When it comes to genocide, Hitler is obviously well covered. There are countless titles for young readers about the atrocities he inspired. The Khmer Rouge, which seized control of Cambodia in 1975 and, in its attempts to create an agrarian form of communism, killed millions of its own people, is less familiar territory, especially for young readers.

“Never Fall Down” offers a detailed look at what it was like to live under such a cruel government from the perspective of one of its best-known survivors, Arn Chorn Pond.

Pond was 11 when his village was invaded by the Khmer Rouge and his family was forced to march toward an uncertain future. Pond thought it was exciting at first, but after walking for days, passing babies left crying in the middle of the road and ditches filling with dead bodies, he began to realize: He wouldn’t be returning home in three days as his captors had said.

“Never Fall Down” is written in broken English from Pond’s present-tense point of view, which adds to the story’s authenticity and immediacy. But it is in the end a novel.

Patricia McCormick spent hundreds of hours interviewing Pond. She traveled to Cambodia with the now-45-year-old to retrace his every step during the three years, eight months and 20 days that the Khmer Rouge held power. She retraced his escape through a Thai refugee camp and interviewed members of his adoptive American family.

Though “Arn can recall certain experiences in chilling detail; others he can tell only in vague generalities,” McCormick writes in an author’s note at the end of the book, explaining her decision to write Pond’s true story as fiction. “He can describe the eerie click of a land mine being sprung and the hideous stink of a gangrenous leg … but no one, especially not an eleven-year-old caught in the insanity of genocide, can remember conversations, dates, and places — especially when the perpetrators worked so hard to distort reality at every turn.”

“Never Fall Down” is similar to Dave Eggers‘ fictionalized memoir of Sudanese child soldier Valentino Achak Deng in “What Is the What,” but it differs from McCormick’s 2008 National Book Award finalist, “Sold.” For that book she interviewed several Nepalese and Indian sex slave survivors, fusing their stories into a single, fictionalized character. “Never Fall Down” is a blend of Pond’s memories and McCormick’s research and imagination. “The truth,” McCormick writes, “is right there between the lines.”

And it is horrifying. It’s difficult to believe anyone was able to survive the atrocities Pond endured, which began with forced labor in the rice fields that often started at 4 in the morning and lasted until the dark of night, with only a bowl of thin rice soup thickened with dirt as nourishment. Eventually, as the Khmer Rouge took away professors, businessmen and anyone else with any connection to capitalism, Pond learned they were being executed and pushed into mass graves. He volunteered to learn an instrument that he played with part of a ragtag music group to cover the sound of the killings — a move that likely saved his life.

These scenes are described in horrifyingly vivid detail, but just when readers think the level of human depravity couldn’t possibly worsen, it does. Some forced laborers, whose bellies had become distended through famine, resorted to cannibalism, for which they were killed. Pond was forced to bury the bodies in an ever-growing pile. Then, when the Vietnamese invaded and Pond was forced to become a soldier for the Khmer Rouge, he too became a killer.

Separated from his family and his friends, Pond made his way to a refugee camp, where he suspected he may have survived only to die of a broken heart.

“All the time you are fighting, you think only of how to survive. All the time you survive, you wonder why you don’t die,” said Pond, who, after moving to the U.S. and enduring the usual traumas of assimilation, decided upon a third choice: to live.

It’s a marvel not only that Pond escaped but is sane enough to recount his story. Since 1984, he has been a human rights activist and champion of Cambodia’s traditional music.

Pond’s early life is an incredible story of survival against all odds, of innocence unduly robbed. By turns terrifying, heartbreaking and triumphant, “Never Fall Down” is as likely to inspire tears as it is to stick with readers for a lifetime.

To purchase  the novel “Never Fall Down,” go to

(Article from,0,2388171.story)

(Image from

The Flute Player: Arn Chorn-Pond

Arn Chorn-Pond is the founder and spokesperson of Cambodian Living Arts, an organization that seeks to transform Cambodia through the arts. He has invited the NCASI team to meet him and stay with him at his Cambodian home! What an honor and a privilege to meet this incredible man. Here’s his story:

Born into a family of performers and musicians from Cambodia’s second-largest city, Battambang, Arn was sent to a children’s work camp after the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. He escaped death by execution and starvation by playing his flute for the camp’s guards and later fled his captors when Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia in 1979. He managed to reach a refugee camp in Thailand where Peter Pond, a Lutheran minister and aid worker, befriended and adopted him in 1980.

Educated in the United States, attending Brown University and graduating Providence College, Arn began a series of community rebuilding projects and founded several organizations, including Children of War, Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development, and Peace Makers, a U.S.-based gang-intervention project for Southeast Asian youth. In the mid 1990s, Arn returned to Cambodia on a mission to find the legacy of his family that was involved in the Cambodian Opera, his music teacher from the time of the Khmer Rouge and the stars of his early childhood. On this trip the Cambodian Masters Performers Project, now Cambodian Living Arts.


You can see the documentary that was made about his work below:

Matchbox art from Mimi Farrelly-Hansen, Merryl Rothaus,and More!

"Trafficking Innocence" by Mimi Farrelly-Hansen

"Talisman" by Merryl Rothaus

by Laura Marshall
by Tom Cannon
by J. Lyndon

More Matchboxes!

by Jill Powers

by Jill Powers

With the Small Resources=Big Possibilities Art Auction Gala less than a week away we are bursting at the seems with matchbox art from over 100 artists! This week the blog will be dedicated to showing off that work. We hope you enjoy seeing the creativity and thoughtfulness of so many artists… and of course we hope you join us Saturday night to see the work in person!

by Haruna Tsuchiya

by Teresa Smith

by Linda Gleitz

The Facts from CNN Freedom Project

CNN’s Freedom Project helps raise awareness and contributes to research on human trafficking.

The challenges of counting a 'hidden population'

Polaris Project: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Check out this blog from Polaris Project and their visual collaboration of people taking a stand against sex trafficking: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

Polaris Project was founded 10 years ago to fight sex trafficking and has contributed mass amounts of collaboration, research, advocacy, and victim assistance during their 10 years. Here’s what they have to say about their work:

Named after the North Star that guided slaves towards freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project has been providing a comprehensive approach to combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery since 2002.

Polaris Project is a leading organization in the United States combating all forms of human trafficking and serving both U.S. citizens and foreign national victims, including men, women, and children. We use a holistic strategy, taking what we learn from our work with survivors and using it to guide the creation of long-term solutions. We strive for systemic change by advocating for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline 1.888.3737.888, and providing services to help our clients and all victims of human trafficking. (from