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.

No Sunday Plans? Watch “Half the Sky” Online!

Watch Part 1 through October 8 here:

Watch Part 2 through October 9 here:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide was filmed in 10 countries and follows Kristof, WuDunn, and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. Across the globe oppression is being confronted, and real meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls. The linked problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality — which needlessly claim one woman every 90 seconds — present to us the single most vital opportunity of our time: the opportunity to make a change. All over the world women are seizing this opportunity.” -From

“When women progress, we all progress.” – From “Half the Sky”

Do you want to support NCAS-I and our upcoming Painting Marathon fundraiser?  Visit our Crowdrise page and donate to the cause HERE!

Become Part of The Restoration Movement!

It’s not too late to sign up for “Restoring The Lives of Survivors Symposium” presented by Transitions!  And it’s easy…simply follow this link!

A few weeks ago we posted about the event, which you can read about HERE.  The symposium will feature a number of speakers and experts in the field of human trafficking, aftercare, and restoration, covering such issues as shelters, safe homes, aftercare programs, and other responses to serving victims of the sex trafficking industry.

General Information:
8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Greenwood Community Church
5600 E. Belleview Avenue
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

***The Naropa Community Art Studio-International will be represented by some of its 2nd year Art Therapy students along with Sue Wallingford.  We hope to see you there!  

All information gathered from… P.S. Did you now Transitions has a really informative blog?  Check it here!

Photo Credit:  The Naropa Community Art Studio-International, Cambodia, 2012

Back In The Swing of Things

PLUS!  Photos from “Festival on Main” in Downtown Longmont and 10,000 Prayer Flags for Cambodia

Naropa University students are getting back into the swing of things today, with the first week of the fall semester here.  As we all look forward to a fruitful year filled with exciting, new experiences and invaluable learning opportunities, students and faculty involved in the Naropa Community Art Studio – International (NCAS-I) have already been hard at work.

We attended Festival on Main in Downtown Longmont last Friday, August 24, where an estimated 18,000 people ventured to watch street performers, listen to live music, play games, eat local food…and make prayer flags with the NCAS-I!  A big “THANKS” to Naropa University, who shared their booth, and the City of Longmont for supporting us in raising awareness for the NCAS-I and its mission.  We walked away with HUNDREDS of handmade prayer flags generously made by attendees of the festival.  Enjoy photos below from the festival:

What do you think about our goal of collecting 10,000 prayer flags to take with us to Cambodia in May of 2013?  Would you like to help us reach that goal?  Stay tuned for the NCAS-I’s upcoming events and you can make one or a dozen!  We’ll have a booth at all of our events.

FAQ – Patricia McCormick, Author of ‘Never Fall Down’

And a New York Times Sunday Book Review

FAQ interview with Patricia McCormick, author of Never Fall Down.

Read about what inspired Patricia McCormick to write about Arn Chorn-Pond’s story retold as a novel for young adults, the intensely emotional experience of learning about the Khmer Rouge, the responsibility McCormick felt in telling Chorn-Pond’s story, the optimism achieved in the end, and much more.  Click here to read the complete interview.  For more information on the book, you can read our original post about ‘Never Fall Down’ at this link.

The New York Times also included ‘Never Fall Down’ in its Sunday Book Review on May 11.  Read the review here.

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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