It is with great pride and pleasure that we have the privilege to introduce you to our exciting vibrant team. Individually they ‘re great, but collectively they are awesome!
Vutha (pronounced Wut-haa) on the right, is our team member in Phnom Penh. He is currently at university in Phnom Penh studying English Literature. Vutha is our chief translator and helps organise delivery of goods from Cambodia to Australia.
Vutha is the son of one of our weavers Sary who’s story you can read below.
This is a photo of Pala (pronounced Paula) and Choeun (pronounced Chew-en). Pala is our head weaver in the village. Pala’s husband, Choeun, helps Pala with organising the silk and helping her with their 9 month old son Nith (pronounced Nit).
Paula comes from a long line of traditional silk weavers of the Takeo Province.
For years she would sit and watch her female family members weaving and begged her mother to teach her these skills. Paula finally learnt silk weaving in her spare time at the age of 13, while also attending school.
Nowadays, Paula is desperate to work in her traditional field of weaving, but the silk fibre is expensive to purchase and the income she makes is not enough to look after her family. Paula is excited that Lillypilly Silk is giving her the opportunity to establish her own silk weaving business and eventually hopes to help other traditional silk weaving families to do likewise.
Paula loves to keep busy. When she’s not planting rice, cooking or cleaning for her three children, she loves to go out and chat about weaving with her friends.
Paula dreams of one day having a ‘nice’ house with a roof that doesn’t leak in the rainy season and a car, rather than the family motor scooter, to pick her children up from school and to travel to nearby cities. Her biggest dream is to help other silk weavers and their families escape the cycle of poverty and debt.
Mr Ork Soeun
Born in 1959, Mr. Ork Soeun (pronounced Ork Sew-en) entered into a life that those in the Western World could scarcely imagine. Forced to leave school at the age of 11, Seoun began working in the rice fields to help support his family. During Pol Pot’s regime, 16 year old Seoun served on the Commune Youth Team digging creeks, rivers and planting yams.
Out of hunger, Seoun and his fellow workers picked and ate some of the yams they had planted. Unfortunately, when Pol Pot’s soldiers discovered this, the young boys were arrested and taken to prison, expecting to be killed but, to their suprise, the Chief of Police spared them.
Seoun married in 1978 and he and his wife (Hak Teng) were blessed with six children, including their son Choeun (pronounced Chew-en), whose wife Pala (pronounced Paula) is one of our leading silk weavers.
Over the next 15 years, Seoun spent time working as a bike driver selling water, then wood and eventually cement and metal. He was forced to stop “cyclo-driving” as a result of serious illness. To support the family, his wife began doing Ikat ( a dying technique used to pattern textiles).
Over the years, they had tried a number of times to save money in order to build an ‘adequate home”; a structure 6 metres by 4 metres and roofed with leaves. However, all that was saved and lost as they sought medical attention for their third son. He fell desperately ill and ultimately, passed away as a result of the country’s lack of doctors at the time.
Having nobody to turn to, Seoun persevered under the immense pressure of trying to support his family while suffering debilitating health issues. However; one night, as he lay in his hammock, he pondered why life had been one tragedy after the next and wondered,”Where is the true God?”
The following day, as if an answer to the cry of his heart, a pastor came to his home and asked him about his condition. Seoun spared no detail. Several days later, the pastor returned to check on him, inviting him to church, to which he declined. However on the third visit from the pastor, Seoun accepted. He was able to connect with other pastors, all from New Zealand, who committed to covering all of his medical bills. Seoun was sent to hospital with encouragement and prayer. In a matter of weeks, he was feeling better, fit to work and support his family once more.
Initially, the response to Seoun’s return home was met with hostility and anger, as his family and village had a negative view of Christianity. Regardless, Seoun’s faith in God was not shaken. He found a peace and joy that was not influenced by circumstance. Over time, Seoun’s family lessened. In order to earn extra income, he started weaving pieces of fabric for Lillypilly Silk. Seoun’s wife assists him with the preparation of the silk (eg. winding the silk into skeins in preparation for dyeing, then tying, dyeing and “beating” the silk to ensure the dye penetrates). Seoun then weaves the silk into the most intricate traditional patterns, producing approximately 4 metres every 2 weeks. Next the fabric is made into bags and purses in Phnom Penh by a business that employs and supports disadvantaged women. Check out their story at www.tabitha-cambodia.org/. Lillypilly Silk is honoured to have Seoun as part of their team and looks forward to growing their connection to him and his community.
Sary and her two siblings were raised by her father, Mr Ien Moun, whose wife died of illness when the children were quite young. Sary grew up in Romcheck, a remote village in Takeo Province, Cambodia; a home to approximately 360 families. Mr Moun made a living selling piglets and catching rabbits to sell to exchange for rice.
As was common at the time, Sary only attended school for a short period of her youth, receiving approximately three months of low level education. At the age of 18 Sary’s aunt passed on to her the tradition of silk weaving including making traditional Cambodian dyes, weaving silk skirts and creating patterns.
In 1983, when Sary was 23 years old, she married a man named Shum Sim. Their marriage started out full of love and affection, but slowly deteriorated as Sim gave his life over to alcohol and verbal abuse. in 2002, Sary and Shum parted ways, leaving Sary to raise their four children (Vutha, Sengly, Bov and Neesa)
In 2006, one of Sary’s son’s, Vutha, sought to raise money for his mother by collecting stones at a quarry to sell. Vutha befriended Mala, who was the boss in that quarry and shared openly about his families situation. As a result, Mala asked Vutha to bring Sary to work as a cook in the quarry for her thirty-five workers. Unfortunately, she was only able to work for five months before she was forced to leave the job in order to take care of her children and provide care for her elderly and blind father.
Early in 2002, Sary met Peter and Dianne Tatham and began silk weaving for Lillypilly Silk. Finally she was able to generate finances for her family by using the skills her aunt taught her in her youth. Recently, Sary has been able to pay for the construction of a bathroom and toilet with the income earned from her weaving. Before this her family did not even have these most basic amenities. Sary is now able to reduce the debt that she owes to the bank on her house. Shortly she will be in the envious position of owning her home.
Sary lends her 32 years of experience to Lillypilly Silk by creating beautiful, intricate Ikat designs with the silk.
Mr Sok Thy
Sok Thy (pronounced Tee) was born Mr Ven Chamnith. Nowaday, Thy is a Tuk Tuk driver who works in Phnom Penh. He was born in Speu Village in Kompong Cham Province approximately 280 kms from Phnom Penh. He has six siblings, two girls and four boys. At the age of five, Thy’s father left the family and Thy and his family were sent to an orphanage in the Province.
For ten years Thy worked on the rice farms in Peam Brosna District harvesting and planting rice. The work that Thy performed was paid for in rice that he ate to keep alive.
After this Thy left the province and arrived in Phnom Penh. There he asked the Head Monk of the Pagoda to live at the Pagoda in a tent. Thy then started work in the city as a construction worker with many that had fled the village. Thy’s second job was selling noodles. In this job he was paid twenty dollars per month. Some time later Thy was able to afford an old motorbike.
With his motorbike he was able to take people around the city for better money providing a “taxi” service. He was then able to afford to rent a house for the sum of ten dollars per month.
After this Thy worked as a Security Guard at a local house. There his wage was increased and two years later he met his now wife Tarvey. They married in 2002. Having now lost his job, Thy changed his birth certificate and place of birth to his current name. Thy returned to riding his motorbike operating the “taxi” service as he had before.
Thy and Tarvey now have a beautiful daughter named Kim Sok Leap (pronounced Lee-p). Tarvey had problems giving birth to Leap and both suffered from many health problems during Leap’s younger years. Fortunately both are now well and suffer from little health concerns.
Leap attends Khmer school in the morning and an extra English school in the afternoon and has extra tuition from Vutha whom lives nearby.
Thy has a honest heart and ensures that we are always safe on the roads in Phnom Penh and when we travel to Takeo Province (some 2 hours away from the city). We are very blessed to have him on the team.
Nika (pronounced Nee-ka)
Nika has a Bachelor Degree in Agronomy from the University of Phnom Penh having studying three areas in addition to her agronomy studies- bee keeping, fish agriculture and silk production. Nika brings proven scientific knowledge to our projects and prepares fact sheets to give to the recipients of the projects. Being a native of Cambodia she is able to communicate to the villagers in their native tongue as they tend to be “more trusting” of their own rather than being spoken to by a “foreigner”.
The Australian Connection
Dianne has always been passionate about textiles, especially hand woven silk. She is keen to see that the third world has a chance of breaking the chains of poverty and oppression that often plagues it.
Dianne has been sewing, knitting, quilting and smocking for over 40 years. Her passion has always been colour!
Currently Dianne is studying through the City and Guilds London, a certificate in Creative Studies majoring in hand knitted textiles. Upon completion of her studies, Dianne hopes to design fabrics and accessories for our range of silk products and also establish a website for hand knitters specialising in luxurious natural fibres and yarns.
Eva works with us in designing our products.
Eva completed a Diploma Of Fashion Design in Brisbane having graduated in 2000. Since then Eva has used her extensive skills running her own successful business selling vintage clothing and accessories for many years.
Eva juggles being a full time wife and mother with her passion and love of fashion, the arts and colour. Currently Eva works as a photographer for Eva Carter Photography.