Over the past few months a group of local parishioners have been holding various functions to raise funds for the outreach works of the Jesuits in Cambodia. All the funds raised, totalling over $13,000, have been forwarded to the Jesuits.
Some of the funds will be allocated to the Peace Café project and the Center of the Dove to assist those with disabilities who live in Phnom Penh, the Capital of Cambodia to have a livelihood and give them dignity.
Originally, Banteay Prieb (“Center of the Dove” in Khmer) was a vocational training centre for Cambodians with physical disabilities. It was founded in Kandal Province in 1991 by the Jesuit Refugee Service. Nowadays, about 120 students are involved in professional training (such as agriculture, mechanics, electronics, sewing, shoe-making and sculpture). Helped by a welcoming and cheerful community life, students can recover their self-confidence and their independence and thus, their human dignity and joie de vivre.
Since 1999, Banteay Prieb has been extended to Banteay Prieb Production, which includes two handicraft workshops (textile and sculpture). These workshops aim at providing jobs for their own graduates, insuring them fair wages and good working conditions and allowing them to gain experience and become proud of their skills (high-quality handicraft).
In Banteay Prieb, they believe that by giving their artisans a chance to regain dignity and bring peace to their hearts, we can contribute to creating a new peaceful Cambodian society.
Workshops (sculpture and textile) employ graduates of Banteay Prieb, providing them with jobs, experience, and opportunities to express themselves through their work. They offer a large variety of fine Cambodian handicraft items.
Beautiful wooden sculptures (mainly traditional Cambodian and religious designs) are admired all over the country and around the world with orders being placed from as far as Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK. Besides, kromas, bags and textiles have become popular items for gifts and souvenirs.
Banteay Prieb Production is now running a café-shop (named Craft Peace Café) in Phnom Penh. It is an airy, cozy, classy and quiet place in Phnom Penh where you can enjoy a good selection of delicious smoothies, Cambodian coffee, pocket sandwiches, salads and pastries. It is also an inspiring place where they display and sell their products, made by the disabled artisans of Banteay Prieb Production. The whole shop can also be used as a great venue for photo exhibitions or other kinds of performances or shows, movie screenings etc.
Peace Cafe is the face of the Jesuit Service Cambodia works in Phnom Penh where the public can meet in a casual social space. The coffee shop showcases the products (sculptures, textile wallets, etc) of Banteay Prieb students. Banteay Prieb is the Jesuits’ vocational and technical training school outside of Phnom Penh. As much as possible too, Peace Cafe provides employment to graduates of Banteay Prieb.
The shop of the Peace Cafe is in need of minor repairs, simple renovation, and reorientation. It has been operating for over a year now in the absence of the Korean volunteer who was responsible for designing and opening the Peace Cafe. The Jesuits feel it is time for some reorienting. They plan to reinforce the shop’s ecological aspect, such as being aware if their coffee beans are fair trade and rainforest-friendly, selling “green” products, and sharing information about their ecological campaigns or advocacy in the country.
Since the Peace Cafe seeks to promote awareness of people living with a disability (PWD), ecological issues in Cambodia, and the works of Jesuit Service as a whole, the direct beneficiaries are the students, sculptors, textile workers of Banteay Prieb. Other indirect beneficiaries of greater public awareness of PWD and ecology are villagers and indigenous communities living off the forests, fisherfolk communities, and society in general.
Fr. Colin Reinhardt