A plane delay, a missed connection and a chance meeting on our 2017 trip led us to visit DomLai Mon – a group of women living in a very poor area on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. They are women and children living with HIV/AIDS that have become a tight knit community and formed a sewing cooperative to develop their sewing skills to support themselves and their families.
Joy Marshall, an Adelaide lady, was on the same flight as us in 2017, on her way to meet these inspiring ladies whom she has supported for a number of years.
Due to the stigma of HIV it is very difficult for the women to find secure and suitable work. Previously the group was represented by an organization that passed on some orders to the women and marketed their products internationally. When That organization closed over 3 years ago, Joyful Fair Trade (Joy’s registered charity) has connected with the group and helped sell their products back in Adelaide at markets and to friends, raising further funds to support this enterprise. Joy’s aim has also been to further develop them to become an independent cooperative so that they can continue this work on their own.
Thearith Soun is the Group Leader and has excellent sewing skills and attention to detail that produces a really high quality product. She continues to train the other aides to develop similar skills.
Joy has helped them with ideas for the style and type of bags that would be saleable in the markets back in Adelaide.
Thearith’s daughter Jasmine is a pocket rocket, so full of enthusiasm and vision for the group’s future. She and her mother foster 2 other children who have lost their parents to HIV. She also has the benefit of fabulous English, and was so articulate in sharing with us her ideas. She herself is a jeweler, making beautiful pieces from the brass melted down from used beet shells. She is a canny business woman, selling her jewellery via social media in Phnom Penh. We all did some shopping while we were there!!!
We talked to them about what their greatest need was to continue and grow their sewing enterprise and they were very keen for another industrial sewing machine as at the moment they need to roster the time each woman gets to use the ones they have. So that’s what we did. Something ongoing and sustainable to help them help themselves.
DomLai Mon’s vision is to support members of their community affected with HIV. They believe every Cambodian family affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic should be living in a family context and enjoying an acceptable standard of social, psychological and material care.
GOALS and OBJECTIVES
• This group of home workers and their children become self-sufficient and thrive within the community.
• Work towards creating a society in which people with HIV are valued and encouraged to fulfil her potential.
• Promote a cost-effective and family-first approach to the support and care of single women and orphans affected by HIV.
• Support orphans affected by HIV in a Khmer family-based, community context rather than the Orphanage system.
• Ensure all members of this community have greater opportunity to earn a decent, livable wage,
• Have access to training to further develop their skills and learn new skills.
• Be able to gain decent and long-term employment to support their families, providing food, shelter, healthcare, and send their children to school.