behind the scenes
Finder Martina recognised the need for education and training in several of the disadvantaged farming communities, surrounding Phnom Penh in Cambodia, where she lives. Although she is a social worker, she has a strong design background through her parents and together they established an NGO that provides training in silver smithing and handicraft skills to local young people. The school connects students with professional designers, to inspire the new jewellers to create their own pieces. Following graduation, students are connected with work placements.
The beautiful earrings, rings and bracelets these new artisans create are made from sterling silver, produced in-house and then hand forged to create the pieces. Cambodia’s creative arts industries have struggled in the recent past, and NGOs such as Martina’s are supporting locals to get back in touch with their creative instincts and make arts and culture a priority for the country once again. So far, a couple of rounds of students have graduated from the school and there are around ten members of the team who work on site with Martina, each responsible for a different part of the process. All the pieces are made in the school workshop and the workspaces are bright and spacious.
Coming from an area where farming is the primary industry and subsistence living is the norm, Finder Martina has had to find ways to encourage families to let their young people study and gain new skills. To do this she has systems in place that pay families a fee per day, when a family member is studying with her and therefore not at work, contributing to the family’s income. The student also receives a payment to help them with travel and food costs while in Phnom Penh. Beyond facilitating them being able to study, the students are taught not only new skills, but how to utilise those skills to access their own creative instincts. Many of the graduates are now also teaching at the school, so new students are learning from their peers, in their own language.