Written by Jolene Ong, designer-in-progress and Design for Good participant! Check out their creations & see more of their journey at @simple_intricacies on Instagram.

THIS JUNE, I went on my first trip to Cambodia with 11 other girls from my school on Skillseed's Design For Good programme! We worked with our friendly facis (Yee Hui and Xin Er!), lovely teachers (Mr Auyang and Ms Loong) and Saught (Pamela). I learnt so much and had so much fun on this trip! I gleaned a lot of insights from this trip, as well as working on our final product and working with social enterprises in general. From pre-trip to post-trip there was a steep learning curve, and I am extremely grateful to have gotten the chance to go on this trip!

The first thing I learned was probably related to jewelry design, conceptualizing and marketing during the pre-trip and post-trip workshops. The second thing was learning about social enterprises. Pamela and our facis came down to our school to talk to us and teach us the basics of conceptualising, as well as how a social enterprise runs. I never knew that jewelry-making was such a long process and actually had to have a storyline behind it! I always thought that designers just came up with designs that were pretty hehe. Pamela was extremely approachable and kinda inspiring, the passion she had for her jewelry and encouraged us to have for our own really encouraged us, and pushed us to improve our product and our storyline. Thanks to her guidance, we managed to come up with a wonderful design that we felt had a meaningful storyline that came sincerely from us, to all students past and present of our school! It was extremely rewarding.

In addition, I had always had misconceptions about social enterprises. I had always thought that they only helped the poor by donating items or money in Singapore. Well, I was wrong. On the trip itself, our facis also explained to us the different models of social enterprises there are and how they work etc (all of them work differently and cater to different groups in society!). It was very enlightening and I realized that we are actually exposed to many social enterprises in Singapore! (e.g. O School, School of Thought)

During the trip, we also visited many social enterprises and learnt more about them like Daughters of Cambodia, Saught, Friends International and many more! Honestly, at first, it was like we were just helping people, people whom we never met, and I felt that as Singaporeans who live comfortably as compared to how many live in Cambodia, we were unable to connect with those people we were helping in Cambodia and be in their shoes. That was how I felt until we visited villages on a few occasions during the trip. That was definitely a wake-up call for me and I could finally feel for myself how much these people needed the help. Rationalizing and feeling was different. One of the incidents that truly touched me was when a young village school boy snatched my friend’s water bottle and started chugging it down. As I looked around the muddy paths, and murky paddy fields, it dawned upon me that simple luxuries like clean, bottled water was a rare treat for many like him in Cambodia.

To work on our jewelry pieces, we also frequented the silversmith workshop. The artisans were all very friendly and despite the language barrier, all tried their best to help make our jewelry piece the best it could be. It was also very eye opening to see how rings and charms were made from scratch in the workshop! I will definitely miss all the friendly artisans I met in Phnom Penh. The photoshoot was also one of the highlights of the trip. Luckily, the pictures turned out well!

Luckily, we did not just work in Cambodia, we also had lots of fun!! We got a chance to make our own sterling silver rings (by ourselves!!! That’s why my ring looks deformed.) with the help of the artisans, it was the best souvenir I have ever gotten! *_* We also visited many places of interest like the Silver Pagoda, the National Stadium and the Night markets. We also learnt traditional Apsara dancing! (You’ll faint if you watch us perform though!) Much thanks to our friendly guide Veasna, who guided us through Cambodia enthusiastically, and was always patiently explaining Cambodian history! The people back at 4Memories Guesthouse were also super nice and friendly! I’m very grateful I got to bond with many of my schoolmates during this trip! This trip was truly an unforgettable experience. I learnt lots more about Cambodian culture, and even about being compassionate and helping others. I learnt quite a bit about marketing and jewelry design too! I feel like a spark ignited in me on this trip, I will definitely return to Cambodia again, and find a way to give back to these wonderful people. 

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