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19 October 2015 – The Kumnit Thmey Story

 

Kumnit Thmey (KT), a division of AFESIP Cambodia (a non-profit organisation), was developed, funded and managed by Lotus Culture (a Singapore registered non-profit organisation set up in 2010). KT employed sexually abused women/girls and survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia who sewed a wide range of high-quality products for commercial and retail customers. It started its operation in May 2011 with the recruitment of a sewing supervisor and a one year lease of a premise that provided for a dormitory, study area, store rooms and production rooms. Four girls joined in June 2011.  At its peak, there were 8 seamstresses working and rebuilding their lives in KT.

 

In early 2015, a decision was jointly taken with AFESIP for the seamstresses to start living independently and for the production to be moved into AFESIP office premises.

 

Although KT was an autonomous and independent division of AFESIP, it relied on key AFESIP staff for on-the-ground support. Unfortunately, due to the Somaly Mam’s controversy in 2014, there was a significant manpower reduction in AFESIP. The loss of ground support from AFESIP made the operation of KT unsustainable. It was then jointly concluded that production would resume when AFESIP was ready to support and take more ownership of KT under the reorganized AFESIP.  This was assessed to be at least 8 to 12 months.

 

As such, KT’s operation ended on 30 April, 2015.  The remaining four seamstresses were well supported and all secured employment in factories before the end of April.  The four girls were given an additional month of pay to help with the transition to independent living and the change.  They were also offered the option to return to KT when it commenced production again.

 

In June 2015, the new AFESIP organization advised that they will not be able to support KT going forward due to the lack of resources and their other priorities.  With KT’s permanent closure, its sewing assets were sold or given to those girls who wanted to continue to sew, while furniture and office equipment were donated to those in need.

 

KT’s mission to help to rebuild lives of these sexually abused women/girls and survivors of sex trafficking by providing employment and secure income; providing for the future via the saving scheme, an empowerment programme was thus completed. For the 4 years of operations, 13 girls have had the opportunity to work at KT, with four of them already living their dreams of owning land. All have integrated back into society with new hope and confidence for the future.   The top two performing girls, Soroth and Sreyleak have expressed their wish to continue to sew for KT’s commercial customers as and when the opportunity arises.

 

KT was profitable throughout its 4 years of operation.  Its start-up funds were returned to Lotus Culture for re-distribution to other work in combating human trafficking.  Accumulated profits to be distributed to all 13 seamstresses based on their respective performance and contribution to KT totaled USD18k.  The first round of distribution took place in August 2015 with the final round before the end of the year. The final ‘Shop for a Cause’ for the “One Edition” products was held on 16 October.

 

None of the successes accomplished for these women and girls would have been possible without your care and support.  Our heartiest THANKS to all who have supported us in this mission. It has been interesting, challenging, life changing and engaging with all was thoroughly enjoyable.

 

With the experience, momentum and the brand of Lotus Culture built over the past 5 years, we have decided to continue to work with organisations that want to start or continue to support this cause of ‘rebuilding lives’.  The first such project was completed in early October where Soroth and Sreyleak sewed for a Singapore hotel who was a KT customer for 3 years.  We will continue to explore business opportunities for Soroth and Sreyleak on a 100% voluntary basis.   You too can join us to enable the spirit of Lotus Culture in rebuilding lives and empowering the disadvantaged to continue…….

 

If you have any questions or want to help, please contact:

 

Lee Pak Kheng   Lee.PakKheng@lotusculture.com
Sylvia Lee          Lee.Sylvia@lotusculture.com