09 Jul 2019
Som Narath likes to spend his spare time studying art. He dreams of becoming a famous artist one day and is among many children and teenagers who regularly drop by NGO Colors of Cambodia to polish their artistic talents for free.
Wearing a white t-shirt featuring the organisation’s motto ‘Art will save the world’, the 18-year-old says: “My favourite subject is landscape painting. I love learning lights and shadow, darkness and lightness.
“I thank Colors of Cambodia for giving me the opportunity to learn and explore art for free in Siem Reap.”
Located near Angkor Hospital for Children and Kandal village in downtown Siem Reap, the organisation was founded by American artist and entrepreneur William ‘Bill’ Gentry in 2004 as a subsidiary of US NGO A World of Difference.
Bill had been living in Cambodia for three years before establishing the charity. He felt dismayed that Cambodian children were surrounded by a rich national artistic heritage but had no access to art supplies.
Honey Khor, area manager and art teacher at Colors of Cambodia, describes Bill’s ethos underpinning the organisation: “A 75-year-old French missionary once told Bill that Cambodia needed time, not money. This thought has remained in his mind. It is truly something to try and help others by giving time and knowledge, rather than money.”
Khor, a trained artist from the Malaysian Institute of Art in Kuala Lumpur with more than two decades of experience, has been teaching art to children at the organisation since 2007.
“Over time I have organised many exhibitions and events, and helped raise funds for Colors of Cambodia. I have also provided training for teachers and helped obtain sponsorship for 170 local Khmer students, which has enabled them to go back to school and continue their education."
“I believe that we should play our role and no matter how small our contribution is at least we have done something for those in need,” she says.
Khor is among a cohort of art teachers who have donated their time to providing free art lessons to children in Siem Reap.
“Colors of Cambodia’s gallery is situated near to Angkor Hospital for Children, so throughout the day Khmer children and young adults have access to teachers and art materials in the gallery. Without this, children would not have access to art lessons and materials, as art is not on the curriculum of most schools in Cambodia. Art materials and the teacher’s time are donated, free of charge, to schools,” she says.