Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Let Us Create Is An Arts Good Will Pick

As an early teen, Roger Dixon started painting in a workshop at home. But it wasn't long after that his curiosity propelled him to put his paint brushes aside and see the world.

While he will never regret what he describes as the mistakes and blunders of an optimistic youth traveling across Asia and around the Mediterranean, Dixon eventually decided to make his old passion for art a profession. He returned to painting at the age of 28.

From that day forward, he never stopped painting, realizing he never had to choose one or the other. Although he settled in Ibiza, Spain, Dixon still traveled the world from time to time. And one of those excursions led him to the beaches of Sihanoukville, Cambodia (a.k.a. Kampong Saom), on the Gulf of Thailand.

While Dixon painted, he began to attract an unexpected audience. Area children who would normally comb the beaches attempting to sell merchandise to tourists or beg for money gathered around him. Almost immediately, mostly because Dixon's own career had seen lows that had him living in a tent or traveling with a caravan, he recognized them as homeless children living in extreme poverty.

How a painter sparked the Let Us Create Cambodian Children's Project. 

His heart breaking, Dixon decided to become an advocate for these children. And with the support of a group from Ibiza, a simple project was started in 2004 to give these children drinking water, a meal, and an opportunity to paint. Two years later, another young man from Ibiza took charge of the ongoing effort and registered the project as a self-sustaining NGO.

Today, Let Us Create has evolved into a closed campus. While there is an open door policy for all children, tourists are not welcome. The idea is to ensure that their activities and education remain safe and interactive rather than at risk or exploitive.

The center provides free education, which includes English and Khmer, along with extracurricular activities ranging from karate and yoga to basketball and technology. The center even has a nursery for younger children, which enables older children to attend class.

Along with these services, the program provides basic nutrition and food assistance for some families. In some cases, the children are provided a bicycle so they can travel back and forth to school.

While the children are sheltered, the center subsidizes its needs with art. 

The center's original building, which is located on Serendipity Beach, now serves as an art gallery featuring the work of the school's young artists and other merchandise. The art subsidizes the programs at the center and has led to a program that rewards students for perfect attendance.

Once a week, students are given items they can use for school or take home and share with their families. Originally, the center split sales with the children until discovering it was counterproductive. Some of the children who were especially proficient would give up creative exploration and attempt to paint only what they thought would sell.

Often times, the work is inspired by the various art teachers who have volunteered at the center. Many of them visit from the United Kingdom and elsewhere to serve as volunteer teachers for one to three months.

In addition to the full-time staff, the center has a volunteer application program. Many volunteers live at the center, teaching art and English while overseeing other extracurricular activities for one to three months. Volunteers invest $500 USD to the project per month ($650 for a single room) and the center offers recommendations for how much volunteers ought to plan for meals and other expenses.

For many years, Dixon was one of those teachers while the project became self-supportive. Today, he is working on a new exhibition after the children, he says, inspired his work. Ironically, like the children he has assisted, he doesn't always know when his next painting will sell to sustain a lifestyle with very few frills. You can find his work on a modest website.

The Let Us Create Cambodian Children's Project Is A Liquid Hip Good Will Pick. 

At least once a month, Liquid Hip highlights good will efforts undertaken by people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

Let Us Create Cambodian Children's Project allows sponsors to provide a scholarship to area children for $120 per year per student. This includes English and Khmer classes, uniforms, and all school supplies. There are additional sponsorship opportunities, including $45 per month to help ease the financial burden of student families (alleviating the need for children to work instead of attend school).

In addition to sponsorship opportunities, Let Us Create welcomes individual donations. They include an itemized list of the direct support that provides individuals an accurate picture of precisely where the money will be invested, ranging from school uniforms and art supplies to food and a teacher's wage ($180).
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