Friday, September 17, 2010
Thary the bracelet maker
Thary is a young Cambodian man who was born with very small legs. He is from Takeo province but came to Siem Reap about a year ago to look for work. I first met Thary at the Angkor Night Market, where I had a shop (now closed because I could not compete with the shops selling copies of our bags at very low prices). Thary was employed at another shop as a salesperson for US$30 a month, working 7 hours a night (5pm-12am). (As a comparison, we were paying our shop assistant $80).
Handicapped people are often bullied because it is hard for them to get jobs. Anyway, Thary was hoping I would be able to employ him but I could not as the shop already had one person. When I found out he could weave bracelets, I offered him free space at the Bloom shop (next to the Warehouse pub) to do the work. But I did tell him we did not have much passing trade at that time as it was low season.
So what Thary did was he looked around and found a spot in the Alley, south of Pub Street. It is a great location, as there are many tourists there at night. Soon he was able to buy a motorcycle. He jokes with Kagna, our shop assistant, that he is a rich man now. :)
You can see Thary's crutches in the photo. He needs help to get on the motorcycle, but once he is on it, he is independent. I always tease him about his motorcycle and his fancy new haircut. He is very proud of his red bike and always shows me where he parks it.
I brought my French friend, Aline, to meet Thary. Aline is an awesome lady. I really admire her. She raises money every year from her small village in France to help Cambodians through Deborah Grove's Helping Hands, an NGO that has done some amazing, innovative work in Siem Reap. (Deborah's story is much like mine - came to Cambodia on a holiday and something happened to shock her into action).
Aline was very happy to meet Thary and chose many bracelets (US$1 each) to take home with her as gifts for donors and for fundraising. Here she is selecting from the many bracelets Thary has made. The inside of the bracelets are cut from plastic soda bottles which is then covered with colourful thread that you see hanging. You can choose 2 colours for each bracelet - one for the background, and one for the name.
Aline also ordered some (US$2 each) for her daughters-in-law and granddaughter and here you can see Thary making them. He ties the thread to his toe and starts weaving. You can already see the words CECILE being formed. Thary is completely self-taught. He did not read books or watch Youtube videos to learn how to make the letters. He figured it out all on his own. Very clever -- I can't do it!
A happy Aline and an even happier Thary (He told me Aline was his only customer that night - it's low season so things are a bit slow for us all). If you are in Siem Reap, do drop by to give Thary a pat on the back for being such an entrepreneur - and don't forget to buy his bracelets!