CRAFTING FUTURES FROM A FORGOTTEN WAY OF LIFE.
Vanntha Ngorn is the founder of Color Silk, a social enterprise, with a mission to preserve the art and culture of silk weaving, while reducing poverty in Cambodia. She is also the inspiration behind the Maybank Silk Weaving Training Centre.
Vanntha’s mother was a weaver, one of a diminishing number of artisans who retained the unique knowledge and skills of an ancient craft that dates back to the 7th century and the Angkor empire.
But the weaving industry that had employed 25% of the Cambodian population at its peak, was virtually erased during 2 decades of war and life under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Vanntha’s mother was determined that her daughter would escape village life, where she would forever struggle to make a living. So she scraped together the means to give her a good education.
After gaining her Masters in Business Administration, rather than abandoning the world she grew up in, Vanntha found passion and purpose in helping the women of her country through her love of this art form.
She returned to the village, embracing the challenge of rebuilding Cambodia’s silk weaving industry. In 2009 Vanntha founded the vehicle for her plans, the social enterprise, Color Silk.
Vanntha saw that one of the few opportunities for Cambodia’s rural women to gain a stable income is through the chain of cottage industries that silk weaving provides; from the farming of silk worms, to spinning, dyeing and weaving of fabrics.
A chance meeting with Shahril Azuar Jimin brought her idea of a Silk Weaving Training Centre into existence, providing the means for a new generation of young women to learn the traditions of Cambodia’s weaving arts.
Vanntha’s dedication to her vision is such that, when her students had transport problems getting from their villages to the training centre, she purchased bicycles for them to ride.
To supply quality silk for this rejuvenated cottage industry, Vanntha has recruited and assisted 140 farmers in the area, who are now earning income from 21,000 mulberry trees that they have planted.
Her vision has resulted in creating the complete value chain of the silk weaving ecosystem, including the marketing of beautiful Cambodian silk products through Color Silk.
While her mother’s plans for her daughter’s future may have taken an unexpected path, Vanntha has stayed faithful to her mother’s wish for creating a better future.
It just so happens that the future she is creating will be one that improves the lives of hundreds of women and restores a forgotten way of life.