Village Leap

Village Leap provides a way for a rural village to bridge the digital divide, by bringing beautiful handmades silk products woven in Cambodia to you. We hope you enjoy our website.

One of the gaps which concerns those of us in the big cities and rich countries who are experiencing the digitalization of our lives, who are witnessing the rapid development of the Internet along with its ability to bring us greater knowledge, freedom and economic benefits, is the pitfall that little of this may be benefiting the developing world. Villages like Robib, unless we do something, are destined never to catch up.

The Internet, however, can bridge this gap. Cyber commerce, for one, can penetrate to Robib and we’d  like to take a stab at it.

 

Thus  far, Robib, situated in one of Cambodia’s most remote provinces, lacking electricity and telephone lines, has no reliable communication links to even the nearest city, Kampong Thom, two hours away. It has not  been able to sell many of  its agricultural crops due to lack of good roads and no means of  inter-city transport, except for one vehicle in the village, a taxi that
makes one daily run, cramped with a dozen passengers. Robib’s  has been an economy basically  reliant on its crops–mainly rice, harvested once a year, just sufficient to feed its residents. There is no surplus. Others, vegetables and corn, are sold in the village market.
Decades ago, before the Khmer Rouge occupied Robib (from 1975 to 1979),  some villagers wove silk but the skills have basically vanished except for a few elderly inhabitants who stopped weaving.  We are now reviving the skill in the hope that the output of this revived home-grown industry will  bring some level of modest prosperity to the village through cyber commerce if you will consider sending  your orders.
Later we hope to add other products such as hand made paper and coffee. But it may take time.

 

In creating this industry another village where silk weaving has developed was approached to establish a cooperative effort. Robib villagers would be trained there and the products of both villages would; be jointly sold through this Web site located in Robib.

Seven Robib villagers were recruited to  volunteer to leave their homes to travel to Tbeng Meanchey, the provincial capital of  Preah Vihear, and learn the art of silk weaving. Their families agreed to let them leave the farm temporarily in the hope they would  return with newly gained ability to weave silk and supplement their meager incomes.  Beyond that is the expectation that is an effort to restore the lost Khmer tradition of producing silk products, once regarded to be of the highest quality in the world.

 

Long before the societal upheaval of the Khmer Rouge and the ensuing civil war, Robib was home for many traditional silk weavers. While Robib’s entry into cyber commerce is aimed at bringing greater economic opportunities to the villagers,  it  is also preserving the rich, ancient culture of Cambodia.The seven Robib villagers  are studying  at the
Preah Vihear Silk Weaving and Production Project. This project was established in 1997 by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), the group which founded the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines for which it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Since its inception, the project has targeted the large population of disabled Cambodians for silk weaving training.  With a team ranging from land mine amputees to polio victims, its “Farm” has perfected the art of silk production while providing an often neglected segment of Cambodian society a new skill and sense of dignity.  Robib’s villagers are the first able-bodied people to be trained there.
Learning  to weave silk is not just pushing a pedal on a loom.  The Robib villagers are taught all aspects of  weaving.  They learn how to construct and maintain a loom along with  the tedious process of setting the hettles to achieve the desired pattern in the silk. They furthermore are taught  how to raise and care for silk worms, the tiny insects that produce the raw silk, and they study the process of treating, dying, and rolling the silk in preparation for  weaving.
Other tasks include the growing of mulberry plants (food for the silkworms) and the stitching of the final product.

 

Once they have absorbed all the training they will return to Robib to produce a variety of products we are offering you. The selection, listed on our order form, combines the products made by Robib villagers along with those by the handicapped workers of The Farm.

Proceeds of the sales will be distributed among the producers of the goods, and part of the fund will remain in a cooperative account to pay for the transport, training and living costs of other villagers who will be trained at The Farm.  Orders may be paid for by check, international money order or by credit card.

The EMS (Express Mail Service) of the Cambodian postal service, which offers the lowest and most efficient courier service through the universal postal service,  has agreed to send a truck to Robib whenever overseas orders total above $400 in postal fees and will ship out the packages, which are packed and addressed in Robib, to customers from the capital in Phnom Penh the next day. Thus, if this experiment in cyber commerce succeeds, customers may receive their orders as quickly as within one or two weeks. In the early stages it might take a few weeks. Join us in succeeding to bring cyber commerce through the Internet to remote villages like Robib everywhere in the world.


The funds are monitored by American Assistance for Cambodia, a non profit organization, registered as a 501(c)3 foundation by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and persons placing orders may be assured of the credibility and transparency of this project.