Kunthary de Gaiffier
I met Phounam in October 2014 at a fundraising held at the Cambodian Embassy in Washington, DC. It was her first visit to the US, touring with premiere screenings of the Angkor’s Children, a documentary film directed by Lauren Shaw in which she was one of three featured stars. Connecting with her was immediate thanks to her magnetism and disarmingly charming smile. She shared that the film was about her life as a circus artist with Phare. Then learning that I was planning to visit Cambodia in December 2014 with my family, Phounam made me promise to go and see Phare’s New Year performance in Siem Reap and the Sokha Show based on a true story of a survivor of the Cambodian genocide. Both truly fantastic, moving shows and Phounam’s performance was as breathtaking and inspiring as her off stage character.
As we discussed her circus arts, Phounam also shared with me her fondest dream: to complete a college education in the United States. She yearned for an American education in order to prepare her to serve her community and combat poverty upon her return to her beloved homeland. Her conviction and dedication were such that she enrolled in English classes while continuing to work as a circus artist and starting an English and gymnastics after-school activity for grade school youth living in a neighboring compound of makeshift dwellings. In the ensuing months, I came to appreciate Phounam’s tenacity in pursuing her dream despite the heavy demands of a daily circus performance schedule and her almost boundless generosity in meeting the basic needs of her family. Her willingness to share the fruits of her education and work led my husband and I to decide to help her financiaIly with her English classes and to offer her online tutoring with her homework assignments. Through these contacts in Cambodia and later while she studied English in Madison, Wisconsin we were able to witness the progress she was making by leaps and bounds.
Recently, I became her official sponsor for her program of studies in the US. Given the trauma in her background, my husband and I are committed to providing her a safe, loving and nurturing environment for her studies. We very much hope you will actively join us and her numerous admirers and friends in offering Phounam a transformative experience through your generous financial support. With our concerted efforts, I am confident that Phounam will fulfill her dream and make us proud of her achievements. Thank you for helping her on the path to become an educated woman and a future leader in Cambodia!
Click on image to enlarge: