It’s true, we haven’t been so hot for a while with putting up updates on the Ahkun blog. But it’s all about to change. Seriously, we’re for real.
Until then, if you haven’t checked out the Ahkun redesign, complete with awesome goods for spring/summer (finally!) you should do that (www.ahkun.org). And stalk us on facebook and twitter please: http://www.twitter.com/ahkun and http://www.facebook.com/ahkunisthankyou. We’re super active on that both, we’re just awful bloggers, that’s all.
The new and vastly improved Ahkun site is going to have all sorts of fun things, video, commentary, interviews with activists and fashion plates (often both), and all sorts of other things that will hopefully inform (and probably kill a lot of time at work ;-)). That’s what we’re hoping at least.
So, stay tuned, and thanks for the love and support!
Spring is in the air, and with that, a new website is coming for Ahkun, as well as new goods from our artisans and entrepreneurs. Stay tuned and keep an eye out this week for our new look!
Happy Holiday season! It’s been awhile since the last posting, but in the next few days we’ll be rolling out our new and improved website to replace the beta website, with some new additions! We will be featuring our full line of goods from the Cambodian Kiva entrepreneurs that Ahkun has had the good fortune to work with. Some of the new entrepreneurs include:
- The Sophoan Muong group, which creates handbound paper journals and handmade paper cards, lined in silk, from paper that they themselves make. See their original Kiva loan and their handmade paper and silk cards
- The Phei Ro group, which makes silk ties and decorative silk pillowcases. See their original Kiva loan here
- Sam On Khat, who weaves grass floor mats in a multitude of colors and patterns. See her original Kiva loan here
These groups are joining our current Kiva entrepreneurs Kakeda Sun, the Circle Cambodia cooperative, and the Channy Sokh group.
We’ll be rolling out their products in the next few days–keep an eye out!
First off I would like to apologize for neglecting this blog. The past few months have been a bit hectic here in Cambodia. At one point I was working 12-hour days, seven days a week, so I had to put Ahkun on the back burner just for a bit.
But I recently took some time off and went home. While I was there I had a chance to recharge and get back on track, so let me update you guys on what’s going on!
In the next six months we’re planning on:
- Having 10 businesses on the site – a business can consist of a single entrepreneur or a village working together
- Working with each business to make a better quality product – for example having Kakeda Sun start using 100% cotton, instead of a synthetic blend.
- Becoming a registered non-profit
- Shipping all the goods to New York
We’ve also changed the way the proceeds are being divided:
- 25% will go to the lender – a payment will be paid when the goods are delivered to Ahkun and a second when the goods are bought
- 25% will go to the MFI to support one of their “beyond microfinance” causes. Many MFIs have programs that do much more than just provide financial services. Unfortunately their margins are already pretty slim, so these programs often require outside financial help to get them started. AMK, our first partner, will use their proceeds to fund their new Special Interest Groups Unit (SIGU) which looks to provide financial services and business training to vulnerable groups in Cambodia. They will
- 25% will go to Kiva – for being awesome
- 25% will be reinvested back into Ahkun
Also, we have some very exciting news:
- AMK is going to purchase the goods upfront from their clients on the site. THIS IS HUGE. Our biggest barrier for growth was capital to purchase goods, but AMK and their CEO, Paul Luchtenburg, have been very supportive of this project and they really want to see it grow!
- Kiva is going to feature Ahkun in one of their newsletters which goes out to all of their Kiva lenders. THIS IS ALSO HUGE. Kiva has over 550,000 lenders and we’re hoping that those who lent on Kiva, will also want to support these entrepreneurs by buying their products!
Anyone who’s seen me in the past few weeks knows that I’m really excited about this!! VERY EXCITED! I will use this blog to update you as all the pieces fall into place. If you aren’t already following us, use any (or all) of these tools:
Thanks again for all of your support!!!
April was quite a busy month for Ahkun. We launched the site, introduced our first entrepreneur, collected our first orders, shipped 200 kramas to the United States, received a DoSomething.org grant, did a lot of behind the scenes coding to make the site run more efficiently, and we’re about to ship out our first batch of orders!
To celebrate all of these accomplishments and to celebrate international labor (or labour if you’re British!) day we’re launching our first promotion! Make a loan on Kiva.org on behalf of the Ahkun.org lending team and we’ll send you a coupon for $15 off $30! If you’re a first time lender on Kiva.org, we’ll send you a coupon for $20 off $30!
Once you make the loan on Kiva.org, send an email to me sanjaya AT ahkun DOT org with your Kiva lender ID and the Kiva Business ID of the loan.
The Nitty Gritty Details:
One coupon per loan on Kiva.org. The loan must be made for the ahkun.org lending team. One coupon per order and one use per coupon. To qualify for the new lender discount it must be your first loan on Kiva.org. All requests for coupons must be sent by May 15, 2009. All coupons issued will expire on June 30, 2009.
Ahkun.org is officially up and running!
Ahkun.org is a website which allows you to purchase goods made by entrepreneurs who have taken out microloans that were funded through Kiva.org. After Ahkun becomes established, proceeds will go to Kiva.org and the microfinance institution that provided the loan to the entrepreneur.
Our first entrepreneur is from Cambodia. Her name is Kakeda Sun and she is a krama weaver. A krama is a traditional Cambodian scarf which can be used in many ways. Francois Grunewald wrote about the Krama in an article for Cultural Survival:
From near and far, the kramas grace the Cambodian people with their own special character. The humble Khmer garment, a scarf made up of thousands of tiny squares, resembles Khmers’ own history: it is a patchwork of contrasting hues – dark and light, sad and joyous.
After living and working for years with Khmers, one cannot help but have seen a thousand and one morsels of this material on a thousand and one different occasions. Some kramas – black and white – bespeak tragedy. Others, made of bright silks, are merrily worn to pagoda festivals. There are a plethora of kramas that reflect the many events that make up Cambodian life.
There are kramas soaked by the sweat of peasants, who mop their brows as they carry out their harsh work in the fields… plowing, harrowing, harvesting. Their kramas also know the sweat born of long and terrible days of work under the yoke of the Khmer Rouge… cutting the forest, digging canals, building dams.
There are the kramas that color the marketplace. Worn in a thousand and one different ways, these lend elegance to the silhouettes of women waiting for the ferry that will carry them from Prek Kdam to Kompong Cham.
Kramas are gently when transformed into hammocks and suspended between two sugar palms, protecting infants from the wet rice fields while their mothers, doubled over, cultivate the paddies. Kramas can be tender, too, when a yey (grandmother), gums reddened by bethel, uses one to dry the cheeks of a child in tears.
Kramas are close to pain when they are used to cinch a leg torn off by one of thousands of land mines that will, for years to come, continue to kill and cripple. And, too, kramas become stretchers when several, tied together and attached to long bamboo poles, are used to carry the wounded, a sick person, or a woman in labor.
There are terrifying kramas, worn by the sinister silhouettes of kramaphibal and yothear (loyalists and soldiers) of Pol Pot.
Then there are the horrifying kramas, found in tatters and mixed with human remains in the mass graves strewn throughout the country.
Kramas of heroes: the quasi-customary piece of uniform of the men that take part in the conflicts between the superpowers and small regional hegemonies. Soldiers of Sihanouk, Hun Sen, Son San, or even Khleu Samphan: how you resemble each other, draped in your bivouac kramas, turbanned in these scarves of tiny squares as you march in the season’s dust, or when, to bathe in the river by the soft tropical light of dusk, you drape you drape your krama modestly around your hips.
Kramas of humiliation are scattered among the long lines of refugees waiting, often in shame and despair, and now with all too frequent resignation, for their ration of international aid. Some have been in exile for nigh on 10 years… How many children born in these camps are carried in a krama noosed about their mothers’ shoulders? How many have only known the rice cooked from a plastic sack their mother has received as a ration…?
Knapsack kramas contain everything for the voyage to the work areas that stretch from K.5 to the Khmer Thai border. Many return trembling from these forests (think with guerrillas and Pol Pot soldiers) – sick with tropical fevers, clutching their kramas about them for warmth.
Kramas become parasols when they are stretched between the masts of thousands of wagons during the great seasonal migrations that irrigate whole villages at the start of the dry season. Their shade protects Khmers as they travel toward the miraculous fishing shores of the Tonlè Sap at the mouth of the Oudong, and Prek Phnow – upriver from Phnom Penh.
During the great purges of 1978, deportees from the eastern part of the country were marked as traitors by green and blue kramas. These kramas created fear among and about those they designated as secret agents, as enemies to be spied upon and persecuted without mercy. Kramas of fear, kramas of the yellow star.
Wrapped around hips, and in between legs, kramas are a pair of makeshift shorts for a round of volleyball until, with a particularly vigorous swipe at the ball, the krama will fall, lifting waves of laughter and jokes from the audience. The matron of the marketplace in O’Russey extracts her worn riels from the krama that serves as her only purse. Her gesture is reminiscent of so many others – the slight, young refugee girl selling doughnuts in Khao-I-Dang… or the manageress of the small shop in the Site Two refugee camp, a little bamboo city that is the second Khmer city after Phnom Penh… A neak srae, a man of the rice fields, unknots his krama for a pinch of tobacco, which he will roll into a “Sangker” leaf, picked by the side of the road.
Some kramas are hoisted onto children’s backs as schoolbags. Tied at all four corners, filled with a few crayons, a notebook, and some books, they are carried along the roads of Srok Kmer, parallel to the corridors of the refugee camps. On both sides of the border, there are only a few schools in bad condition; they are, nonetheless, greatly treasured – so great is their pupils’ hunger to learn. Young girls carry their kramas gingerly, with the grace and modesty they are taught, while boys sport theirs in haste, slung over their shoulders to speed their progress toward the football field. Priests wear kramas, too, folded across their chests. Dressed in black pants and collarless white shirts, their figures and serene smiles dress the Cambodian landscape; they are a part of its active religious life, a part of the nation’s spiritual joys and suffering.
Some kramas are used as handcuffs, tightened around a prisoner. Others share in hope, swaddling a still wet newborn. This article is dedicated to everyone who wears kramas.
Check out her kramas and enjoy these discounts:
- Kakeda10 – $10 off $45
- Kakeda15 – $15 off $60