Possible Cambodia documentary project

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We first visited Cambodia in 1994, with our three youngest children, Michala, Vicky & Dan. Dan was 18 months old at the time. And we fell in love with the country and, more importantly, the people.

In 1999, Ingrid travelled to Phnom Penh to meet with Save the Children (Norway), to discuss setting up a primary school building program in the (recently ex) Khmer Rouge Reconciliation area of the country. Read a brief history of Cambodia.

The education project started later that year, and blossomed as we sought and won extra financial support from Japan over the next few years. partly reflecting this, I became a Board Trustee of Save the Children (USA) from 2001 to 2007.  The full project history and results were documented. By 2004/5, the project was impacting over 80,000 primary school children annually – with new schools, libraries, and teacher training programs.

From the beginning, we documented the project photographically, making numerous trips to Cambodia. Through that time we made many friends – Save the Children, Central Government, the Provincial Education office in Siem Reap, and even ex Khmer Rouge commanders. In 2002 Ingrid and I were awarded Medals of National Construction by the Royal Cambodian Government, with this citation:

The golden medal for contribution to Nation Construction is offered to Mrs. Ingrid Yates and Mr Michael Yates  for school construction in the Angkor Chum District, Siem Reap Province. The Royal Government of Cambodia has awarded this medal as evidence of thankfulness to them for the Country’s restoration and reconstruction.

Phnom Penh, 29 March 2002
Prime Minister, Hun Sen

Without exaggeration, the program changed the lives of tens of thousands of children and their families. It changed the way Save the Children (Norway) did business, and it changed our family. There is a slide presentation that we gave to a global Procter & Gamble Alumni meeting in 2005. After my graduation in 1972, I worked at P&G all over the world for 22 years, until 1995. We were pleasantly surprised to receive the Alumni Humanitarian Award in 2011.

As I am embarking on a re-examination of my 50 years of photography (the 75 Countries project), I can see at least four possible projects.

  1. Retracing the steps of the project, founded almost 20 years ago, and examining its impact today, in the context of Cambodian history and society.
  2. Looking through the eyes of the principal leader of the program, Save the Children’s Keo Sarath (pictured above), who as a child suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. He is still very active today in furthering the educational needs of Cambodian children and teachers.
  3. Examining the impact on my own family – the story of our involvement with Cambodia, its people, its history and its politics – and how it has helped shape our world view. Ingrid and I have 6 children, born in 5 countries, on 3 continents – and 9 grandchildren.
  4. Examining the impact on Save the Children. My previous Masters (MSc, Oxford University & HEC, 2003/4) was built on a comparative analysis of Save the Children’s leadership styles and development requirements.

All would need a detailed review of both my historical imagery and writing, and new work, on the ground in Cambodia and elsewhere.

I want to re-eaxmine the way I take pictures, and the feelings associated with that. And, whilst the earlier stills work was a good start, I also want to examine using other media – movies, words and possibly poetry.

This may be too ambitious, but looking forward to working through this via the MA Photography program.

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