Sam Lay, 40

Seamstress at The women

I grew up near the temples of Angkor Wat but the government needed to clear the land to make way for tourism, which meant that they moved people around a lot. So I had to leave school when I was 11 and I moved with my family to Khouk Chak village, where I started farming. When I was 25 I asked my sister to teach me how to use the sewing machine. She has her own business in our village. I decided to stop farming completely and focus on learning how to make clothes, because I could make more money for my family.

I used to only sew from home to help my sister’s business. In August 2017 I started working here in the afternoons. Working here allows me to get a fixed and reliable monthly income, whereas at home it would depend how many customers we got. Also, here I have the opportunity to come up with my own designs, but when I work from home, the customers tell me exactly what they want.

My husband and I are actually saving money to build a bigger house. When I am older, I may go back to only sewing from home but for now I really enjoy working here. At the Fairtrade Village I get to meet other artisans and people from differents communities and I enjoy being around the customers and tourists. I like to observe the way tourists are dressed, the styles and sizes are completely different from those of the Khmer people.

It took me two years to learn how to cut and sew all the different types of clothes. Right now, I can sew two shirts in one day. I enjoy sewing shirts and dresses the most but I don’t like sewing formal dresses because it usually takes 5 days of work. I have taught other women how to sew and I am currently training the other seamstress at the shop. It can be quite difficult when a student is new because they don’t know how to cut the fabric or use the machine!