Kampuchea Balopp is more than just rugby. As a tool for social inclusion, education and promoting healthy physical exercise we partner with some fantastic organisations in Cambodia that do terrific sustainable social work. Recently we have partnered with Friends International by donating expired and used rugby balls for them to create into sell-able products such wallets which benefit local communities. James Sutherland, Communications Director and Brendan Burke both from Friends answered some questions about the initiative.
Hi, can you tell us a little bit about the background to Friends International and Mith Samlanh? Where and how do you operate in Cambodia?
James Sutherland: Friends-International is a social enterprise saving lives and building futures of the most marginalized children and youth, their families, and their communities in Southeast Asia and across the world. Friends began working with children on the streets of Phnom Penh 20 years ago and has two programs in Cambodia (Mith Samlanh in Phnom Penh and Kaliyan Mith in Siem Reap) offering education, training for employment, and income generation initiatives to support those children and families to become productive citizens of their country. Friends ‘N’ Stuff is the branding for the products made by the families we support through our income generation projects.
How did the idea for converting the rugby balls into wallets come about?
Brendan Burke: Friends ‘N’ Stuff has always been attracted to the idea of taking an everyday object destined for a dump site and recycling it into something that’s unique and fun. Our existing tire and newspaper collections have been so popular that rugby balls seemed a perfect fit! Even better, even in its new form each ball seems to tell a story of its past – whether it’s a battle scar from a well-played match or the faded ink that evokes memories of afternoons spent under the Cambodian sun.
Who makes the wallets and what is the production process?
Brendan Burke: The wallets are made by a group of home-based production families who live in Andong Village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Each ball is first sorted according to size before being washed and broken down into panels. Following a pattern, each family will cut the rugby panels into the shape of a wallet and on top of that sew the fabric for card pockets and then a zipper for the coin pouch. Each wallet is finished with a snap so it closes securely.
What are the benefits to families who produce the wallets?
James Sutherland: The families involved generate income from the manufacture of these products which help them to become economically and socially viable – for example, they can send their children to school and improve their general standard of living.
Do you have ideas for other products for the rugby balls?
Brendan Burke: Plenty! In the future we’d love to experiment not just with more wallet shapes, but also different products like sunglasses cases, bracelets, and notebook covers.
Where and when will they be available?
Brendan Burke: The wallets will be available at all three Friends ‘N’ Stuff retail locations in Phnom Penh (Street 13 near the National Museum, Romdeng restaurant, and the FNS stall at Russian Market).
What do you think about the work Kampuchea Balopp does and the rugby ball donations? Do you think it will be a long term partnership?
Brendan Burke: Friends ‘N’ Stuff has been incredibly pleased to work with Kampuchea Balopp – not just due to its much-appreciated rugby ball donations, but also because of the organization’s history of helping children learn, play, and grow in a safe and respectful environment. We’d love to pursue a long-term partnership and find other ways to collaborate.
Any final comments?
Brendan Burke: These rugby wallets have gotten a lot of internal attention in the office, with lots of people asking when they’ll be available for purchase. Really looking forward to getting them on the shelves and showing off the skills of our home-based families!
The Wallets are available now and in store displays provide more information about Kampuchea Balopp and the initiative.