On a small 1 centimeter by 2
centimeter brick, Chea Veav painted a picture of himself and his mother walking
on a small road surrounded by green rice fields and a mountain. For the
10-year-old boy, the painting was an unrealized fantasy, an imaginary trip with
a mother who abandoned him two years ago, following the death of his father.
Chea Veav now lives with his
grandmother in a Phnom Penh
slum, dependant on the collection of morning glory from the riverbank for
But Chea Veav's art and the
painted bricks of other children are helping raise money and awareness and acting
as therapy for the children, helping them overcome traumas of the past and
imagine a better future.
"I feel hurt that I can't
live with my mother, but drawing pictures makes me happy," a skinny Chea
Veav said, in tears.
About 70 more children have
joined in the brick painting, all of them between the ages of 8 and 20, and
most of them orphans that live in the capital's poorest communities. Provided
sponsorship by Mith Samlan, or Friends, organization, the children spend three
hours each morning drawing pictures on their bricks.
Individual sponsors can then
pay to "purchase" the bricks, though these are in fact kept by the
children. More than 1,000 bricks decorated with schools, flowers, forests, rice
fields and cityscapes were used to build a wall at Friends' Phnom Penh center. Proceeds have gone toward
payments for the center.
"On a brick, children can
draw what happened to them in the past, what they dream in the future, and
provide children with creative ideas," said Sem Ratana, cultural
programmer for Friends.
Chea Veav said his brick drawing
was a representation of a future hope.
"I draw people going to
the mountain, representing my mom and I visiting Tamao mountain," he said.
"If my mom comes back, I can go to the mountain."