A Weekend in the Woods with Arn Chorn-Pond Living Arts Scholarship students

On the 10th anniversary of the Arn Chorn-Pond Living Arts Scholarship the 2021 cohort visit Jombok Hoas Adventure Learning Center with Arn

Written by Danielle KHLEANG and photographed by THORN Dika. Quotes have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Arn Chorn-Pond Scholars — DOY Pech Tina, LIM Dara, ROCHOM Saroeun, LONG Rathanathorng, NOV Sreyleab, SORN Soran, MEAN Sovanna, VAN Chhovorn, THORN Sreynith, and POK Keo — having a blast with Arn and Sormanak.

Before the latest wave of COVID-19 infections rattled daily life in Cambodia again, the 2021 cohort of Arn Chorn-Pond scholars journeyed to Jombok Hoas Adventure Learning Center in Preah Vihear province for what would be an unforgettable weekend.

Now in its 10th year, 110 students have participated in the Arn Chorn-Pond Living Arts Scholarship Program which – in addition to providing bursaries for study and trainings – creates opportunities for artists and creative practitioners to grow their networks and strengthen their professional development. As well as a weekend at Jombok Hoas, in their first year all new scholars take part in six Cambodian Living Arts supported trainings covering personal development and leadership. For those whose scholarships continue for a second, third or fourth year, they join a development program about the arts sector, social responsibility, and project management.

During the first year of the Scholarship journey, the students spend three days at the Jombok Hoas Adventure Learning Center nestled in the forest of Preah Vihear. On the 10th anniversary, Cambodian Living Arts Founder, Arn CHORN-POND joined the 2021 scholars for activities ranging from the extreme to the light-hearted.

In conversation with our Program Coordinator, EN Sormanak, he explained that this weekend in the woods gives scholars opportunities to get to know each other because “becoming an Arn Chorn-Pond scholar is not just about the scholarship, it’s about learning from one another… building confidence” and “facing struggles in life.”

According to SORN Som An, Project Manager at the center, Jombok Hoas is premised on three core values: compassion, respect, and integrity. Each activity that Arn and the scholars joined during the weekend had a lesson to teach about collaboration, awareness, positive thinking, communication, and creative problem solving. Som An said, “when we teach these values, they are for everyone. We are supposed to live in peace, but the earth is full of problems… We teach about love, respect, integrity and working together [because] this is important for making peace.”

In pictures and quotes from Arn and the 2021 cohort, we invite you to take a look at the magic of investing in emerging arts community leaders for a better future.

SORN Som An, Program Manager Jombok Hoas Adventure Learning Center
“One activity [that stood out to me was] Dancing Cable when done with only women. After that, I felt that I have more confidence to believe I can do what a man can do just as well and should not give up on something just because it might seem difficult. Jombok Hoas community is a really good training center that educates the participants to know our worth, good leadership and communication skills, and allows us to be more confident in life.” – MEAN Sovanna
“What I can’t forget is the good advice from the instructor and everyone in the team who loved and supported each other by sharing good experiences and opinions… I have seen the greatness from each individual from the sharing and I see the world full of knowledge.” – NOV Sreyleab

“I learned many things about myself and teamwork. All activities enabled me to use my observation and participation skills effectively, and I became more confident. Helping each other with good communication and creativity is very important… Som An taught me about value of time. He showed that all the lessons are meaningful, valuable and help us with the reality in our society and everyday lives.” – SORN Soran

“The Swinging Bridge activity taught me to walk forward. Although it was unstable, we weren’t allowed to stop stepping forward. When it was challenging to walk, I could pause and relax a bit before continuing to avoid falling down. And sometimes, when it was feeling easy, I ran quickly to make myself happy. I reflect on that in life. We need to move forward toward success, and need to prepare and pause sometimes when it’s challenging, but never quit or walk backward. And sometimes we need to enjoy the fun moments in life too.” – POK Keo
“I will take this knowledge and experiences and apply them in my work in the present and future. Especially, to create a center that raises awareness about arts, culture, and identity of our ethnic minorities in Cambodia which are facing challenges so they can be rediscovered by our younger generations.” – RACHOM Saroeun
“The activities such as Giant Swing, Gibbon Swing, Team Swing and others gave me insights to realize teamwork requires the exchange of ideas, allowing others to express their opinions, not blaming each other, but mutual support. Accepting our own mistakes, honesty and value for one another makes it possible to accomplish our goals.” – VORN Chhvorn

Sreyleab joining the fun of day two’s first activity.

“Every time I’m looking through a photo album of us at Jombok Hoas, it brings me a smile. I feel it close to my heart because it was not only about having fun, but I got to learn and explore myself through each and every activity… I got to experience bizarre activities as well as mindful ones. I do feel that my self-confidence is rising up which I haven’t felt for a long time. I’m being mindfully present a lot more and starting to unleash myself from the past. There’s always negativity surrounding us, be mentally strong and conquer it.” – DOY Pech Tina
“From participating in the activities and games, I become more active, creative, curious and eager to try solving problems that I previously thought I couldn’t do and apply this in everyday life to be better.” – THORN Sreynith
“In real life, everything we do is difficult, only some are harder than others. If we keep giving up on tough tasks, we will not be able to go far. All problems have their solutions, but we need time and effort to find them. We should never quit… This lesson from the Magic Nail activity keeps whispering in my ears.” – LIM Dara
“What I would like stress about the lessons I learned from Jombok Hoas activities is that to achieve a goal, planning, time management, being positive and flexible, and helping each other are all necessary… Furthermore, I’m aware that in every problem there is always solution and that solution comes from our unlimited creativity.” – LONG Rathanathorng
“As my first time attending during the 10th anniversary of Arn Chorn-Pond scholars, I was so looking forward to being with the scholars. I knew meeting them would also inspire me, give me more gas, more energy to renew myself. All of the activities, both physical and mental, were incredible. I never imagined they existed in Cambodia but what struck me most was being with the scholars. I respect them so much and they all have such meaningful stories. Som An was great and I’m so thankful to him for leading these activities and conversations. They taught me many lessons like how to be humble, lead, talk and be aware of who you are in the moment and how to lead without taking over. I was so inspired by how the young people shared deeply about themselves. This was magical to me… They were very much a role model to let go of self-doubt and be myself. They will do a lot for themselves, their families, Cambodia, and they could even do something very incredible for the world as Cambodians through the arts.” – CHORN-POND Arn