February 27th, 2021Festival: fun and fundraising
But it is more than just a day’s entertainment. One hundred per cent of the profits go to the Cambodian Kids Foundation (CKF) founded by Sam Cooper after her first visit to the country with her mother Donna in 2006.
Fifteen years later the CKF operates in Kampong Thom Province, one of the poorest provinces of the country, with its administration base in Daylesford. It just goes to show how wide a regional net can be cast when it comes to fundraising and assisting those in need across the world.
The festival is the idea of Macedon Ranges musician and festival director Jimmy O’Hare and commenced in 2013 in his family’s backyard. Initially, it was simply a jam session with friends with a donations jar passed around to raise money for the CKF. But the story goes back a little further than that.
“Myself and my family went to Cambodia with the Cambodian Kids Foundation in 2012. They were just setting up this school in a remote area of the country for kids that would otherwise not have any access to schooling or healthcare in the region. This is the first time they had taken volunteers over with them so myself and my family were lucky enough to be a part of that.”
For a 16-year-old kid leading a pretty comfortable life outside Melbourne, the poverty he saw with children in poor health and suffering malnutrition, was a wakeup call. And when he came back Jimmy wanted to make further contributions to the foundation’s work.
His family are big music fans and music has always been their lives so it was natural enough that a live music event would be their way of offering support. And although the festival is always a big effort, especially with current health restrictions, the rewards make it well worthwhile.
“We are a volunteer-run festival, none of the committee or the volunteers get paid. We all have other jobs so finding time to prioritise the event is sometimes a challenge. But I have returned several times to Cambodia to visit the school and the money we have raised and the changes it has helped bring about have been absolutely remarkable. Many of the children are thriving and going on to be teachers themselves. It has been incredibly rewarding to see that and be helping that process develop.”
Donna Cooper is part of the Cooper family who created the CKF and its partner company The Sew Good Company which provides women in rural Cambodia with fair, safe, family-friendly employment. Normally she resides in the South East Asian nation but is currently in Daylesford due to the bans on international travel. She has high praise for the efforts of Jimmy, his family and the host of volunteers.
“People always ask: ‘How can we help you’, ” says Donna. “And Jimmy asked the same question. I said: ‘You know what I would love, Jimmy? If people could think of something that they’re passionate about, that they can do well, and do it on our behalf.’
“Just over a year later he came back to us with the festival as a fundraising initiative. It is my favourite day of the year and I will always fly home for it. The money raised makes sure that school remains open for those children, making sure breakfast is available, making it just that tiny bit easier to do the work we do. You truly do not meet people like Jimmy every day.”
Above: Festival director Jimmy O’Hare
Below: Students at Soksan International School, Cambodia
Words: Tony Sawrey | Images: Supplied