Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Story of Tuit

Recently I received some information from Janne, founder of Tabitha, and read this story. I'm copying and pasting the lot to show how we can make a real difference in the lives of those, often far away from us, who only want a chance to help themselves.

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November 2009

Dear friends and partners,

This week marks the end of the first UN held Khmer Rouge trial of Duch – the infamous head of Toul Sleng – a torture and death chamber of more than 14,000 Khmers. Duch has said he is guilty and he has said he is sorry, but these words have little meaning for the survivors for he also says “I was just following orders”. There is no remorse.

When I started Tabitha Cambodia back in October of 1994, the wounds of this brutal regime were still open and raw. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were still active in many parts of the country. People were struggling to make sense out of their losses – losses which included family, homes, education and their very fabric of society, their faith. We had decided to start cottage industry, a program that focused on providing work and incomes for families who had lost so very much. I decided that we needed to focus on traditional skills inherent in this society. Silk weaving was one such skill.

One of our first weavers was a very old lady, named Tuit. When I first met Tuit, she lived in a thatched hut. She was bent over double – she could no longer straighten her back. Tuit was raising 4 grandchildren – at 78 she should have had the luxury of resting her weary bones and enjoying her family – but her family were mostly gone – her husband and her 4 birth children had been executed by a regime that was only following orders. Her one surviving son had gotten married and had 4 children – the son and his wife died of AIDS – Tuit was raising the 4 grandchildren – 16 years old and younger at that time.

We talked of the threads of her life – raised in a happy home, learning weaving skills that created beauty – getting married and having a good home - and then it all ended with the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. Tuit revived her weaving skills – and the silk thread she wove became the income that helped her grandchildren to survive. The silk thread spoke of better times; times when life was normal and good, time when wearing silk spoke of the daily events that people were living. Each silk piece bespoke of the married status of women, of special events being celebrated, of a society that had customs and beliefs.

Several years later, a housebuilding team came and built her home. Tuit was so very touched – in Cambodia it means so much to have a home to die in. She was so very tired and wanted to move on. I asked her not to die but to live – to live for her grandchildren – to stretch the thread of life a little longer.

Over the next several years, Tuit taught the oldest child to weave and the income of the family was secured. The children graduated from school and all got married – the oldest one still weaving today. She is passing on her skills to her three children. The weaving allowed Tuit to live out her life with dignity and beauty. Tuit passed away three years ago at the age of ninety. She was surrounded by her grandchildren and their children. The thread of life continues – the thread of silk her burial shroud. For a few years, this silk weaver regained some degree of comfort in her troubled life – for a few short years – she could be what she was meant to be – a woman of beauty comforted by a thread of silk that bound her family together.

Tuit’s story is but one story of so very many – women and men who have gone through unspeakable horror – the silk thread has given them the strength to carry on, the strength to live for a while longer, the strength to regain their meaning in life, the strength to dare believe in life itself.

For each of you who have purchased an item of Tabitha’s cottage industry – each of you have carried that thread of life one step further. You have given life to so many for whom life was nothing but a thread. I thank my God for each of you – this Christmas season, may each of you give a piece of the thread of life – to those whom are attached to your personal thread of life. May the joy and peace given by each item suffuse you with the joy and the peace you have granted to others.


Janne
Tabitha Cambodia#239, St 51,Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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