A stunning giant wall mural designed and painted by youth has transformed a kindergarten school in one of the most impoverished communities in Phnom Penh.
10 Students from NGO Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) and 10 youth from ASEAN countries collaborated with Sean Duffell, a professional mural artist from New Zealand, for the art project in Steung Meanchey.
Their effort has seen a drab, grey wall transformed at Yeo's Kindergarten into an amazing stretch of eye-catching vibrant colors and designs, creating a bright beautiful backdrop for the 57 CCF kindergarten students at playtime.
The Community Mural Project was funded as part of the eMpowering Youths Across ASEAN (EYAA) Programme. EYAA - launched in conjunction with the ASEAN Day on 8 August 2018 - is a collaborative programme by the ASEAN Foundation and Maybank Foundation dedicated to empowering youth and communities across the region.
The project took place at CCF’s second kindergarten, which serves vulnerable children living with families on the south side of the former Steung Meanchey garbage dump. The garbage dump, which closed in 2009, was the biggest dumpsite in Southeast Asia and one of the most toxic and dangerous environments in the world.
The Community Mural Project aimed to engage youth and encourage participation to improve their own communities, while connecting with other cultures.
A 60-meter wall at the CCF kindergarten, which opened in late 2022 with support from leading Asian drinks brand Yeo’s Cambodia, needed painting to create a more child-friendly environment for young students and enhance the overall appearance of the area.
10 CCF students of high school and university age were selected to take part. They were joined by youths from the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme (AYVP) representing the 10 ASEAN countries who travelled to Cambodia.
Leading the project was Sean Duffell, a New Zealand graphic designer and professional artist who specializes in murals. Sean has previously worked with CCF for a mural on a wall at its Phum Russei Edible community garden created on a neglected piece of land in the Steung Meanchey area.
Sean held a design workshop with the 20 youths to brainstorm ideas and themes for the kindergarten mural. The kindergarten students also gave their own fun creative input, some of which was included in the design.
Aerosol spray paints and exterior house paint were used to create the mural.
It took seven days to collaboratively paint the wall.
The final concept featured the 10 ASEAN countries, incorporating their flags, native animals and fruits, and national landmarks and icons, painted in cartoon style.
Handprints were added from kindergarten students and all the youth who took part.
Art is a powerful medium to bring people together no matter where they are from or what they believe
"The Community Mural Project is a great project. It provides an opportunity for ASEAN youths and CCF youths to learn and work together to improve the livelihood of the Steung Meanchey slum. I’m glad to see more and more youths contributing to community development,” said Sokuncharya Kak, CCF’s Grants Program Manager.
The mural will be enjoyed by kindergarten students for years to come and provide a lasting legacy of the regeneration of the Steung Meanchey area
“I’m really happy with how the mural looks. The idea was to have as much character and as many different ideas on the wall as possible,” said Sean Duffell.
“I’ve enjoyed learning about different cultures and meeting so many new people. And seeing the kids smile and laugh. Art is a powerful medium to bring people together no matter where they are from or what they believe.”
Being part of the project has instilled a sense of pride in their area for the CCF students who helped create it and the 200 Steung Meanchey community members who live there.
As well as receiving art education from a professional artist, CCF students who do not have the chance to travel overseas were able to connect with youth from different countries.
“It’s been special to meet them and learn more about other ASEAN countries,” said CCF student Sreynith, 19, in Grade 11.
“The best part has been meeting others. All our ideas have come together, everyone has contributed something.”
This program and the children I have met motivate me to do more, contribute more, and give back more to society
ASEAN Youth Volunteer Yen, 22, from Hanoi, said: “This program and the people here, and the children I have met, really motivate me to do more, contribute more, and give back more to society and engage and empower kids.”
Another benefit is for Cambodian youth to develop vital life skills such as teamwork, communication and time management and put these into practice on a real-time project.
“What we want our students to learn is how to communicate and work together with different people, it’s crucial for them to go further in life,” said Yeang Sethsamprathna, CCF’s Youth Development Program Manager.
The Maybank Foundation’s mission is to positively impact communities by enhancing the quality of life for all through investing in sustainable programmes regionally for long-term tangible benefit.
The mural art project, from concept to completion, was captured for posterity by a team from CCF with video and photography to create a permanent record for future generations.