‘Cambodia has been written in my heart’

The Filberg Lodge Gift Shop will be transformed this Saturday by an exhibition of Cambodian silks from Lynda Drury, a local entrepreneur and fair trade importer of fine silk accessories.
Drury’s story has many dimensions. After years of teaching part time at North Island College and running a community development consulting business, Drury felt it was time for a change.

LYNDA DRURY (left) and Kong Chim attend a Korea/Cambodia trade show in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

LYNDA DRURY (left) and Kong Chim attend a Korea/Cambodia trade show in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Filberg Lodge Gift Shop will be transformed this Saturday by an exhibition of Cambodian silks from Lynda Drury, a local entrepreneur and fair trade importer of fine silk accessories.Drury’s story has many dimensions. After years of teaching part time at North Island College and running a community development consulting business, Drury felt it was time for a change.A founding member of Courtenay’s World Community Film Festival in 1990, Drury was soon impressed by a Cambodian documentary about the silk industry. She fell in love with the beauty, colour and creativity of silk.True to the festival’s avowed purpose, a “fierce light of compassionate activism that seeds social change” resonated within her.She began to dream big, which resulted in a radical, life-altering decision to form a business that combined social justice, working with people from different cultures, a passion for silk, and a love of travel adventures.“The rest was written in my heart,” she writes, “and Cambodia was calling. All that was required was to show up and commit all of my savings, time and inner resources to the project!”Obvious risks aside — working overseas must take into consideration the obstacles of different business practices, global weather catastrophes and unpredictable markets — Drury launched Floating Stone Enterprises and made her first trip to Cambodia in 2005.She went armed, not only with knowledge and training, but also with conviction and a strong ethical foundation. From the beginning, Drury purchased from suppliers that ran small-scale business enterprises, cottage industries, and self help organizations. She focused on buying from Cambodian businesses that worked to enhance the well being of others — businesses that act as contributors to their communities.That’s only part of the story.When you check Drury’s blog (floatingstonesilks.com/the_silk_blog) you will discover three words used over and over again: relationship, heart, and generosity. Drury had to challenge herself with how to make an import business work and stay true to her values that centred on not taking advantage of the impoverished circumstances of the Cambodian people who are her business associates.Her goals and policies had to take in account the permeable membrane that exists when two cultures meet — the sharing of both good and bad features of each society.Drury built an enterprising business based on collaboration, respect, quality products, and sound marketing. “Floating Stone Enterprises is about people, building relationships and community,” she explains. “We live in a global community but we seldom have the opportunity to understand much about the lives of the people who work very long hours for very little money to bring us beauty and adornment.” For seven years, Drury has worked primarily with two suppliers. One woman, Kong Chim, lost a leg to a landmine at the age of 12 and now trains people with a range of disabilities, including other survivors of landmines, to work for her.Drury’s second associate, San Vannery, is a passionate designer who loves to work with silk. Though she’s a young mother, Vannery also works for a non-governmental organization travelling all over Cambodia working with women’s issues such as abuse, HIV AIDS, and gender awareness. Drury’s collaboration with San Vannery and Kong (and their families) brings Drury to Cambodia twice a year.Drury’s work goes beyond the silk business. She sometimes finds it difficult to return to her Comox Valley home after working with her Cambodian colleagues.“The really hard part for me is … feeling yet again that more has been given to me than I was able to give. And I miss the life that is lived in tiny “hole in the wall” places, amongst smiling eyes and the staccato sound of the Khmer language.“Cambodia has been written in my heart and I need to return over and over. I need to stop looking for personal adventures and gain and find ways to help my friends with health, education for the children, prosthetic devices to assist them in walking without pain.”I need to be able to help in ways that make me worthy of the constant kindness of my Cambodian friends. I need to stay in integrity and not get lost in the banal commercial values and ‘imperatives’ of our culture.”You’re invited to visit Drury at the Filberg Lodge Gift Shop this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Comox Valley Record

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