In 2002, former student Valerie Khoo (1987) and her friend Kylie Taylor, established a charity to assist an orphanage in Cambodia. Valerie said, “In our sheltered and protected lives, we had no concept that halfway across the world children the same age as us were having machine guns thrust into their arms and trained to kill by the oppressive Khmer Rouge regime… it wasn’t until we took a holiday to Cambodia in June 2002 that we came face to face with this tragic period in history …Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world, four million landmines still lay in the ground, meaning amputees and disabled people are a common sight.”
Kylie and I decided that we wanted to create a self-sustaining business model that would continue to generate an income for the orphanage so we decided to create a clothing and homewares label, Taylor & Khoo, that would donate 100 percent of profits to the orphanage.
On their return to Australia in 2002 Valerie and Kylie set out to make their idea work. In a very short time they established the Taylor & Khoo store in Sydney with donations from corporations.
Almost all products and clothes in the shop were made by people in Cambodia. They worked with disabled groups, non-government organisations and individuals. The products were made by people with disabilities and they saw a vast improvement in their levels of self-esteem as they provide for the shop.
Between 2003 and 2006, numbers at the orphanage increased from 60 to 140. The children finally slept on beds with pillows rather than on the floor. Their nutrition and hygiene levels improved and they were taught English.
The Sydney store won a small business award, the cash prize going to support the orphanage.
Taylor & Khoo achieved what it set out to do. It was a unique fashion and homewares label that provided employment and opportunity for people in poverty in Cambodia and supported the needs of about 120 orphan children at the Sunrise Angkor Children’s Village in Siem Reap.
Over four years, the Taylor & Khoo venture created a high level of awareness and demand for Cambodian silk, fashion and homewares; created income generation opportunities for some of the most needy in Cambodia; and helped them to improve their design and production capabilities. It also created a high level of awareness of the needs of the children at the Sunrise Angkor Children’s Village in Siem Reap and was a flagship for many fundraising efforts for the orphanage.
Danebank congratulates Valerie and Kylie for their dedication and success as ordinary people working together to make a difference. Valerie was awarded Danebank’s first Edith Roseby Ball Award for Compassion on 7th March 2008.