Today, if you met Muy Leng, the founder of Dare Mockingbird, you would never guess her background. Kiwi as they come, with a relaxed ‘she’ll be right’ attitude (typical of the New Zealand mentality, we’re told), and a natural candor about her, Muy was born in Cambodia and was part of the diaspora who fled the country during the harrowing years of the Pol Pot regime. Muy miraculously escaped with her family intact and was accepted into New Zealand as resettlement refugees. She was five when they arrived in New Zealand. The damage of the Pol Pot regime crippled Cambodia and set it back decades - as a nation and as a people.
Growing up in clean, green New Zealand with boundless opportunities, Muy’s parents emphasized the importance of education and indeed all their children attained university degrees. Muy chose a double degree in Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts. Although she naturally considers herself Kiwi and calls New Zealand home, Muy could never quite forget the countless Cambodians who had not been so fortunate to escape the war.
Dare Mockingbird is a testament of Muy's journey to reconnect with the Cambodia she remembers and the Cambodia of today that she wants to help. Although Dare Mockingbird was recently founded, the seed was planted a good decade before. Whilst visiting Thailand, Muy met another Cambodian girl over breakfast in a nondescript Bangkok hotel. They shared their respective life stories, as strangers do, and wished each other well as they parted ways. It was purely a simple chance encounter. But this encounter would constitute the beginning ‘dot’ to be joined to the subsequent ones in the years to follow. After talking to this girl, Muy was reminded of the horrors and tremendous loss that Cambodia and Cambodians had suffered.
“I have never forgotten the price that millions of Cambodians have paid (and are still paying) as the result of one man’s unbridled power. The umbilical connection between my past and present, once faint and translucent, was suddenly given a rush of blood through that chance encounter with the modest Cambodian girl and her grand yet simple dream. All she wanted was a university education. Given her humble beginnings and the fact that she was a girl from the provinces, meant that this was no small feat. Her simple dream: to graduate from university and use her education to make the world a brighter place, starting with her own country.”
Back in New Zealand, after many years of toiling with various career paths and always feeling the sense that she could be doing something more meaningful, Muy felt compelled to return to Cambodia. She had one goal in mind - to create something that would help to empower the girls of Cambodia. Thus began Dare Mockingbird.
Each piece in the Dare Mockingbird collection is imbued with a positive symbol and are reflections of values such as female empowerment, living life fully, get-up-and-go attitude, boldness, action, good energy, changing your perspective, challenging social norms and roles, discernment, and awareness. Each piece is hand-designed by Muy and then handcrafted into sterling silver by local fair trade artisans. In this way, Dare Mockingbird supports the local community, resources, and economy.
The ultimate goal is to be able to donate a portion of proceeds to The Harpswell Foundation annually once Dare Mockingbird turns over a profit. The Harpswell Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Cambodia that is helping to build the next generation of female leaders in Cambodia. This organization selects the brightest female students from schools in the provinces and provides them with free accommodation and tuition while they complete their university degrees in Phnom Penh. The girls are also given leadership training. Each year, these talented and hardworking girls often graduate within the top 5 in their chosen fields. The hope is that they will help to change the landscape of their respective professions and indeed the face of Cambodia.
Muy parted with that young Cambodian girl all those years ago but their meeting impressed on Muy the great generosity of heart and mindset of the Cambodian people. It deeply humbled and inspired her.
“If there were Cambodians like her, who despite being born into poverty, could still nurture dreams outside of helping themselves, I could certainly do my bit as well...I believe that women are so special. We are the mothers, wives, daughters and supporters of everyone around us, on a micro level and on a macro level. We nurture and teach and care for those in our immediate and outer circles. Studies have shown that for a developing country to be sustainable and progressive the women in that society need to have an even hand in what is happening. Helping to empower the women and girls of Cambodia naturally resonated with me...Because a dark past doesn’t define the present. It can be the giant force for gigantic transformation.”
Be a part of this change and purchase a Silver Pendant Necklace through Nomi Network. Whether you want to say “Love” in Khmer or ponder a different perspective with “Reflections, an important part of Cambodian history, Dare Mockingbird and Nomi Network will support the future of Cambodia: the young girls of today.
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