If you do not put power in yourself, you seek knowledge, skills, experience, and meaningful relationships to take ownership of your own life, you are allowing others and situations to be owners of your life. You can live the life you love and reach the meaning of your life if you recognize that you can do it.
Performances are not allowed from March to July 2020 and then again from March 2021 until now. Phare Performing Social Enterprise Co., Ltd, better known as Phare Circus & Phare Creative Studio, has managed to keep maintain employments of 36 artists and 41 staff since the closure of the Cambodian borders. I am writing to highlight solidarity and resilience of the company, artists and staff carried out during this time of crisis to share, inspire and exchange with you.
1-) Communication, communication, communication:
Clear, respectful humane internal communications sessions with artists and team members making sure they are always up to date with the development of the pandemic and the impacts to the company. Requests for staff’s solidarity, understanding and their personal resilience/strength. From April 2021 onwards, 20 staff volunteered to be on a long-term unpaid leave until the company can welcome and invite them back. The rest of the staff agree to receive 50% salary. A few key positions including director of HR and Operations agree to receive less than 50%. CEO volunteered to receive 22% of salary for a period of time and then 10% until now. We negotiated a reduction of costs: ie rental of PPSE office and let go of artists housing in Siem Reap while we do not know when we can come back on stage yet. PPSE revamped the pay system to support artists a basic income (which did not exist before) ensuring artists are still rehearsing, keeping their good mental and physical health by rehearsing by themselves at home showing creativity in pandemic with their series of #StayHomeStayFit videos.
2-) Adapting to the new normal and market demographics:
Months have passed since entertainment venues were closed by government order due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The impact has been devastating, but Cambodians are resilient. Phare artists’ creativity flourished (READ MORE). The Phare Circus organization has been reimagined (READ MORE). When it was safe and permitted to, we took the opportunity to time to return to the stage: with our weekend program called “Phare Circus Rising”.
PPSE mobilizes its human resources to help each other’s where they can with all hands-on deck ie: deep cleaning of the house, maintaining repainting all circus/music equipment’s, revamp the PCC experience to match with local audiences, successfully relaunched after the government authorizes performances for the local audiences, add extra attractiveness to be ready for re-opening including pre-show entertainment, street food festivals respecting all the prevention measures standard operating procedures (SOPs).
ie: SAFETY FIRST: Health and safety are the top priority. Here are the precautions being taken at Phare Circus to assure the safety of all guests, staff and artists: The seating area in the big top is thoroughly cleaned with alcohol-based disinfectant before every performance. The rest rooms are cleaned with alcohol-based disinfectant before opening and hourly during the operation. Surfaces around the venue that guests are likely to touch are cleaned with alcohol-based disinfectant before opening. Staff and guest temperature is taken upon arrival. Hand sanitizer dispensers are placed throughout the venue. “Distancing” is used in the seating area to put as much space as possible between guests. Interaction with the artists after the show is discontinued until further notice ensuring our audiences and tourism partners that Phare is a fun and safe place to be…
The artists created 3 new productions during the pandemic
PPSE cut all capital expenditures, put a halt on capital expenditure/assets or equipment investments, reduced all expenses keeping only the bare necessity to ensure we can pay the (reduced) salary.
We persevere, retain jobs and revamp our business plan and target market to match with the new reality which is the local population only. We re-launched our performances with weekend program 2 shows per weekend called: Phare Circus Rising from August 2020 to February 2021.
What is Phare Circus Rising?
A solid program for resuming performances at Phare Circus and other special events. Phare artists and musicians emerge from their confinement. The Phare Circus venue is prepared to exceed health and safety requirements. Internet streaming will be used to share special events. Step-by-step, Phare Circus is rising again!
We took actions in finding creative solutions for revenue generation:
We piloted/prototyped a performance project in Phnom Penh city.
Together with our mother NGO organization, we put Cambodia on the spot light by performing the longest running circus show in the world 24hour and 10 minutes to raise awareness on our impacts on lives and to mobile fundraising supports from locals and fans around the world. This even has attracted attention and media coverages locally and internationally.
We won 4 international business awards and we are on the way to be accredited by the Guinness World Record.
3-) Creative Solutions: pivoting to digital medium
We launched Phare Circus Online Boutique on our website,Facebook and Instagram Shop with shoppers and supporters’ convenience by making online payment directly.
We have been working hard to creatively generate some level of income during this time and prepare for the future. Together with partner like All Dreams Cambodia, we put a virtual dance and circus workshop product on sales. Our Phare Creative Studio, producer of graphic design, videos and animation with the Cambodian touch, has been working with partners to provide marketing, educational communication and behavior change communications digital assets to both Covid-19 related digital educational campaign and non-covid related campaigns.
We ensure creativity flourish even in this down time but creating mixed media live action performance and animation drawing background such as this video.
We supported our lead composer and musician LY Vanthan and our partner Baramey production with music equipment enabling them to produce online ASEAN music showcase bring LY Vanthan to fame he rightfully deserve.
We are sure you want to meet Vanthan in person the next time to experience performance at Phare Circus and when he goes on tours around the world!.
4-) Ensuring that Phare can rebound and will recover and grow again:
Cash is king! We have been fortunate to retain jobs and do what we do thanks to artists, staff solidarity, our cash reserve and supports from Phare supporters around the world.
But… live performances are ordered closure again from March 2021 until now in late 2021…
From August 2021, with continued strain on PPSE’s reserved cash on hand which is running out, more staff must go on suspension leave, key essential posts who are necessary and contributing to the other means of revenue generation & security/safety and future recovery of the company receive a retainer pay. We ensure everyone do not go hungry by providing emergency food relief packages to the most vulnerable members of our team (Read more here).
If there is two main things I have learned as an entrepreneur and leader from this global crisis they are:
Keep reserve cash for rainy days like this one
Organizational culture is a key ingredient for a resilient team and organization.
I thank you all for reading and sharing this journey with me and for your continued support to Cambodian artists and the whole cultural and creative industries.
About HUOT Dara:
Dara is an economist by field of studies and a social change agent by his sense of purpose.
Currently he works, plays and dreams big together with 47 artists and 70 team members in Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE) http://www.pharecircus.org in her mission of supporting Phare Ponleu Selpak school, providing professional opportunities for Cambodian youth and revitalizing arts in Cambodia.
He was a music student at Phare Ponleu Selpak Association in 2001 in his High School Year in Battambang. He was later an interpreter at Phare and joined the first group of performing artists on awareness theater/circus performance tours to educate rural Cambodian populations on landmines, malaria, dengue fever and other public health and safety issues.
He spent 13 years of his professional careers in travel, tourism, hospitality and events management in Cambodia before embarking on the journey on artists career and social programs sustainability in 2013. He has a keen interest in business and personal development and entrepreneurship. His dream is to develop and enhance a strongly reputable and internationally recognized Cambodian brand with Phare.
ABA: 000 70 77 10 Name: Phare Performing Social Enterprise
Teamwork makes dreams work. That’s what make me love them. That’s what make us going stronger together. We cooked for us. We cooked for artists in quarantine. We care for one another. We love you for sharing this . Help us, keep smiles on faces in this surreal time. https://pharecircus.org/smiles-on-faces/
Help us keep our doors open and employments retained. Come to Phare Circus tonight and tomorrow and different shows each weekends. I thank you all for your participation, attendance and contribution. You can “Invite a Family” on 2 different links: The Phare Circus website (preferred) and GoFundMe.
I take the opportunity to ask the New Year angel for your Health, Self-worth, Peace, Strength and Intellect.
In time like this, we are reminded to learn, change and take action to be better.
In our culture, the blessing virtues we hear very often, almost every day, can be our starting point of those changes and actions we must make. The text in Khmer below helps us take those values deep down in our identity as Cambodians. We learn and live by them for a better teamwork, our better lives and a better world.
Thank you for being with us. Have a safe and healthy new year!
Michael is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”
He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Michael was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Michael and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”
Michael replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or … you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood.”
Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or… I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.
Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or… I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.
“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.
“Yes, it is,” Michael said.
“Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live your life.”
I reflected on what Michael said. Soon hereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Michael was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Michael was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back. I saw Michael about six months after the accident.
When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?”
I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.
“The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,” Michael replied.
“Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or… I could choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked.
Michael continued, “… the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘he’s a dead man’. I knew I needed to take action.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Michael.
“She asked if I was allergic to anything.
‘Yes, I replied.’
The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Gravity’.”
Over their laughter, I told them, “I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead!”
MORAL OF THE STORY:
Michael lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything. After all, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
LIFE IS ABOUT THE LITTLE CHOICES WE MAKE EVERY DAY !