Karelle Bolon's chess enterprise in Cambodia

by Frederic Friedel
9/22/2014 – Sometimes you encounter a project that absolutely screams for public support. Here is a former child chess star, now a fashion designer working in Cambodia, who wants to start a course of chess lessons in a bush school. In order to pay for the equipment she has started a Ulule crowdfunding page to raise the very modest sum of 430 Euros. Let us get this for her by the end of the day.

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Karelle Bolon's chess enterprise in Cambodia

WFM Karelle Bolon, rated 2009, France

As a child Karelle Bolon was four times champion of France. For the past year she has been living in Cambodia, and would like to start a chess activities iesfor children in the country, particularly in Siem Reap. "There aren't any chess club here in the country," she writes, "and it's very hard to find some chess pieces and boards. A few months ago I visited a bush school, built by Matt Silverback, and decided to start chess lessons there, on a volontarily basis, one or two hours per week."

Currently, Karelle is working as assistant fashion designer in Siem Reap. "I want to take advantage of the opportunity to live in Cambodia to share my skills," she says. "I played with a friend during my free time in Siem Reap sometimes, and I was surprised by the children's curiosity through the cafe windows."

In order to finance the enterprise she started a crowdfunding page on Ulule to raise the money necessary to buy the materials, and start her activities. "Over time, NGOs and schools in Siem Reap could be interested by a chess initiation," she says.

The very modest goal of this crowdfunding project: 430 Euros, of which €180 have already been pledged. You can contribute €5 or more on this Ulule page.

What are the fund for? Well, €225 is for 20 chessboards with standard chess pieces. 40€ is for Karelle's bus transport from Bangkok and Siem Reap (two-way) + one night in Bangkok. €90 is for a chess demo boards and pieces. €20 for the shipping, €10 to pick up the package.

Here is what you get in return for your donations:

  • For €5 or more: your name in Karelle's blog as a donor to the cause + a big THANK YOU by email (don’t forget to provide an email address).
  • For €10 or more: Your name at the end of a video planned for January 2015 + a big THANK YOU by email + your name in he blog as donor.
  • For €20 or more: Your name in Karelle's blog as donor + your name in her video + a virtual postcard from Cambodia with thanks.
  • For €40 or more: A postcard from Cambodia with a big THANK YOU (don't forget to provide your postal adress) + your name in Karelle's blog as a donor + your name at the end of her video for January + a virtual postcard from Cambodia with thanks.

The village school teacher Nimol

Nimol – "the good guy", as Karelle calls him, is 26 years old, a waiter and bartender at Brown Rice restaurant in Siem Reap. He lives in Thnall Village Chan Sor Commune, in Siem Reap province. He met Matt Silverback one year and half ago, and they decided together to built a school in the Nimol’s village. Nimol would liked to have a school proximity near the far-off public school, and a ”free” place where children can learn varied subjects. Here's a video from his school:

"What I intend to do," says Karelle, is to teach Nimol chess. "He in turn will teach chess to the village children, in English and in Khmer in the same time. I will sometimes post a video of the chess lesson of the week. There is a huge amount of work to be done, because he has also to translate in Khmer writing for my blog. I have to write in French, and translate in English. But it’s a very exciting project!"

Karelle Bolon on why develop a chess activity in Cambodia

Since the dawn of time the Cambodian people have been playing different kind of games, especially during the Khmer New Year. The most famous chess game is the Ouk Chatrang. The rules are almost the same that the Westerner game, with few exceptions. In the street, a lot of tuk-tuk drivers play this Cambodian chess game every day. But it’s extremely rare to find the western version and a real infrastructure for chess in the country. Whereas the neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam take part in Chess Olympiads Cambodia has never developed the practice of the game to compete against the other countries. It is sad, since the Khmer, who were warlike during the Angkorian period, are today a proud people, hard-working, curious, even-tempered, ambitious and focused on the future.

Developing chess activity in the country will allow them to get official status from FIDE and to participate in tournaments around the world. Chess could be an opportunity for the children to open themselves up to the rest of the world, to learn the value of hard work, fair play, and about winning and losing. Without fail, in a few years time, Cambodia will have some great chess champions, able to learn for themselves, to think effectively and develop strategies for problem-solving.

My name is Karelle. I love sustainable fashion, natural colors and natural fibers. I think that we have to think about an another way to make clothes for the future. Chemical dyes pollute our rivers and poison the textile workers. We can create beautiful things while respecting humans rights and environment. My dream is to create a ''green'' collection with other designers, with the gifts of nature. Even so, I believe in recycling too, to be creative and play with the materials. Slow fashion is my philosophy of life. I like to think that another world is possible.

You can find much more about Karelle on her Pinterest page.
And don't forget: contribute generously on her Ulule page.

Addendum: Karelle had the necessary funds 80 minutes after our publication went live! "This is so crazy!!" she wrote, " I cannot believe that I have already the sum! It saves me 21 days of waiting...". But our readers are welcome to continue contributing: "I have many things to do with the extra money," Karelle tells us, "chess books, photocopies, chess clocks..." And she has promised to send us periodic reports on her chess work with village children in Cambodia.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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