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Performer: When I performing (sic), I feel very nervous and also happy, excited and very proud that I can saw (sic) a lot of people watch me dancing.

Geraldine Cox: The kinds of transformation you see when that spotlight goes on the stage - it's like Judy Garland, almost. Because in Cambodia the children might perform at village festivals in the dirt. And then when they come here and see these fine theatres with sound and the spotlights, they really feel special. They're made to feel special. And back in Cambodia, we never have to call them for their dance lessons. We might have to call them for their English and computers but we don't have to look for them for their dance. It's part of their life now. They dance six days a week and even on Sundays, when it's their day off, some of the kids will get the key for the music room and unlock it and just have a bit of a session. So it's part of their life.

I'm always nervous before a performance, because there's so many little bits and pieces to their costumes. There's headdresses, there's armbands, there's anklets, and I'm running around thinking, "Where is everything?" And I really shouldn't worry because the teachers and the older girls have got everything in its right spot. They know exactly where to get things and they're really quite disgustingly organised. So I now back off altogether now, because they don't need me to interfere because they're professional. They know what they've got to have and where it is and what time they've gotta put it on. They're professionals.

The whole idea of forming a music and dance school was in 1997 we had a coup where the military side of the coalition government overthrew the royal family. And because we were part of the royal family and living in a military barracks that the royal family had confiscated from the military to turn into an orphanage, we were targeted rather severely. And we had soldiers with machine guns and tanks and everything running around the land, trying to shoot us off the property.

So the children were really traumatised after that event. So I contacted a psychologist in Adelaide and spoke to him on the phone and I said, "I've got all these kids suffering. What do I do? There's no counselling in Cambodia. What do I do?" And he said, "Well, in the absence of professional help, get the kids involved in music and dance and any kind of art form." And in the beginning, the kids weren't interested. They were so traumatised. Then one or two came forward and started to learn to dance and then in a couple of weeks I was having kids turn up for the dance classes, and when the girls could see that they could do these beautiful movements, and when the boys listened to the music, they knew that they could do just as good a job as the musicians teaching them. And so within a month we had kids coming from everywhere in the orphanage to be part of the music and dance.

But it was borne out of the need to counsel their trauma. We have a vision that each child that we embrace that we can get the potential out of that child, find their talents and nurture them. Because we've picked up kids that are just the sons and daughters of rice farmers who would go their whole life without learning to read or write, play a musical instrument, pick up a pen and draw a painting. And it makes my heart bleed when I see these kids that never get to us. That will never know that they would be good learning another language, that they could be an artist, they could be a musician, they could be an architect. Because they've not got the opportunity to find out.

So we aim that each child that we've got, we find their talents and we nurture them, and we make it possible for them to reach their full potential. And that's really what I feel any mother owes a child. I can get the same emotion watching them perform at Sunrise in their little quaint music school on a tough floor with no mod cons, I get that same surge when I see them do a good performance as I do when I see them here. And I never thought when I started the fine arts school that I'd be able to turn out these professional little performers. So sometimes I feel like I should be looking down at my dress and my heart would be almost bursting through it. But it's rare for me to watch a performance and not to get a lump in my throat.
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