(Excerpt from the article by Athima Chansanchai) See the video and read the full article at Microsoft's THE FIREHOSE blog
"Because Cambodia is a significant passion of hers, she’s often on Skype connecting with people she’s met there and contacts who are helping her projects. One is her first children’s book, which teaches English to Cambodian children through culturally relevant content. She’s also creating a reading room, after the Khmer Rouge genocide decimated Cambodia’s language and culture in the 1970s.
She paused the pursuit of her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degree in 2008 to travel to Australia and Southeast Asia. Trying to get to Thailand, she ended up in Cambodia, and she fell in love with the country, its culture and its people.
The former oil painter learned how to design furniture – and clothes. The multi-talented Iida, a Seattle native of Japanese descent who is petite by western standards, was an XL in Cambodia, so she had to have her clothes custom made ($5 a dress). The impoverished young seamstresses she found weren’t being regularly paid, so she started a social enterprise, a clothing company that found instant customers in other expats who were in the same predicament – and it thrived. Iida provided a safe place for them to stay and work, and was able to pay them a fair wage that helped keep the company afloat after she left the country.
The connecting thread of her varied interests is her documentarian nature. “When I travel, I have these experiences and I want to them share in an artistic way.” She shares them as an instructor too, teaching how to make paper cutaways at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.