Many of the restaurants, shops or hotels you will visit during your time in Cambodia will either be run by or affiliated with an NGO, or a non-governmental organization. These unique nonprofits are the main method by which foreigners have invested in Cambodian communities to help rebuild industry, education and the quality of life and livelihoods after the annihilating rule of the Khmer Rouge. Here are a few of our favorite encounters with these expats working to make a difference.
We had dinner at Friends, one of the two restaurants started by Friends International, the largest NGO in the country that aids in training and improvement across multiple industries. This teaching restaurant helps to get kids off the streets and into an environment where they can learn the restaurant business, and at this popular spot near the Royal Palace in eastern Phnom Penh, we had one of our best Cambodian meals of a salad of chickpeas, roasted pumpkin and blue cheese, fish amok, rice noodle slaw and chicken curry with the help of our two delightful and attentive Teacher and Student waiters.
Epic Arts is a creative and beautiful organization that uses art and teaching as media for bringing those with disabilities to an equal playing field. With current offices in London and Kampot, this NGO is poised for growth as it continues to attract fresh, inspired employees and volunteers that align with its unique vocation.
We broke our fast at Epic Arts Cafe in the riverside town of Kampot on Cambodia’s southern coast. The staff was unbelievable in their efficient process and exceptional fare, leaving no room for deficiency in spite of theirs. You get your own mini French press as you enjoy your morning coffee in this open air space. It’s been a while since I have had a scone that well made and although I couldn’t place the flavor of the tasty homemade jam, I wanted to place the rest in my pocket when we made our leave.
HUSK was started by Fiona and Anthony, an Australian expat couple living in Siem Reap who also own two hotels The Villa Siem Reap and Sojourn along with a Cambodian partner. HUSK was a way for them to incorporate charity and community into their businesses by training and employing a local staff in their hotels, organizing tours that benefit surrounding families and starting efforts throughout the villages to construct much-needed classrooms, water wells and sanitation systems.
We experienced the success of HUSK firsthand by walking through the Sojourn hotel with its impassioned and experienced GM Arawan and by taking a full-day Cambodian cooking class in the village outside Siem Reap where the hotel is located. Arawan was proud of Sojourn’s staff of which over 70% grew up down the street, and the authenticity of our day learning to make the local dishes in an open-air, thatched kitchen was beyond unique.