Sponsor a Local
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be offering ‘sponsor a local’ spots for Cambodians on our future retreats and tours following the success of our first sponsored placement on our May 2016 retreat. It was the first time we were privileged to have a young Cambodian join us as a participant. And what a delight she was to have on board.
Sponsored Spots for Cambodians on our Retreats and Tours
Living in Siem Reap, one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world, where in 2014 the annual GDP per capita was just US$744.88 (or US$62 per month) and 41% of the population lived on less than US$2 a day, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of responsibility to give back to the country in which we live.
Offering sponsored spots for Cambodians on our retreats and tours seemed the obvious thing to do. Our thinking: it would not only provide the sponsored participant with opportunities to develop skills and/or projects, it would give them an insight into the tourism and hospitality industry from the ‘other’ side.
The way we saw it, it would also enable our foreign guests to connect with a Cambodian on an equal level. Most visitors to Cambodia only engage with service staff, such as drivers, guides, and waiters on a superficial level. This experience would allow them to engage on a much deeper level, on our excursions, during workshops, and over food. And we know that nothing unites people more than a shared meal.
Meet Kek Soon, Cambodian Cook and Aspiring Cookbook Writer
Kek Soon, pictured above, is a young Cambodian cook from Kampot, on the gorgeous yet underdeveloped south coast. When we put the word out that we were looking for a candidate to join us and had a sponsor on board, Soon was recommended by Julien Poulsen, an Australian musician, member of the Cambodian Space Project and co-founder of the Kampot Writers and Readers Festival.
Julien has been busy down there helping to develop the arts scene, including establishing the Kampot Arts and Music Association (KAMA). Soon had been cooking at the KAMA café, as well as working as a cook and baker at another café, and running a cleaning business. She has also been actively involved in the Kampot Writers and Readers Festival.
Soon supports a large family including her two year-old daughter, mother and siblings. Life hasn’t been easy for her. She started working at a young age with the local fishermen — some of her earliest memories are of being cold and hungry. At the age of 14 Soon travelled to Malaysia with her mother to work as a maid and nanny to a wealthy family. Soon’s mother stayed four years and Soon remained for eight.
Soon has big dreams. She would love to open her own restaurant, from where she can also offer food tours and cooking classes to both tourists and locals. With the help of Julien and other creative folks in Kampot, she had started to develop a Kampot cookbook. The idea is to raise funds to self-publish the book and use the proceeds from sales to raise money to open her own restaurant.
Pipe dreams perhaps in other parts of the world, these things are all possible in Southeast Asia. When Julien nominated Soon and told us about her plans, the Thai cooking class instructor cum cookbook writer ‘Poo’ immediately came to mind and we accepted Soon without hesitation. Soon’s sponsors, Victoria Milner and Michael Crouch, didn’t take long to make a decision either.
Watch our video to learn more about Soon, Kampot, her food and her dreams, and how she benefited from her experience on our 10-day Culinary Travel Writing and Photography Retreat.