Though Phnom Penh is rebounding from periods of war and unrest, a visit there is still fraught with reminders of its difficult past: children begging on streets, men with amputated limbs selling books and postcards, and tours of the Killing Fields and S-21. At times, I felt overwhelmed and uncertain how to make a difference.
One way that visitors to Phnom Penh can help is by patronizing well-respected establishments with a cause, such as Friends the Restaurant.
For more than ten years, Friends International, a nonprofit organization, has worked with former street children, teaching them valuable skills in the hospitality industry and other vocations. The restaurant is financially self-sufficient and its profits are applied to its training program.
We found the tapas-style food to be superb! (I enjoyed a crispy baguette, with sautéed zucchini and peppers, along with a refreshing blended citrus beverage. The cost was a bit more than what we would've paid at another local Cambodian restaurant, but the prices were still extremely low - about $15 for two people.) We also appreciated the restaurant's cheery and immaculate interior. On the walls were paintings made by young Cambodian artists. A gallery of black and white, playful images of youth participants also filled one section of the restaurant. What was most gratifying, however, was knowing that the riels we spent were going to a worthwhile cause!