Day 11, January 10: Kampot to Phnom Penh
Early morning this morning, everyone had some free time for their own independent excursions to the market. We loaded the coach at 9 AM and cruised on into Phnom Penh, enjoying the tropical and rural scenery of palm trees, mountains, and rice paddies.
By noon we had arrived at Lotus Blanc Graduate Restaurant, where underprivileged youth have a chance to learn restaurant skills.
Their mothers learn job skills, too, that help their families rise from poverty. The program was founded by a French couple who began the organization by taking healthy meals to children recycling garbage. Now, with French and Swiss support, they have built an impressive facility, and thousands have learned important skills, as is evident by the quality of the meal and presentation we enjoyed. The meal was pleasantly nouveau Khmer cuisine, except for delicious chocolate éclairs.
We walked three blocks to Tabitha, another partner organization of FWC. We arrived earlier than expected, so we had plenty of time to examine the exquisite creations of this Australian NGO that uses the best local ikat silks and other local materials to creatively design and market some of the nicest items we had seen. The organization is fair trade, so the craft workers here make as much as $300 per month rather than the $80-90 per month made by the striking garment workers.
Tabitha also does a creative job of fundraising for humanitarian projects, such as digging wells and providing building materials to poor Cambodians. The administrative manager, Suos Heng, met with us and gave a presentation about Tabitha on his laptop, providing some very positive information. He also shared some of his experiences during the Pol Pot regime.
We arrived at the familiar Frangipani Palace Hotel at 4 PM and managed to squeeze in a group photo in front of the hotel, which I will share with the group. We said “Aw kun” to Mr.Tang, our excellent and very patient driver. We met in the lobby at 5:30 PM to complete the evaluations of the FWC Study Tour. Each person talked about what they had learned and how they planned to take this information back to their communities. We had more to talk about than we had time.
Dinner was several blocks away but we decided to walk to Friends Romdeng anyway. We had a wonderful dinner in a very pleasant environment. The students and their teachers at Friends are enthusiastic about their work and learning new skills. We were glad to be their test subjects. Friends have wonderful children’s art posters and clever cookbooks. This was our farewell dinner, as departures start tomorrow at 5 AM. This was also our last opportunity as a group to thank Bun for his considerable skills and good spirit, which made our trip so enjoyable.