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Eat and Shop for a Cause in Cambodia

June 5, 2013

I feel strongly about supporting philanthropic and non-profit organizations and have featured some of my favorites on this site.  So, while traveling, I try to patronize organizations doing good in the local community as much as possible.

Luckily, while in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, there were quite a few opportunities to engage with such enterprises.  Here is a list of five reputable shops and restaurants that benefit the Cambodian people.

1. Friends Restaurant and Store

Dining area of Friends Restaurant.

Dining area of Friends Restaurant.

Friends-International began helping children living and working on the streets in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh in 1994.  Today, the organization has expanded across Southeast Asia to Laos, Thailand, and Indonesia and continues to aid children and youth who are victims of abuse, drug addition, HIV, and the sex trade.

Crispy calamari and pomelo salad.

Crispy calamari and pomelo salad.

Friends The Restaurant in Phnom Penh is one of the organization’s many efforts, and has been in operation for over ten years.  This “social business” serves as a training restaurant for marginalized youth, providing them the skills necessary to move on to successful careers in Cambodia’s growing hospitality industry.  These individuals work as hosts, servers, and cooks at the restaurant, where they are trained and mentored by experienced staff and graduates of the organization.

Turmeric crepe with curried chickpeas and potatoes.

Turmeric crepe with curried chickpeas and potatoes.

The restaurant serves a fusion of western and Asian-style tapas, as well as delicious juices and cocktails.  We enjoyed  grilled fish with salsa verde, Cambodian chicken curry, and several of the daily specials, including a crispy calamari and pomelo salad and a turmeric crepe with curried chickpeas and potatoes.

A few doors down from the restaurant is the Friends N’ Stuff shop, which sells clothing, bags, etc.  You can also find some of their products in stores around the world.

#215 Street 13, Phnom Penh
T +855 (0) 12 802 072
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 9pm.
Closed: 1pm to 5pm Tuesday and Thursday (student training).

2. Romdeng Restaurant

Romdeng is a sister restaurant to Friends and run by the same organization.  The restaurant serves Cambodian cuisine, ranging from famous provincial dishes to contemporary creations.

Photos of Romdeng, Phnom Penh
Romdeng entrance, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Unfortunately, our visit was ill-timed for a Sunday evening when the restaurant is closed.  However, I continually heard fantastic things about the food and ambiance here and will certainly be back (after double checking their hours!) the next time I’m in Phnom Penh.

#74 Street 174, Phnom Penh
T +855 (0) 92 219 565
Open: Monday to Saturday from 11am to 9pm.
Closed: Wednesday and Friday 1pm to 5pm (student training).

3. Daughters of Cambodia

Daughters is a NGO (it is however faith-based) that offers training, therapy, and alternative work opportunities for male and female members of Cambodia’s sex industry.  Because most victims of sex trafficking and exploitation are marked and shunned by society, this organization is one of their few alternatives to the sex trade.

Photos of Daughters of Cambodia Visitor Centre, Phnom Penh
Daughters Boutique, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Those wishing to leave the sex industry of their own volition can work at one of seven of Daughters’ fair-trade businesses.  While Daughters does offer good working conditions, higher than average salaries, training, daycare, medical treatment, and other free supplementary services, the organization seeks to avoid an aid-dependent approach.

Daughters has a boutique selling clothes and accessories, two cafes, a spa, and a guesthouse (coming soon!) in Phnom Penh.  We visited the boutique near the river front.  All of the products are hand-made by Daughters’ clients in the organization’s sewing, jewelry-making, and screen-printing workshops, and of course purchases benefit their needs.

#65, Street 178, Phnom Penh See A Map
(on the ground floor of our Visitor Centre)
T +855 (0)77 657 678
Open: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday

4. Stalls at the Russian Market

The Russian Market in Phnom Penh also has several stalls benefiting various groups.  Friends N’ Stuff operates stall #434 in the market.  I also found a stall (kicking myself for not writing down the name or taking a picture) run by an organization aiding Cambodian women infected with HIV and AIDs and their families.  The women hand-make all of the jewelry sold at the stall, and I bought a pair of beautiful turquoise and copper earrings.

5. Haven

Haven is a restaurant in Siem Reap that offers a one-year training program for young adult orphans to gain skills in hospitality and cooking.

Patio at Haven, Photo courtesy of

These individuals are forced to leave Cambodia’s over-flowing orphanages when they come of age, but often do not have the education or skills they need to become productive members of society.  Haven provides vocational and lifeskills training, as well as emotional and financial support, as these young adults transition from the orphanage into the real world.  At the end of the program, Haven aids its trainees in finding permanent placements that will secure their future.

Photos of Haven Training Restaurant, Siem Reap
Shrimp with green curry at Haven, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Haven is funded by Dragonfly, a Swiss non-profit, non-political, and non-religious organization that supports philanthropic projects in Cambodia.

Sok San Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia (20m past the X-Bar, on the right)
T +855 78 34 24 04
Open: Monday to Saturday from 11am to 10pm
Closed: Wednesday from 11amto 5.30pm (student training) and Sunday we stay closed all day

Do you patronize NGOs or non-profits when traveling?  Let us know in the comments below!

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