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Interview: Cooking class in orphanage – Siem Reap



When you are done with exploring Angkor temples there is more that you can do in Siem Reap. I would absolutely recommend a cooking class. Khmer food is very tasty and we found a really nice place that is worth a visit.

Ak ste už navštívili Angkor chrámy, mám pre Vás tip na zábavný program v Siem Reap a to hodinu varenia. Kambodža má naozaj chutné jedlo a my sme objavili miesto, ktoré stojí za návštevu.


Lazy market day
Lazy market day


Countryside Cooking Class is a place where you can get a real local Cambodian cooking experience. At the beginning of the day, we visited a local market, but truly a real local, total non-touristy version. We learned how they sell, how they buy, how they cook and also tried unusual snacks like crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms.

Countryside Cooking Class je hodina varenia, ktorá Vám dá ozajstnú lokálnu skúsenosť. Na začiatok sme navštívili miestny trh, ale naozaj miestny, totálne neturistickú verziu. Pozorovali sme, ako predávajú, nakupujú, varia, ale tiež sme vyskúšali drobnosti na zahryznutie, ako chrobáky, koníky, či červy.


Crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms
Tasty proteins
Colorful market


After that we moved to the cooking class where we cooked 3 local Khmer dishes over a wood fire, banana blossom salat, amok – Cambodian thick soup with strong coconut flavor served in a banana leaf bowl, and dessert – sticky rice rolls with bananas in the middle. We loved it, everything was so tasty!

Následne sme sa presunuli do školy varenia, kde sme navarili tri jedlá priamo na ohni, šalát z kvetu banánov, amok – typická kambodžská hustá polievka so silnou chuťou kokosového mlieka servírovaná v  miske z banánových listov a dezert, rolky z “lepkavej” ryže s banánom v strede. Veľmi sme si to užili, jedlo bolo vynikajúce!


Picking ingrediences for cooking
Picking ingredients for cooking
Amok leave
Ingrediences for banana blossom salad
Ingredients for banana blossom salat
Banana blossom salad with chicken
Banana blossom salat with chicken
David working on Amok
David working on Amok
Beautiful and tasty Amok
Beautiful and tasty Amok
Ingrediences for dessert
Ingredients for dessert
Sticky rice rolls with bananas in the middle
Dessert – sticky rice rolls with bananas in the middle



But more special about this place is that they are giving a home to almost 100 orphans. They call themselves a not-for-profit cooking class and they are using a portion of the money that they make for school and everything necessary for children. I was so impressed by this idea that I decided to make an interview with the man that started this great program.


Čo robí toto miesto špeciálnym je,  že dávajú domov takmer 100  sirotám. Hovoria o sebe, ako o hodine  varenia bez zisku a časť peňazí, ktoré  zarobia, používajú pre deti, ktoré tu  prichýlili. Tento nápad ma ohúril, tak som  sa rozhodla spraviť rozhovor s mužom,  ktorý to má na starosti. 


  • Hi Ben, tell us something more about you, how old are you, did you have an opportunity to study? How long have you been running this place?
  • I am 32-years old. Yes, I went to school from Primary School to Secondary School until I graduated from High School (grade 12). I did not have a chance to go to University due to the family situation. I started this cooking class officially on the 07th January 2015, so till now is about 4-years.


  • How did you get the idea to start cooking class and did you start immediately with the orphanage too?
  • Actually, this is an idea of one man from the USA. He was the man who I have met in 2002 when I was on a school vacation and I ride the bicycle to Angkor Wat just to practice my English, and I have met him by chance (as you can read more on my website here) and yes, we start the class and we also support the orphan children at the same time as well.


  • How many children do you have in your orphanage? How old are they?
  • Right now I have 98 children in total. The youngest is 6 years old and the oldest is 16 years old.


  • How did these children get there, no parents, bad conditions or what are their stories?

  • Most of the children there, their parents die from HIV, landmine, or the parents left from Cambodia to find a job in other countries and some of them die because of the weather condition or some of them never come back at all. And their grandparents heard about our not-for-profit cooking class then decided to bring those children here and kneel down in front of the class and beg me to take over their grandchildren. This class was created because of these reasons and it was hard for me to reject their requests.


  • How much money do you need for school expenses for every child? How much approximately do you need total for taking care of a child?
  • Just for the basic pay of the school, we spend 750,000 Cambodian riels (approx. $187.00) per child every year.


  • We paid $24 for our cooking class, how much money is going for children, local people or education? How much is for staff or running the cooking class? When people support your school and send some money to you is everything going for children or is there another part too?

  • After we took off the transportation fee, staff salary, vegetable fee, ingredients fee, electricity fee, water fee, renting space then we only have $4.80 left (per person for a group of 2 people) and these will go to help those children for education & healthcare. I pay to my staff is $430.00 per month and I have 3 staffs now. If people support the education project, we will keep that money for the education only. We will not use it in other projects at all or sometimes we will use it for food.


  • Tell us more about the conditions that you have for children, sleeping, clothes, food and their activities after school.
  • Right now is very hard for us. We wish we could have a proper shelter for all of them to stay with at day or night time. Clothes we also need it as well as we having more children to join and we need more clothes donation from generous people around the world. Food is very important as we need it 3-times a day (sometimes we have enough and sometimes not). After school doing some meditation at the Buddhist temple before having their dinner and spend one more hour to study before going to bed.


  • What will be with children when they finish primary school, will you support their studies in high school?

  • Yes, we will support our children until they finish their high school. Then we will ask them to work for one year in order for them to save money to pay for their university. Our cooking will still support them for 30% of the University fee and they will pay 70%. We will ask them to keep that 30% to pay for their rent, food, uniform and daily expenses that are necessary.


  • Tell us more about your plans for the future, what would you want to build or change if you would have enough money? Would you take more children?
  • I want to build a proper shelter for those children and the school for them to study with and if possible we can accept the volunteer people to stay with us and help them with the languages and vocational training skill etc…. Of course I would like to support more children as many as I can when I am still alive.


  • I think everybody can already see that your place is worth helping. To save just one child’s life is admirable, to save so many of them is amazing. Can you give us the necessary information if some people would like to support your orphanage?

  • First of all, we want to have an Official NGO (fully license) as now we haven’t got enough capital to register (this stage is much more difficult and need more than $3000 to run with all necessary fees) OR we want to open the Countryside Cooking Class Bank account (this is much easier and need $450 to run with all these fees) so people can make their donation through our website. Then we can proceed with the NGO License. After we get the License, then we can look for support from an overseas NGO, and we can start to receive the volunteers and build the shelter at the same time (this is my plan) but if you have another idea, I am more than welcome and we can consider for making a change.



When I read this last part I was just shocked. Somewhere in the world really still exists a place where opening a bank account can be a problem? I totally didn’t expect there could be a problem to help them. I was disappointed we cannot send them some money to help until I chanced on an idea of Go Fund Me. It’s an application where everybody can create an account for collecting money. So if you have just one euro or dollar or whatever you have in your world feel free to send it, everything will help to open the bank account that they need. Here is the link for the mentioned account where you can help.  

In the end, I would like to say thank you to Ben, for his time, thank you for helping all these children, thank you for the amazing experiences that we could get in your cooking class and big thank you to everybody who will decide to help.



Slovak version / Slovenská verzia

  • Ahoj Ben, povedz nám niečo o sebe, koľko máš rokov, študoval si? Ako dlho pracuješ na tomto mieste?
  • Mám 32 rokov. Áno, študoval som, cez základnú školu až k ukončeniu strednej školy. Nemal som šancu študovať na vysokej  škole, kvôli situácii v rodine. Túto školu vareniu som začal oficiálne 7. januára 2015, takže je to skoro štyri roky.


  • Ako si dostal nápad začať so školou varenia a začal si hneď aj so sirotincom?
  • Celá vec bola nápad jedného muža z USA. Stretol som ho v roku 2002, keď som mal prázdniny. Jazdil som na bicykli okolo Angkor Wat, aby som si precvičil moju angličtinu a náhodou som ho stretol (celý príbeh si môžete v angličtine prečítať tu). Áno, začali sme školu varenia a sirotinec v tom istom čase.


  • Koľko detí je v sirotinci? Koľko majú rokov?
  • Práve teraz máme 98 detí. Najmladšie má 6 rokov, najstaršie 16.


  • Ako sa tieto deti k tebe dostali, nemajú rodičov, majú zlé podmienky, alebo aké sú ich príbehy?
  • Rodičia väčšiny detí zomreli na HIV, stúpili na mínu, alebo opustili deti. Išli si hľadať prácu do inej krajiny, niektorí z nich zomreli, alebo sa jednoducho nevrátili. Keď starí rodičia detí počuli o našom mieste bez zisku, rozhodli sa priviezť tieto deti a presvedčili ma zobrať tieto deti k nám. Toto je dôvod, prečo toto miesto vzniklo a ja som ich nemohol odmietnuť.


  • Koľko peňazí potrebujete na školské výdavky pre každé dieťa? Koľko približne stojí starostlivosť o ne?
  • Len pre platbu školy potrebujeme 750,000 Kambodžských rielov (cca $187.00) na dieťa každý rok.


  • My sme zaplatili $24 za hodinu varenia, koľko peňazí ide na deti, miestnych alebo vzdelanie? Koľko je pre zamestnancov, alebo na potreby školy varenia? Keď ľudia podporia tvoju školu a pošlú peniaze, ide všetko len na deti alebo je tu aj niečo ďalšie?
  • Keď si odpočítame náklady na prevoz, mzdy, nákup potravín, elektrinu, vodu a nájom, tak nám zostane $4.80 (na osobu na skupinu 2 ľudí). Tieto peniaze idú na pomoc deťom, vzdelanie a zdravotnú starostlivosť. Zamestnancom platím $430.00 za mesiac a mám troch ľudí. Ak niekto podporí vzdelávací projekt, peniaze idú len na vzdelávanie, nebudú použité na iné projekty. Niekedy môžu byť použité na jedlo.


  • Povedz nám viac o podmienkach pre deti, spanie, oblečenie, jedlo, alebo aktivity po škole.
  • Práve teraz je to pre nás veľmi ťažké. Želáme si, aby sme mali pre deti riadnu strechu nad hlavou. Keďže máme stále viac detí, potrebujeme aj viac oblečenia a darov od milých ľudí z celého sveta. Jedlo je veľmi dôležité tri krát denne, niekedy máme dosť, niekedy nie. Po škole deti meditujú v budhistickom chráme a majú večeru. Než idú do postele, hodinu strávia štúdiom.


  • Čo bude s deťmi po ukončení základnej školy? Podporujete ich aj v štúdiu na strednej škole?
  • Podporíme naše deti aj po ukončení strednej školy. Budú musieť pracovať jeden rok, aby si ušetrili peniaze na zaplatenie vysokej školy. Naša hodina varenia im zaplatí 30% univerzitných poplatkov a oni budú platiť 70%. Požiadame ich, aby si odložili tých 30% na ich nájom, jedlo, uniformu a denné náklady, ktoré sú nevyhnutné.


  • Povedz nám viac o tvojich plánoch pre budúcnosť. Čo by si zmenil, keby ste mali viac prostriedkov? Prijali by ste viac detí?
  • Vybudoval by som riadnu strechu nad hlavou pre deti a ich štúdium, taktiež pre dobrovoľníkov, ktorý by nám pomohli s vyučovaním jazyka a podobne. Samozrejme by som chcel podporiť viac detí, toľko, koľko sa dá, pokiaľ žijem.


  • Myslím, že každý môže vidieť, že tvoje miesto je hodné pomoci. Zachrániť len jeden detský život je obdivuhodné, zachrániť ich tak veľa je naozaj úžasné. Môžeš nám dať potrebné informácie, ak chceme podporiť sirotinec?
  • Najskôr by sme chceli mať oficiálnu licenciu, ktorú stále nemáme, lebo sme ešte nenazbierali dostatok financií. Toto je oveľa zložitejšie a potrebujeme viac než $3000 spolu so všetkými poplatkami. ALEBO by sme chceli otvoriť bankový účet pre Countryside Cooking Class (toto je oveľa jednoduchšie a potrebujeme asi $450), takže ľudia by nám mohli pomôcť prostredníctvom tohto účtu. Potom by sme mohli zažiadať o licenciu. Ak by sme mali licenciu, mohli by sme požiadať aj o pomoc z mimovládnych organizácií, prijímať dobrovoľníkov a postaviť prístrešok. Ak však máš nejaký nápad, veľmi rád si to vypočujem a môžeme začať so zmenami.


Keď som si prečítala túto poslednú časť, bola som v šoku. Niekde vo svete stále existuje miesto, kde je problém otvoriť bankový účet? Vôbec som nečakala, že by mohol byť problém pomôcť. Bola som sklamaná, že im nemôžeme poslať peniaze, pokiaľ som nenarazila na Go Fund Me. Ide o aplikáciu, kde si každý môže vytvoriť účet na zbieranie peňazí. Takže, ak máte čo len jedno euro či dolár, pokojne pošlite, čokoľvek im pomôže založiť bankový účet, ktorý potrebujú.  Tu je link na spomínaný účet, kde môžete pomôcť.

Na záver by som rada poďakovala Benovi, za jeho čas, za jeho pomoc deťom, za super zážitok v hodine varenia a obrovské ďakujem každému, kto sa rozhodne pomôcť.

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