SUCCESSFUL PSE graduate Khoeun Sambat, 28, left the Lotus Blanc course in 2005 and has won a chef’s job at Chayyam Resturant, behind Wat Langka in Phnom Penh. He says he was a former scavenger at Stung Meanchey dump too, until he was offered new hope by PSE in 2002.
“I was about 12 when my mother brought me to pick up plastic bags from the dump and wash them to resell on the market. There was an organization camping near the dump that offered food to us children every day, and one day they asked me whether I wanted to study.”
Khoen Sambat attended a general knowledge class for a year and spent two years in the food production class. As soon as he left PSE, he got a job.
“I could never imagine I could become a chef. I used to be a scavenger, eating food from the dump where were many flies and worms. Now I’ve got a job,” he said proudly. “Nobody looked down on me, but in contrast, they admired me that I could change my life from being a scavenger to a cook.”
A second Lotus Blanc training restaurant was opened in early 2009 along Street Pasteur in Phnom Penh.
“We opened the restaurants for students to have real practice. We want to expose them to the real working environment,” said PSE’s public relations manager Touch Len.
He said it was also an opportunity for customers to see the skills of various students, as some later employed them in their own businesses.
Cookery is just one course among many the hotel school offers. Other courses include food and beverage service, bakery and pastry, housekeeping and laundry, front office, as well as food and beverage management.
Lotus Blanc has about 300 students in total, of which 48 are studying cookery on the two-year course. Each study period includes a six-month internship at restaurants in Cambodia.
“About 400 of our graduates are now working everywhere in Cambodia – from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap down to Sihanoukville,” says Touch Len.
PSE has trained more than 7,000 Cambodian children so far in its network of schools, which offer vocational training for children at the dump and others with poverty-stricken backgrounds.
With a number of two-year courses including information technology, car mechanics, hairdressing and beauty, business administration or retail sales, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant has given skills and pride back to Cambodia’s most marginal teenagers.