Opened in 2012, Sugar & Spice Garden Café brings a whole lot more than just coffee to Phnom Penh’s bustling café scene. With premium coffee to order and a gourmet menu that includes homemade crepes, all day brunch, soups, salads, sandwiches, and their famous chocolate fudge brownies, the café is also a refuge for young women looking to escape the perils of the sex industry.
As part of Daughters of Cambodia, a nonprofit social enterprise created by British psychologist Ruth Elliott in 2007, Sugar & Spice provides on-the-job training for trafficking victims.
“The goal is to first employ the girls and train them in a job that is interesting and provides great prospects for the future,” Elliott said from the second floor of the Garden Café located near the Russian Market on Street 430.
Part of a holistic approach to psychological healing accompanying counseling, medical and support services, women learn to become baristas, servers, chefs, bookkeepers and managers. Currently, between two Sugar & Spice locations—the other located above the Daughters of Cambodia Visitor Centre on Street 178—30 women gain a lot more than just employment, explained Elliott.
“A lot of women tell us how Daughters changed their lives. We provide them with an opportunity to flourish and reach their goals,” said Elliott explaining how steady employment is often the hardest initial step.
“After the women leave here they are very employable with an excellent set of skills. They can work anywhere in the service sector,” she said.
The idea for a café came after Elliott witnessed many young women return to the sex industry, unable to find alternative employment and burdened by financial strain. That is when she devised a new model, one that restores dignity, confidence and self-worth.
By providing the women with livable salaries and valuable life skills, very few return to Phnom Penh’s red light district, she said.
For more information, visit www.daughtersofcambodia.org