Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A recipe for success in the ‘Kitchen of Hope’




A recipe for success in the ‘Kitchen of Hope’

Thompson has been planning the Kitchen of Hope since July.
Thompson has been planning the Kitchen of Hope since July. Sam Walker

A recipe for success in the ‘Kitchen of Hope’

Sitting in the aptly named Kitchen of Hope, it is hard to believe such a tranquil place was once the site of tragedy.

The enterprise, which is run by New Zealander Sue Thompson, officially opened last week to provide 100 vegetarian meals to needy children and families twice a week as well as jobs and community education in the kitchen.

“This is not just a kitchen – it is hope for a better life,” Thompson says. “By creating a community kitchen, we create jobs and hope.”

The Kitchen of Hope has changed her life as much as it’s changing those of the people she is helping.

Thompson came to Siem Reap for four days in July, and she hasn’t left since. But the kitchen is just one part of a bigger picture. It’s situated on the grounds of the Cambodia War Remnants Museum, on the way to the temples.

“This is military land and this would not happen if I did not have the support of the military,” Thompson says.

“I am honoured to be the first social enterprise that they have backed and supported with this community kitchen project.”

Set 200 metres back from the main road, the peaceful site belies the grizzly reminders of its war-torn past. Displays of land mines, guns, bullet casings and other war paraphernalia have almost all been sourced from the 1.5 hectare site – a former stronghold of the Khmer Rouge and a Vietnamese army base.

War Remnants Museum director Rattana Soun.
War Remnants Museum director Rattana Soun. Sam Walker

It is also one of many killing fields located around the country. Museum director Rattana Soun says 121 skulls were recovered from the site.

Soun set up the museum with the aim that profits would go back to those living in the villages surrounding the museum and the ancient temples. The former Khmer Rouge child soldier lost both his parents and many family members to the Khmer Rouge. In 1989, he stepped on a landmine in Pailin and lost a leg.

In the kitchen, the words to the Beatles song Imagine are written on a white board, reflecting Soun’s dreams for the future.

He is fully supportive of Thompson’s initiative and believes the kitchen builds relationships, while also providing education: teaching people about hygiene and how to look after their health.

Under his rules, children can only attend classes in the kitchen if they attend their regular schooling.

The site is a community collaboration. Volunteers have planted vegetables in a kitchen garden and more than 140 trees around the site.

It’s an atmosphere of giving and sharing, learning and support. It fits well with the museum’s mission to be a place of healing for bodies, hearts and minds.

Already, Thompson is starting to feel redundant. She says staff push her out of the way in the kitchen.

“They are taking over, and that’s what I wanted,” she says. “You want to empower [people], you don’t want to make them dependent on you, that just makes you feel good.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with

  • One million Chinese Covid-19 jabs to start rolling in from February

    The government has confirmed that Covid-19 vaccines from China are set to begin arriving in Cambodia by February. This came as the Ministry of Health recorded two imported cases of Covid-19 on January 18. While calling on people to remain vigilant against the pandemic, ministry spokeswoman