Phnom Penh| Cambodia
Setting the location to interview the Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise we proposed one of the many cafeterias you can find in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Carlo, current leader of SGFE, immediately responded: let’s meet at L’irresistible café. You would love it. Indeed, we did.
Our aim is to provide work, home and the living system for people with mental disabilities. We are the first organization which actually provides work for those people, others concentrate only on education, but the problem is that then there are no opportunities for mentally disabled people in the labor market – Sephan Soung, General Manager.
It took a while to figure out what kind of business can be suitable for people with mental disabilities. At the beginning they tried to work in the clothes industry, but many of them, in a moment of bad mood, will take scissors and cut some of the clothes already done. After several trials the success idea occurred to be a factory of… jam.
We started to produce jams of different, original tastes. Some of our workers could cut fruits, other wash jars or put labels. At the beginning we produced jam in the place they live, we have a special home for all of them. But it occurred to be very complicated because they are not able to distinguish between work time and free time so it happened that in the middle of the work they would go to their room and sleep. We decided to try with two separated places and it worked.
Today they not only have their own jam factory, but also a cafeteria, where people can come, buy jam, drink good coffee and meet some of the people with mental disabilities.
We started with the coffee shop more than a year ago. It’s a good chance to connect people with mental disabilities with the rest of the society. At the beginning they felt really shy, they didn’t want to speak with “normal” people, they felt different from them.
Now they are much more open, some of them learned foreign languages or even changed job after getting the qualification. They serve coffee to clients, smiling and chatting, as we could observe ourselves. But dreams and plans are even bigger.
I want to create a farm. It will solve so many problems! First of all, we wouldn’t have to rent the house for mentally disabled people, as we do now. Then we could grow our own vegetables, rice, chicken… we would have enough food for ourselves and also for selling healthy, organic products. We will create a place full of love and happiness where disabled people live together with volunteers and their families. What’s more, we would be able to provide jobs to more disabled people, they could water the plants and help in farming.
Although dreams are big, the daily duties are quite challenging. Working with people with mental disabilities requires a lot of patience, strength and commitment.
Every day we learn how to work with them, how to love them, forgive. I didn’t have any experience in working with people with disabilities or in running a business. My life was also very hard, my family was poor, we often didn’t have enough food. But then the Pour un Sourire d’Enfant organization helped me, they changed my life completely. Now I want to help others. I believe it is the right thing to do and I feel happy doing that.
We are still running our social enterprise L’IRRESISTIBLE JAMS & SYRUPS with a full project development in a way to one day become financially sustainable by our work. For that, we’re looking for fundraising, grants to finance our social enterprise projects development such as investment on production stage, obtain hygiene certification for exportation in Europe and the opening of an on-site, coffee shop to train our residents (our coffee shop had been close in 2017 due to high rental fee) and generate income in the path of sustainability. Last project in mind will be food self-sufficiency allied with a program development for our residents, we’re in partnership with several landlords and one NGO working on disability issues for adults in cambodia.
A lot of events have happened since 1 year ago. We've unfortunately lost our founder Pierre Chetcuti in June 2020 and it brought a lot of questions about the future of ACH. We definitely chose to continue the adventure which broughts a lot of decisions and updates notably about our organization. We are now a local NGO in Cambodia, KAMPUCHEA SËLA HANDICAP ORGANIZATION (KSH) with the same people and the same recipe. ;)
Please, visit our new digital spaces:
Website : https://www.kampucheaselahandicap.org/
Promotional video: https://youtu.be/AN5Bd_TMYH4
More information about L’irresistible: facebook.com/pages/Lirrésistible