Open Restaurant. Change Lives.

This is my friend អារត័្ម. For all of us who don't read Khmer, we can maybe sort of write her name as Arot.

Let's help her and her cousin open a small restaurant and change the lives of two disadvantaged families. The Palm Container Night Market is set to open in Siem Reap in November and it's a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Skip to the end for details on how your generosity will help. For the full story, keep reading!

My mom and I met Arot in Siem Reap, Cambodia in March of this year. We all shared a few drinks together the night we met and then a few more after she and her sister invited us over for dinner the following day. Since coming back to Cambodia a few months ago, getting to know Arot's family has opened my eyes and frankly changed my life.

I've traveled a fair bit in my life and I've seen a lot of poverty in this world. But it's always been at a distance. That changed a couple of months ago. After becoming friends with Arot, she invited me to visit her family home in Kracheh (around 300km & 7 hrs from Siem Reap). In the days and hours leading up to our arrival, Arot kept telling me “my home is very small”. I didn't realize it at the time, but she was preparing me.

On my arrival, I was greeted with smiles, hugs from kids and delicious home-cooked food (they just really like guests) and for the first time in my life poverty became very personal. In this small, tin-roofed home lives Arot's mother, grandmother, son & daughter (Arot's husband left her shortly after her daughter was born) and 2 sons of another sister whose husband has passed away. Arot's own father left the family years ago. In this otherwise happy home, there was no electricity, no sanitation and no running water. This household depends on Arot for everything from food to medicine to clothing. Cambodia has no social safety net. In a sentiment I've heard echoed too many times: "In Cambodia if you have no money, you die." And that is sadly not hyperbole.

At the time, Arot had not been seeing her family as often as she wanted. She only stayed with them when she had made enough money to afford that “luxury”. The rest of the time, her life was in Siem Reap because that’s where the tourists are. And so it’s where work is. This is the second time I've written about this and again I struggle with how to say it… Arot was doing work that no woman should feel she has to do. But in today’s Cambodia and with a family to support, she did what she had to do.

It breaks my heart to know my friend has so few choices. My life, after all, has been largely defined by choices, options and opportunities. I wish she had the same and I wish I knew her children would have the same as well. So I started to help out where I could. We brought electricity to the home and with the help of some generous colleagues of mine we built a toilet. We also repaired and extended the outdoor roof so they can sit outside when it rains - without getting wet.

And yes, I'm getting to the point; the restaurant. Arot does not want to do the work she used to do and she doesn't want to be financially dependent. A couple of weeks ago while her cousin was visiting they found an opportunity.

There's a new market opening here in Siem Reap in an area already popular with the local crowd. It's being built with now-fashionable shipping containers. Rent is an affordable US$300/month. Both Arot and Golyan have experience working in and running restaurants. They immediately saw this as the great opportunity it is.

I've already taken care of the deposit to secure a great location within the market - at the corner of two of the main walkways. I hope you can help us with the rest. If we meet our fundraising goal, you will help Arot and Golyan to cover everything a restaurant needs to get going:

✔ cooking supplies (burners, gas, pots, pans)
✔ serving supplies (dishes, cutlery)
✔ furniture (tables, chairs, workbench)
✔ initial inventory
✔ first month's rent

I don't want to pull too hard at your heartstrings here but it's hard to understate the impact your generosity would have on the lives not just of Arot and Golyan but of their families, too. With a successful business, thoughts and planning can shift from 'Do we have money for food?' to 'Do we have money for school?'. If antipoverty research has taught us one thing over the last decade or so it's that empowering women is the key to breaking the poverty cycle. So I encourage you to share what you can to help empower these women. Help them educate their children. Help break that cycle.

Thank you so much in advance.
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Jay Carter 
Woodstock, ON
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