City: Phnom Penh
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 provide work for those people, other 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 as 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 job to more disabled people, they could water the plants and help in farming.
Although dreams are big, the daily duties are quite challenging. Work with people with mental disability 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 completely my life. Now I want to help others. I believe it is the right thing to do and I feel happy doing that.
More information about L’irresistible: facebook.com/pages/Lirrésistible