Everyday we are inspired
by our producers
Srey Phar/ Graduated producer
I have a dream to become a chef and I am on my way to achieving it now. After graduating from SALASUSU, I started working at a high-class Japanese restaurant called Shin in Siem Reap. I live with my younger sister in the city, who I support to study at university.
Although there were so many struggles for me as a woman living in the rural Cambodian countryside, I know my worth, and I have learned my value and dignity while working at SALASUSU.
I grew up in a small village in Siem Reap province, with 2 brothers and 6 sisters. Only my brothers had access to education. My sisters and I dropped out of school because my family couldn’t afford for us to keep studying.
In 2010 my father passed away. I was 23, living with my single mom, sisters and nephews. Our family was in a difficult situation. I thought my life couldn’t change--until I started working at SALASUSU.
I worked on the sewing team and learned how to teach our visitors to make boxes out of palm tree leaves. I also helped to sell our products in our community factory. It was fulfilling to work with many lovely women. They became my second family. I finally got a stable job that allowed me to help my family financially and support my sister’s studies. I couldn’t acquire an education, but I don’t want that to happen to my sister, especially because I now know from working at SALASUSU how important education is. I have encouraged her to continue pursuing her dream and have wiped away her worries about our family’s financial struggles.
Although I couldn’t finish elementary school, I never gave up. I cherish being able to get soft skills training at SALASUSU, which made me stronger and independent. Our organization brought us to visit some social enterprises in the city. It was the first time I felt I could have a new chance in life and have a dream. After coming back from the trip I kept thinking to myself, “I want to become a chef!”
I started helping in our community factory kitchen when our chef took leave, preparing food for our producers. At the same time, I discussed my future plans with our trainer, Ms. Chin, and tried to find opportunities to work in a restaurant. I even rejected arranged marriages twice in order to continue my career. (The main reason I did this is because my family doesn’t have the financial security to live without my support. If I get married, I have to put my time and money into my new family, instead of my mother and sisters. This is our culture, which I can’t change, but I can decide not to marry now in order to help my family.)
Things didn’t go as smoothly as I had expected. I missed two chances to work in city because my mom requested that I stay with her in the village, and I was afraid to leave her alone. But I didn’t give up on my dream. I kept hope in heart.
A few months ago, my mom got a serious illness. Fortunately, she recovered from it because of her inner strength. This was not an easy time for our family, but we got through it. It also changed her mind. One day she came to me and said, “Go for it. You deserve a chance to be a chef. I will support you here and we both need to be stronger.” Tears ran down my face. I know how much courage she needed to say that to me.
This November, I embarked on a new journey. I said goodbye to my mom and nephews, and brought my younger sister with me to the city. I started working for a Japanese restaurant as a chef’s assistant. I am the only female in the kitchen, which made nervous at the very beginning. But soon I saw that my coworkers were so friendly, and they were willing to teach me a lot.
My first mission was to remember all the dishes and recipes in both English and Japanese, which I have never learned before.
This was a huge challenge for me. The first few days I even cried in bed because I missed my family and my girls (our producers) so much. But at the same time, I felt completely satisfied with learning new things everyday because this is truly what I have dreamt of for years. Our Japanese chef teaches me with infinite patience, even though I speak almost no English. He drew simple signs to help me easily understand the concepts. He said that my motivation to learn and advance my skills impressed him, which helped build my self-confidence.
I am 30 years old and not yet married. Most Cambodian women marry young. I fight with deeply ingrained culture and choose my own path. I am getting closer to my dream job everyday. I have already learned how to prepare takoyaki (タコヤキ), zarusoba（ざるそば) and sushi (壽司). I’m excited to share with you the progress I have made.
Please come to Shin restaurant and enjoy the Japanese cuisine I prepare!
Kamsoth Mao/ Graduated producer
Working at SALASUSU gave me the ability to create my own future, which I had never thought was possible.This journey changed my life.
I am from a really poor village, so I chose to work with SALASUSU in 2009 when I was 17 years old. After two years, I became the team leader of the sewing team in our factory and gave guided factory tours to visitors. After graduating in 2012, I started working in the SALAUSU office in Siem Reap. It was also my first time living far away from my family and community. My mom was worried about me and kept asking me to go back. I was anxious and scared, and the beginning was very difficult for me, especially the first month.
I was too afraid to even ask a vendor the price of onions. I worked hard to overcome my fears and build communication skills. It took me a long time, but eventually, I was able to communicate well with the people in the city. Since I have adjusted to my new life in a new place, I have been proudly wearing a smile and my confidence has brightened my life, opening up a new world. I also invited my mom to see where I work and who I work with. She has become extremely supportive of my decision.
I also have taken 1.5 hour English classes every day after work and have kept studying and practicing at the workplace. Despite the fact that I didn't speak any English before I started working at SALASUSU, what I learned from SALASUSU is to never give up easily. The best way to make your life better is to keep learning.There are so many things I haven’t learned yet and it encourages me to explore new challenges in life.
My positive attitude helped me to become an Operations executive at Cambodia Catering Company (CCC), which provides catering services for private and public events. I have the responsibility of managing a big group of employees and I learned how to organize events. When there are more activities in the weekend, such as BBQ buffets, weddings, and other festivities, the company needs extra help, so I volunteer to lead a team. I very much enjoy learning—— something that I never ever knew existed while growing up in a rural village.
For me, the most difficult part is financial management. I never had the opportunity to do anything like this before. I didn’t even know how to use excel, so I dedicated all my time to learning it. Now I make the monthly financial report, do the budgeting, and more.
Last month, I represented our company at a leadership conference in Phnom Penh. We discussed how to make teams work smoothly with managers from different companies. After that, I shared my opinions and insights with all the managers of my company. I also advised them that they should care more about the staff’s feelings rather than only focusing on KPIs. This positive attitude and aptitude are the most important things that SALASUSU gave me.
From a difficult childhood to a manager in a big company, I would like to share my experience with our producers, as well as young women living in different countries. "What is in front of you right now is not the whole world. There are much more opportunities that you might not be able to see. You have the right to get better opportunities and fight for your own life. Keep learning. It expands your horizons little by little. There is no doubt that difficulties and challenges will come to you again and again. However, after looking back at your life, you wouldn't believe how far you have gone down a road from your small goals toward your big and bright dreams. SUSU! Believe you have more opportunities and keep moving forward."