People Culture Photography & Volunteering

NAKUPENDA – VOLUNTEERING ON A PERMACULTURE FARM IN CAMBODIA

NAKUPENDA – VOLUNTEERING ON A PERMACULTURE FARM IN CAMBODIA

NAKUPENDA. In Swahili means I LOVE YOU. Founded by a Belgian-Khmer couple(Singyi and Denis), the farm originally was intended as an asylum for Cambodian women who have experienced domestic violence. The problem of beaten women in Cambodia is very common and the percentage of battered wives is very high. In Khmer culture a woman should be devoted and obedient to her husband. A man is always better.He has the right to beat and humiliate her. Most women are afraid of revenge of their husbands so they don’t report the problem to anyone. Almost all of them live with their abusers for the rest of their lives! Although they are more aware of their rights from year to year but they still tolerate and accept violence. Mostly because they are afraid of losing their reputation in an enviriment which requires them to keep their families in one piece.Rapes happen very often and the only help the victim can get is negotiations with the abuser. In this case, he will never be punished. Another problem is that the man has a job and money, so it’s hard for a woman to leave him without any financial security. At the beginning, a few women lived on the farm and one of them experienced domestic violence. Unfortunately, she came back to her husband. Nothing has changed,she and her children are still being beaten by him.

After all women left the farm, in January 2018, two permaculture experts that Singyi and Denis met in France came to help. Their ideas influenced the project towards what it’s today:a permaculture farm and a community.

A way to the farm we remember very well. A winding and bumpy road to the house leading along the mountainous area of Kampot province promised that we would finally rest from a big cities. Also high temperature and humidity are not conductive to traveling. In addition, our last 5 days we spent in Phnom Penh. After 40 minutes driving we passed two small, wooden houses next to the natural pool and then a large one. The first house turned out to be the place where we lived. The larger was intended for others travelers. There was also a kitchen, bathrooms and a social room. The farm looks a bit like an American rancho, but the characteristic construction on stilts definitely indicates that we are in Asia. Next to the main house you can see two others mud houses, one is unfinished, waiting for windows and the other is in the process of modeling. Pierre Louis and Martin, long-term volunteers from France, welcomed us first. Both of them, together with the founder’s sister, Sinya, a woman with a big heart and even greater smile, manage the farm from the very beginning. The project is new and the volunteers are accepted only from March 2018. But you can see easily that they created an atmosphere here. The owners are in Belgium to support the project financially.

In one of the mud houses we heard Polish music! So far we’ve met only 2 Poles during our travel. Here we met Michał and Antoni. But that’s not all! The guys are traveling around South East Asia on electric skateboards! They run a funpage on Facebook where they post videos from their travel podróż dzieci korzeni. On the way, they met Vlad and Anna from Ukraine, who worked on the farm. One day Michał and Antoni came to visit them, but it was raining 3 days so they decided to stay longer. They liked this place so much so in Kampot they extended their visas for another month and all 30 days they remained on the farm. Same was with Anna and Vlad. They were supposed to be 10-14 days here, but finally they helped on the farm 3 weeks. We also met Bilal from Lebanon and Max from the United States. They have been here for long time. A few days ahead Liam from South Africa and Jaden from Alaska joined to the farm.3 days after us, Maria Augustina from Argentina. We also had two puppies Malaika and Chanti (Peanut) and seven wonderful kitten. That was our dream team for next 8 days.Till today we regret that we didn’t extend our visa for next month so this is a good reason to come back.

 

FARM 

The farm is a project that combines a permaculture farming with community living, sharing knowledge and experience with others. Nature and all living beings are respected and the farm wants to be self-sufficient in the future. Permaculture is a branch of ecological design,ecological engineering and environmental design. The three core tenets of permaculture are:
  • care for the Earth, 
  • care for the people, 
  • fair share (using surpluses to feed other people)
The farm is designed to collect solar energy. On a sunny days we could charge our phones and laptops for a very long time. But when a day was cloudy there was not enough energy so we had to use power banks. 
Also the vegetables and herbs on the farm are planted with a special method so that can help each other grow. We made compost from food leftover and to reduce weeding we covered the area with mowed grass. In this way, the weeds didn’t grow back so quickly. A separate, wooden house was intended for growing mushrooms. Sinya is the one who had the idea to start this project and every day she collects over 1kg of mushrooms. They sell a few kilos to neightbors and keep the rest to feed hard-working voluntrees. Because rice is an inseparable part of the Asian diet, they plan to grow it using the method form Japan, without using water. At the moment it’s very expensive process and it has to wait.

We also had a large tank in the bathroom and a few outside, where we collected a rainwater. This water was used for bathing, washing, washing dishes and cooking. Now the best. Because mosquito use water to lay their egg and we had a lot of them in our tank we found the solution. In the tank we placed tadpoles that ate mosquito larvae. When we took water, we had to be careful not to wash the hair or drink tea with a tadpole:)Golden advice. Always look inside the toilet paper. Right after the shoes is the favorite place for huge, long-legged and hairy spiders!

 

WORK

The schedule included 6 days of work. Sunday was a day off. Breakfast at 6.30am. Mainly we ate fruits and roasted nuts that we often burned:) Of course, we had a coffee and my favourite tea made with lemongrass, turmeric leaves,pepper and ginger. Some of us got up earlier for morning yoga and meditation. We worked from 7 am to 1pm. Later it was too hot. The guys usually stayed longer to build mud houses. My main task was to maintain the pineapple plantation as the field was quite large. The process was to weed out first and than cover with mowed grass. Of course, the grass had to be mowed before, which was a big challenge for me to wade through the densely growing grass with a small sicle. Marek and the rest of the volunteers were sticking mud houses. The construction of such houses is quite easy but also a bit tedious because you have to make a lot of balls made of soil, water and grass. Such balls are inserted between bamboo constructions and again covered with mud. It dries very quickly. Music has always accompaniend us during work so time flew faster.

At 11am we had a lunch break and the third meal was at 1pm. Dinner usually after 7pm. Our whole diet was vegetarian. We must admit that we didn’t lack meat.In addition Antoni and Michał are professional chefs so they prepared meals in various ways using only rice and vegetables. From fresh fruit like mango, pineapple and passion fruit we made salad dressings. Definitely the dinners were the tastiest! There was also a pizza oven built by one of the volunteers. After months of traveling nothing tastes better than Italian speciality and fresh bread!!

 

FREE TIME

Because we finished work at 1pm, we had a lot of free time. We had a pingpong table and football table. We always wanted to learn how to play boules and here we had the opportunity. Some of us went to the village to teach local children English. In the evening, in mud house we played games. The charade was one of the funniest. We also painted pictures. Everyone had a plank of wood for painting. Marek painted the logo of our blog and I admit that I like it a lot. I think he has a talent:)

It was a big, cultural exchange we’ve experienced since we lived in England. Martin from France mastered Polish words to perfection. Creativity has reached the highest level when the gas ran out in the kitchen.Vlad with guys prepared a dinner in a wok for all 12 volunteers. It wasn’t easy because the wok on fire was burning like hell.

This is another volunteering program we’ve met travelers who have been on the road for several years! Thanks to them we learned more about interesting projects. During such projects you can develop your interests (languages or photography) and use your free time to learn. They do the best to share the Khmer culture. They hosted a few Cambodian volunteers and want to have more in the future to develop the interaction between locals and foreigners. If you want to help in Nakupenda, learn more about permaculture philosophy,cooking, natural building,growing mushrooms, meet crazy people full of crazy ideas and spend some time in the beautiful scenery of southern Cambodia, where we were awakened by a beautiful sunrise every day you can check Nakupenda website or write to us in a comment. Greetings to all of you crazy guys from Nakupenda!

 



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