Update! to an Unlikely story at Kinyei

Run with her son, daughter and grandchildren

Not even a week old and our story on how Phalla helped reunite a long lost Cambodian family around the world already requires a part 2!

Things have unfolded quickly since we reported that with Phalla’s leads, Run was able to discover her cousin in New Zealand.

Yesterday morning Run spoke with her sister in Phnom Penh for the first time in 30 years. She also talked with a cousin, and found out about family living in Australia, and a niece living in the US that she never knew about. We’re so floored for Run as she rediscovers her family.

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An Unlikely Story at Kinyei

Personal connections are made everyday at Kinyei and Soksabike; it’s part of what we do here. Every now and then, though, something extra amazing happens that helps us to remember how powerful channels of communication around the world really are.

A few months ago, a message came into the general Soksabike email inbox. It was not the usual request for a tour booking; this message came from the US and inquired after lost family thought to be living in Battambang. Written by Run and Larry from Tennessee, the message told the too familiar story of a family disrupted by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Run is Cambodian born and raised, and had left Battambang during the conflict to stay in the Thai border camps before leaving for the US. Now, 30 years later, Run asked after her grandfather, mother and younger sister who were last known to be living in Tuol Ta Eik village in Battambang.

Run had been looking for ways to communicate with residents of Battambang to find information on her family for years. Finally facebook and similar social media channels provided a pathway in. Months had passed and Run hadn’t had much traction asking around to those claiming Battambang residence facebook. Run had come across the Soksabike website looking for another way to access people that would know Battambang.

Phalla, Soksabike’s main bookings officer, came across the message and took pause. “How should I reply?”, she thought. Phalla’s mother lived in Tuol Ta Eik village. Maybe she could start there and just ask around. It couldn’t hurt.

“Ok, I have relatives, maybe I can help”, she wrote back to Run and Larry. She’d give it a try, but wanting to temper their expectations, told them she really had no idea if she would actually be able to help. She asked Run for her family member’s Khmer names.

Thinking logically, Phalla started her investigation with the Tuol Ta Eik Commune Chief. She met the staff of the Commune Chief, and presented the facts. “I said, I have a person I know who stays in the US and who is looking for her relatives.” Phalla recounted.

With some luck it seemed to Phalla, the staff member recognized one name from the list Phalla brought; Run’s grandfather, Cham Roeun Yam, who had died some time ago. The staff confirmed that the family used to reside in Tuol Ta Eik, and that all members of the family had either passed away or moved, except for one known granddaughter whose whereabouts could not be confirmed.

Phalla waited to give the staff time to ask around in the community. Although there was hope that the names had been recognized, Phalla was a bit doubtful on what would turn up. When she returned to the Commune Chief’s office, Phalla received the news that the staff had a chance meeting with a police officer that knew Run’s grandfather and family. He suggested that Phalla go and meet with the police, but Phalla was reluctant. She’d prefer to avoid trips to the police station.

There had to be something else she could do herself, without going to the police. On a whim, Phalla decided to ask her mother’s neighbors in Tuol Ta Eik. She hadn’t thought of it before, but the neighbors were nearly 80 years old, and had lived in the village for decades, perhaps they would have known or heard of Run’s relatives. She asked, did they know Cham Roeun Yam? Phalla was delighted. Yes, they had known her grandfather, who, they informed Phalla, had been the pagoda chief and had passed away in 1975. And yes, they could suggest another close friend of the family that might be a good resource.

The lead the neighbors gave to Phalla was fruitful. A dear friend of Run’s cousin from primary school, the woman was now a pharmacist in Psa (market) Runlakoun not far from Tuol Ta Eik. Phalla finally had good news for Run; the next day she gave Run and Larry the phone number of Run’s cousin, now living in New Zealand. Soon after that, Run and her cousin spoke on the phone after 32 years of separation.

Run’s cousin also had news; Run’s mother and sister are thought to be alive and living in Phnom Penh. So the search goes on, but already with such a fortuitous connection, the future is looking bright.

Phalla is energized and visibly moved by the story, and by her own role in it all. “I’m really happy, first, I have never done anything like that, I felt a very happy feeling, I didn’t think I would find even someone that knows her relative, I just thought I could try” she says, her eyes lit up.

“What’s funny, I look around and go far before I look right in front of me, and think maybe I should look closely. It was an accident, really, I found the answer at my mom’s house”. And all this time, the neighbors Phalla saw everyday had the information that the strangers from thousands of miles away were looking for.

Phalla’s excitement is infectious. We couldn’t be more proud to have her on our team. Phalla and Run have since been in communication sharing about their lives and families. They recently discovered a shared passion. Run owns a small craft shop in the US; for those that know her, this is just about the best news a craft enthusiast like Phalla could get.

Please share this story! It’s a testament to what strong communication channels are capable of. At Kinyei want to continue to promote these strong channels through the projects and the people involved. Best of luck to Run as she will interview for her US citizenship on June 14!

Kinyei by the numbers

It’s fun to see what our numbers can tell about our story, have a look:

Project: Cafe

4 – cafe staff moved into other Kinyei projects
20 – volunteers engaged for help or training
2 – trainings given by Kinyei baristas to outside baristas
18 – events hosted
18 – staff received training
30 – % revenue spent on staff
94 – % recommended on TripAdvisor (rating excellent or very good)
7 –  staff trained in financial, communications, technology office processes
15 – open workshops held
150 – open workshop participants
148 – facebook likes
4,100 – coffees served

 Project: Soksabike

2 – industry partnerships
6 – number of volunteers engaged
16 – number of staff trained
90 – facebook likes
419 – customers taken to the countryside
100 – % excellent or very good TripAdvisor rating

Project: Sammaki

6 – Local artist exhibitions
8 – workshops held on various creative processes
(block printing, photography, composting, portraiture, image transfer)
10 – events held in the space
(film festival, art walk venue, graphic novel presentation, noise art performance)
35 – volunteers engaged
800 – visitors to the space
$2,000 – commission of artwork sold to run Sammaki
$6,000  – value of artwork sold

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Phantom Limb Pain Open Workshop Announcement

About the Workshop

Come to learn about an affliction that affects a high number of amputee victims in Cambodia. Stephen will introduce an innovative approach to healing Phantom Limb Pain, or the pain amputees experience in the limbs they no longer have, with a simple technique called Mirror Therapy. He’ll also give a personal account of his experience with phantom pain, as he is an above-the-knee unilateral amputee.

Learn exactly what phantom pain is, where it stems from and see a hands-on demonstration about Mirror Therapy in action, and the short and simple protocol of what amputees or caregivers must do to ensure success. Participants will gain exposure to the excruciating existence of phantom limb pain (over 90% of trauma-based amputees – ie: landmines and traffic accidents) and to the availability of an incredibly simple, effective, non-narcotic cure that requires no clinics, hospitals, doctors, drugs; a cure that’s virtually free and doesn’t carry the danger of addiction (unless you really, really, like to look at yourself in the mirror).

About Stephen

Stephen hails from Vancouver, a logger, fisherman, photo model, fisherman again and hobo-drifter for life. First a ski racer and then a road cyclist, where he developed his life-long passion. Stephen lost his left leg above the knee in a hit-and-run motorbike accident about 8 years ago near Siena, Italy. His injuries were manifold and he spent some time in a coma. Shortly after the amputation and various other procedures, he began to experience a harrowing intensity and frequency of Phantom Limb Pain bouts. This continued, more or less unabated, for a full four years until he finally took a tiny gamble and bought a mirror to begin Mirror Therapy. After five easy weeks of self-treatment he’s been pain-free ever since. Over 10,000 limb amputations have been done in Cambodia since 1979 – and who knows how many before that. Many of these people are suffering today and Stephen, with his experience and his breakthrough treatment is in a unique position to help them.

He is so grateful that he has taken it on as his duty, and is his great and priceless pleasure to bring this technique to others that might have have little hope of discovering it otherwise. He’s since lived in Vancouver, Afghanistan, Southern California, Berlin, Baja, Saudi Arabia and is now working with various NGOs and caregivers in Cambodia. He also had the ultra-rare experience of being involved in the making of a movie based on my own life. It was a Warner Bros Germany film (thus in the German language) and is called Phantomschmerz or ‘Phantom Pain’. Here’s an English subtitled clip: Phantomschmerz (English Subtitles). He is hoping that his having been so many places and done so much since his accident will inspire energy and motivation in at least a few of the amputees that he has met on this ‘mission’.

When is the workshop?

Monday February 27th at 6 – 7 pm; about one hour plus question and answer.

Who should attend the workshop?

Anyone and everyone including local Khmer amputees. This is a unique and valuable opportunity for information about phantom limb pain and mirror therapy techniques to reach the local NGO community, ex-pats and Khmers alike. The talk is for a broad audience and we’re hoping to have a variety of people with different backgrounds in the room – everyone is welcome and encouraged!

What languages?

English with Khmer translation provided

Register now!

**Workshop places are limited so please register your interest to ensure a place. Please email katie_at_kinyei_dot_org with:</p>

Your name: Organisation (if applicable): What do you want to achieve in this workshop:</strong>


Kinyei Cafe

St 1.5 Battambang Town Look forward to seeing you there!

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Bounce to Battambang

Kinyei is looking for a volunteer to hang out with us, experience Battambang, and work alongside a Khmer team from January to March, to plan, organize, and host the first ever Trampoline Unconference in Battambang, Cambodia.

What is Trampoline?

Established in Melbourne, Australia three years ago, Trampoline is an unconference driven by participants who share what they find amazing. There is no specific topic – indeed, the goal is to share ideas from all different disciplines, industries and walks of life.









Cambodia is just beginning to explore the benefits of unconference type gatherings. Young changemakers in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have facilitated and participated in a range of idea exchange forums the likes of TedxPP, BarCamp, and smaller break off gatherings. It’s an exciting time here, there is an energy and a charge that is palpable. As a catalyst for Trampoline Battambang, you’d get to witness the first of these idea exchanges in a community full of potential.

Thus you’ll have the opportunity to play a key role in getting this new event happening in Battambang, and encourage the spirit of social innovation, sharing and community in Cambodia. And because we need you located here with us, you’ll also get to experience the relaxed charm of Battambang while the weather’s at its best.

So what exactly will I be doing?

You will be working with a Khmer team to translate the Trampoline idea into something that fits the local context, and providing event planning and communications support. You’ll be putting your skills and talents to use for other Kinyei projects as well. We’ve got Trampoline pencilled in for late February or early March 2012.

Language training, mentorship and guidance will be provided by the Kinyei team – who don’t lack for experience in both attending and running Trampolines – so will you have plenty of support as you hit the ground running.










Ideally, you should excel in the following areas:

  • proven ability to thrive in new, challenging environments
  • excellent communication skills
  • creative problem solving skills
  • initiative taker
  • desire to be helpful and work well with others across cultures

And for bonus points, you should also have some experience with:

  • running events
  • video production and/or social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook
  • leveraging networks

This is a volunteer position and thus there is no wage.

What’s next?

Send an email to Pat (pat at freelancing-gods dot com) for more details about why you should come to Battambang.

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One year kicking at Kinyei’s St. 1.5 Cafe

Latest from the Cafe front: Barista trainings and Championships

We’re fast approaching our one year anniversary at Kinyei’s St 1.5 Cafe! Incredible to think that it’s been one year since we launched our Kickstarter campaign to get this whole thing off the ground, ran a remote training with our green staff and the Jasper folks, and opened our doors in Battambang.

There hasn’t been a minute to sit still so far; looking back at the past two months, it’s been a frenzied push to expand our team and into our upstairs space. We’d like to think these last several months have been a testament to the team’s hard work and endless energy for fulfilling Kinyei’s collaborative spaces a making the most of every opportunity that presents itself.

Barista Training in and out

We kicked off October with another round of hiring to ready ourselves for the tourist season, nearly upon us. Theavy, Sopheap, Seyla and Chouert, the cafe newcomers, are quickly acclimating to cafe life. Fortuitously, Kinyei was hosting volunteers James and Joel, pals from Australia, on site for 2 weeks around the same time (see post below for their blog). James, a coffee connoisseur with years of experience in the coffee industry back in Brisbane, used the two weeks to pass on his expertise.

Sopheap's first latte


James, with help from Katie and the Cafe team, developed a comprehensive Barista training manual and accreditation course, with a coffee appreciation component, covering coffee concepts from crop to cup.

This newly minted Barista Course has jumpstarted a new service for Kinyei’s cafe team – professional espresso machine training. So far the Kinyei team has facilitated our training for one barista from Art Deli in Siem Reap, and two baristas from a new cafe near Banteay Preab, Phnom Penh. The Cafe team did a fantastic job of delivering this training and received stellar feedback from the trainees. Sorn Sreyna commented about the benefits of the training,

“I feel excited that I can make a nice coffee now, I know clearly how to make many kinds of coffee and hot to steam a very nice milk.”

She then asked, “Can I come back to train again?”

Similarly the cafe team was excited to be able to share (and show off) their skills. Untac also noted that “the training was great but quite short. I would want at least a week if I were a trainee I would feel confused!”

Srey Na and Sopheap, barista trainees from Phnom Penh

Untac also incorporated YouTube instructables into the training himself, citing how helpful it was for him when he was learning to use YouTube to watch different milk steaming techniques. To be sure, making delicious espresso takes persistence and passion!

TOT for P2P

Kinyei’s senior Cafe staff also attended a train the trainer workshop led by the Women’s Reproductive Team from the Catholic Centre in Battambang at Kinyei. Perfect timing for the team to use their new training skills as we rolled out the Barista training curriculum to staff from cafes around Cambodia.

TOT P2P it's all happening

Soksabike tour guide Moth Pheap was happy for the chance to view experienced trainers to get ideas for leadership style and setting clear direction and focus to a task. Sopheap Khou appreciated that the trainers spent time to understand their audience, and become familiar with those they were going to train, including cultivating a friendly feeling between instructor and student. Phalla Yai pointed out that the training was just a first step, and that with limited time, there was limited potential for learning – she’d like to see more trainings like this in the future.

It was fun to see Kinyei’s different project teams come together to learn a general skill like leadership and training that they can bring back to their specific jobs, and use in peer to peer education whether that’s training new baristas in the cafe, new tour guides on the route, or any other hobby, interest or skill that they have.

Thanks again to Meg Battle, Theary and the team from the Catholic Church for putting together a super workshop!

Kinyei’s first entry into the Cambodian National Barista Champs

On the 20th of October Katie, Sean and Sakana crowded into a shared taxi to Phnom Penh to cheer on Untac in the 2011 Barista Championships at the Sofitel.

On the 21st of October Untac had 15 minutes to make and serve 12 coffees. He made four espressos, four Cappuccinos and four signature drinks. With help from fellow cafe staff, Untac concocted the ‘Kinyei’; a shot of espresso, a shot of ginger sugar syrup, latte milk and cinnamon sprinkled on top. The ‘Kinyei’ was served in a piccolo latte glass. Delicious…and innovative! Katie, Mel, Justin and I got the pleasure of tasting the ‘Kinyei’ during Untac’s practice round the day before the competition at St 1.5.

Untac brought his coffee making flare and charming personality to the floor to produce some stunning coffees. Have a look for yourself – Untac competes in National Barista Competition

“The three who won were very skillful, all the competitors have skills, but did worse during the competition, even me”, Untac noted. He attributed this to the nervousness all contestants felt, as none had been judged before. He also noted that there were two different machines and that the contenstents were randomly assigned to compete on; the participants all agreed the larger 2 Group Saaco machine was more optimal than the smaller single group machine. It was luck of the draw.

The crowned barista was from The Shop in Phnom Penh. Talk about steep competition, most of these baristas are churning out hundreds of espressos daily. We’re terribly stoked for Untac, he did us all proud in Phnom Penh!

Untac and Sakana scoping out the competition

The small Kinyei contingency was delighted to witness the pomp at the Cambodian Restaurant Association’s (CRA) barista competition. Sakana noted that she loved to watch the cooking competition “since cooking is something I’ve loved since I was little.” On Phnom Penh, she added “Romdeng restaurant was my  and the pumpkin cake at Living Room cafe.”

“The cafes in Phnom Penh are similar to Kinyei, but I got some new ideas about specials. At Kinyei we could have something like Banana Cappuccino”, Sean reported.

As for watching Untac compete, Sakana remarked “I was very scared for Untac!”

Untac just before his turn at the machine

“I was very happy when I watched Untac to make coffee, some time I want to help but this is a competition so I cannot”, lamented Sean.

Untac interjected that one of his favorite things was getting to know the other contestants from different places in Cambodia. Everyone was really friendly, and happy to share about their experiences. “While we played on the machines, people would come and share what they know. We’re still talking together on facebook.”

“I think next year Kinyei should send two baristas to compete” Sakana concluded. We couldn’t agree more.

An aside: Lucky for the team, the event was held as part of the CRA hospitality competition. You can imagine our elation as we witnessed competitors in the bedmaking, fruit carving, and bartending competitions.







Cafe expansion + new office space

It’s here!

The cafe has finally burst its belt, and its taken over the upstairs of St. 1.5. Fully equipped with comfy couches and rustic tables, the old office has had a fast facelift, and can now accommodate lazy travelers looking to kick back, remote workers hoping for an energizing desk space, and everything in between.

Thus the office has picked up and relocated a mere 10m south on St. 1.5 in a similarly charming yellow restored colonial building.* With plenty of space for the Soksabikes, and our growing office crew, the place already has a lively cowork feel to it. And rightly so! We want to encourage remote workers coming from near and far to check it out.

*We absentmindedly left out that it was our dear friend and former Battambang resident, Alison, that made this move possible! Alison was our neighbor on St. 1.5 until she moved to Phnom Penh for work. She gave us the heads up about her fantastic property, and we jumped on the opportunity to rent. Thank you, Alison! We sure miss you and best of luck in Phnom Penh!

Have a glance at the new spaces here.

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Notes from Kinyei vols James + Joel

Expert Barista and IT vols – James and Joel spent a few weeks with our team in early October. Hop over to their blog to hear about their time, and follow the rest of their Southeast Asian adventure.


Here’s a glimpse…

“We are still yet to convince all of Kinyei’s staff that we are not twins. It really doesn’t help that our names both start with ‘J’. Most of the time James was shortened to just ‘Jam’

Our time at Kinyei has been fantastic and it has allowed us to meet so many amazing local people. I’m sure it won’t be long before we return to Battambang in search for some local Kinyei hospitality.”

St 1.5 Cafe marks 9 months

We’re turning 9 months…!

Read on for the highlights of the last few months at the cafe:

Our new look

Cafe and office staff took the opportunity to give the place a face-lift while Justin, Mel and Katie were retreating in Indonesia. The place has never looked so alive, overflowing with ingenuity, and a smart new menu set on a cafe designed blackboard.

Dream team

We’ve increased our staff by 50%! After five months of training up what is now our highly qualified barista staff (really! based on feedback from customers), we had an intense hiring round in April. We recruited some of the best and brightest to learn from our best and brightest. We now have seven dedicated cafe staff, including our newly appointed cafe supervisor – Sean. We’ve also hired on two part-time Kinyei office staff members who focus their efforts on administrative, accounting and project specific work. We’ve loved having a full and lively office! It won’t be long before we’re going to have to relocate to accommodate the growing project staff.

Team Kinyei in June 2011 - we're growing

Team Kinyei in June 2011 - we're growing!


Temporary experts-in-residence: barista & food scientist

Recently the entire barista team – Sakana, Untak, Sopheap, Sakhey, Sotheareak and Sean – had the awesome opportunity to learn alongside Kinyei volunteers extraordinaire and Mel’s dear friends, Mikey and Ariana. June and July saw coffee making focus groups, hospitality trainings and team building workshops led by the Melbournite team of two, intimately familiar with coffee shop culture. Thanks to their expertise, the Kinyei cafe team enhanced their confidence in communication skills, milk steaming techniques, and smart operational practices. A huge thanks to Mikey and Ariana for their tremendous job in the cafe – and of course for the crafting ideas.

Mikey and Ariana our hospitality training volunteers from Australia

Mikey and Ariana came in June to share some much appreciated hospitality experience with our team

We were also fortunate enough to connect with a recently matriculated food scientist. Erin Hiller, sister of Shannon, friend and fellow Battambangian, came through to fine tune menu items as well as do some cost optimization research on locally available ingredients. Sakana, our resident baker, and Justin spent some quality one-on-one time with Erin. The results? Quality control for our snacks and baked items, and a better informed staff, plus some really fun food experiments to be done – including homemade caramel. Erin commented,

“The staff at Kinyei are extremely kind and welcoming, I think the jokes even started after the first few days that I was there. Hopefully I can make it back one day as it has become one of the top places I would like to revisit and explore more.”

Macaroons and an old family fruit cake recipe are now available! Check back soon and we may even feature some of the food experiments we’ve been having fun with – eggs benedict and poached pear french toast. Not bad additions to your morning latte!

Other projects:

Soksabike is gearing up for a blow out tourist season. We’re entering a new chapter in the development of a new 2 day community development education cycling tour and just yesterday hosted 20 applicants for an information session on what it means to be a tour guide with Soksabike. A recruitment drive, the creation of a multi-day tour, and potential partnerships with local, national and international businesses means that the Soksabike project has been anything but quiet this rainy season. Kinyei also recently hosted the Pepy Tour folks for an information sharing session about our projects. We’re also excited about a social impact survey we recently undertook to gauge our footprint on the local families and industries we visit.

Peppy visit Kinyei in August

Peppy visit Kinyei in August

A huge thanks to Jan, a Soksabike supporter from Germany who stopped in Battamabang for 2 weeks on his cycling journey through South East Asia to help research routes and stops for Soksabike’s new tour.

Check out more at www.soksabike.com

Sammaki news –

Sammaki opened its doors to the public with a bang in late May. Over 200 showed up, a good mix from all over – Battambang, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Sisiphon. Since its launch in May, the community gallery and studio space has been bustling with people piling in for workshops, Sunday tea parties, lectures, and educational crafting with local youth groups, in addition to the daily foot traffic from tourists passing by. None of this would have materialized without the endless energy of the founding members, and local artists who have come together to make possible the vision for a community space to appreciate and celebrate art.

Samaki workshop

Samaki workshop

The latest news is the exceptional solo exhibit by newly minted resident artist, Bo Rithy. His show, Mother’s Sweat was a tribute to his tireless mother who braved the daily plights of poverty in Cambodia to raise her family. Have a look at the show.

We’re thrilled with the success of Sammaki since the concept of community-run /community-engaging spaces aligns with the core of Kinyei’s vision. We’re especially excited that it’s getting so much traction in the national press. Pretty rad, guys!

If you’ve dropped by the cafe why not drop us a line on Trip Advisor

We’re currently #5 out of 25 restaurants in Battambang

Barista championships and the future

Kinyei staff are honing their latte art skills for Cambodia’s barista championship coming up in October. We’ve also been encouraged by the requests we’ve gotten for our staff to train new baristas in cafes in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

The quality espresso coffees coming out of Kinyei Cafe

The quality espresso coffees coming out of Kinyei Cafe


How can you stay involved?

Have a quick take of our abbreviated Kinyei material needs list below. We’re working to get a comprehensive list up on the site to accommodate the many inquiries we get on how to pitch in or get involved with Kinyei

Our tech list includes

+digital cameras (used or new) with all the photography workshops we’ve been hosting at the open workshop series, our team and the greater Battambang population is increasingly hungry for cameras to help realize their professional + creative ambitions +computers (used or new) with our expanded team, our computers are stretched across one too many laps these days, we’re looking for a few extra to have on hand, also for affiliate groups we work with who come by hoping to hop on a machine +quality USB keys – **these can be excrutiatingly hard to find in Battambang

Interested in being an expert-in-residence?

We’d love to host short or long terms visitors with skills or knowledge they want to impart to our teams and/or projects. Contact us!