The Swiss couple Sara & Paul Wallimann were on a 2-year world trip from 2008 to 2010, of which they spent seven months in Cambodia, in an orphanage** 14km outside Siem Reap. There they worked as volunteers taking care of the children, teaching English, helping the management and raising funds.
During their time at the orphanage the couple realized that not all children there were orphans, but lived there because their families thought they would be better off. But when the couple brought up the subject about the future of the children (wether orphans or abandoned children), once they come of age and have to leave the orphanage, this was only answered with a passive shrug of the shoulders. That was when Sara & Paul decided they wanted to do something. They wanted to give these late-teenage kids - and many others from safe shelters and poor rural areas - a safe place to turn to and help them in their transition from institution to real world.
And so the idea to open a training restaurant was born. The couple returned to Switzerland, where they founded the Swiss association Dragonfly – A Project for Cambodia's Youth, spread the word, created awareness for the problem and raised funds for their big idea: HAVEN. After their friend Steffi Feierabend learnt about the project, she became a strong supporter and a member of the Dragonfly board. That was also when she decided to go to Cambodia and help with HAVEN.
In April 2011 Sara & Paul moved to Siem Reap and started building the restaurant and school from scratch. Steffi joined them in October 2011, followed by Pardet Chhom, a skilled and passionate Cambodian Chef, who had heard about the plans and became a vital addition to the team. Together the four opened their first HAVEN in Siem Reap’s center in December 2011 with its first two trainees and a handful of wonderful staff.
Four years later, with the increasing demand for training places, but with lease prices skyrocketing in the town center, HAVEN moved to the Wat Damnak area in December 2015. A wonderful new space that can take in and train more students, create more secure jobs for employees and welcome more guests, all while still offering the unique HAVEN experience.
**Over the years orphanages have become part of Cambodia's landscape, and a popular tourist attraction. This has resulted in a boom of orphanages, many of which exploit children to raise money. We do not support or recommend visiting orphanages. Please keep in mind that chrildren are not tourist attractions. Think twice before visiting one. Visit thinkchildsafe.org.