Everything about Marum made me happy. I loved the quaint outdoor seating in the garden and the charm of the old wooden house. The walls were painted in vibrant hues that manifested happiness. Bold, funky artwork on display in the lower level dining room added to the charisma. The color of a wall and placement of twinkle lights may seem like insignificant details, but it takes careful time and consideration to create a space that can elicit a specific emotion from everyone who enters it. The intentional charm was equally complimented by Marum’s laid back, casual atmosphere. Simple wooden tables and chairs with laminated single page menus and a wait staff wearing t-shirts made Marum somewhere you could be yourself and spend hours enjoying a meal with good friends. The tapas style dining allowed us to have fun trying several different items on the menu from fish soup to red tree ants, there were plenty of delightful selections to choose from.
Like everything else in Siem Reap the amiableness of Marum’s location was only outdone by the Khmer people who made it come to life. Everyone working at Marum wore a t-shirt that said Student or Teacher on the back. The restaurant is part of the Tree Alliance powered by Friends International. The students are former street children or marginalized youth that lack the education and skills to support themselves independently. The restaurants are operated as social businesses with the ultimate goal of building futures for students through on-the-job training and teaching the skills necessary to find a job in the hospitality industry. In addition to learning how to cook or be a waiter or waitress, the students get classroom training on English and life skills. Working at the restaurant gives them the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned with real customers.
I have always had a heart for the marginalized and looked for ways to help and support them. Eating dinner at Marum provided me with the opportunity to support former street children in a way that allowed them to maintain their dignity. The economic empowerment model, is powerful – not only for the individuals involved, but also for the community and society at large. My experience at Marum, and in Cambodia in general, has changed my perspective. As with everything experience informs our opinion, going forward, I will be more intentional not only in my charitable giving, but also as a consumer. I will look for ways to use the fruits of my labor to support and empower those individuals that need it most.