When Sebastien Marot reached Cambodia in 1994, it was just two years after the peace accords. There was an influx of NGOs and fund that made a minimal impact on people's lives. It was unsafe and nonhygenic era. There were many uncleared land mines. There was limited or no running water and electricity. When Sebastien Marot saw kids sleeping in the street on cardboards, it had a big impact on him. He felt the injustice and frustration of how good will and funds leave the kids behind.
Out of good will, he started to make for them what a typical French man will, baguette with ham and cheese. The kids were not used to the ham and cheese, they threw them away and ate just the baguette. His friend Mark had learned about their eating preferences, and they did better with rice and fish. But as the kids were fed many meals a day, they were not engaged and had no responsibility.
So they asked the kids for what do they want. They answered: education and a safe place to stay. His plan was to use the rest of his money for three months and open a center to provide the kids with food, safety, and education. After one week almost all of the kids left. They did not want just education; they wanted to acquire vocational training so they can find jobs.
So in 1994/5, Sebastien Marot had a vision to help kids to become functional and productive citizens, abandoning the charity model and embarking on social enterprising.
At first, the NGO community looked down on this work and even talked of it as evil. He started several stand-alone businesses like motorcycle business, laundry, and more. The tipping point was his first restaurant that was opened in 1999.
The first time I had visited Romdeng restaurant in Phnom Penh in 2012, it was love at first sight. While my mission there was to build homes together with my friends, this part of a much bigger social enterprise went into my heart. So I wrote a review: www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g293940-d1217419-r135227195-Romdeng-Phnom_Penh.html#REVIEWS. You can find in the review my excitement from the fact that the kids who served us were coached and while earning, they were acquiring a needed vocation with which they could get decent jobs in the F&B industry.