On the outskirts of Cambodia’s largest city, Phnom Penh, is a massive dump site called Stung Meanchey. With mountains of trash, Stung Meanchey has over decades become something of its own self-contained community, providing a meager means of income for trash pickers — many of whom live in makeshift huts surrounding the dump — who find discarded materials that are of some value to nearby middlemen.
From this site, where some of Cambodia’s poorest women pick trash for upwards of 18 hours a day for about $2 to support their families, comes the latest mobile coffee bar, designed to reduce dependence among some local women on trash-picking, build skills in business operations and helping to break the cycle of poverty.
The Aziza’s Coffee cart actually represents some innovative design. A small kitchen, a service window, ice buckets for cold drinks and a simple countertop are built into an auto rickshaw known as a tuk-tuk, which in this case is entirely powered by solar energy from rooftop panels. The project is an initiative of Aziza’s Place, a nonprofit organization registered in the UK that has been leading numerous initiatives focused on improving the lives of children who live around Stung Meanchey.
Iced drinks — including a ginger lime soda and iced coffee with sweetened milk — are naturally popular in Cambodia’s tropical heat, and the coffee itself is prepared in the traditional Phnom Penh style, with hot water poured over fine grounds in a large filter sock fitted within a dual-spouted clay pot for an immersion brew.
The three women employed for Aziza’s Coffee are former trash pickers, and in addition to training in food preparation and service, the women are provided additional training, such as English language classes, that help prepare them for jobs outside Stung Meanchey.
In this video, see how the cart came together and hear the stories of the women there: