October 24, 2023
PHNOM PENH – A young Japanese man, with a heart for philanthropy, crafts and sells crepes with a noble purpose. His mission is to fund well construction in local communities, provide crepes for orphans, and even establish a school in Cambodia. In addition to this, he, alongside a team of eight local youths, dedicates their time and energy to cleaning sewage canals in Siem Reap province.
When passing Angkor High School in Siem Reap, one would likely notice a cart stationed in front of the school. The cart, proudly bearing the name “PANCAKECREPE” on its front, belongs to Tara Sotaro, the dedicated owner and operator of this venture.
Oum Bora, a teammate and Japanese translator, recounted to The Post that Sotaro, 23, arrived in Cambodia in February. Their paths crossed while Bora was working as a Japanese translator. Soon, Sotaro, along with seven local youths, joined forces to create and sell crepes. Sotaro ingeniously designed carts attached to three motorcycles to enhance the mobility and transportation of their delectable crepes.
The young individuals, who aid in the crepe-selling endeavour, comprises locals who were encountering difficulties in securing employment within Wat Damnak village, in Siem Reap town’s Sala Kamroeuk commune, where Sotaro himself resides.
The young Japanese man generously imparted his crepe-making expertise to these youths and provided them with financial support. His overarching goal in selling crepes is to offer vital assistance to orphans. Beyond this, he has already contributed to the local community by financing the digging of two wells. However, his loftiest aspiration remains the establishment of a school.
Sotaro, who confided in Bora, noted that he already has a supporting partner in Japan. Yet, his unwavering motivation to increase his earnings is rooted in the desire to establish a financial safety net, ensuring he can navigate unforeseen challenges with ease.
Despite some people deeming his crepes slightly expensive, with prices ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 riel ($2 to $2.50), he dedicates half of the earnings from sales to supporting a local orphanage, funding well construction and contributing to school construction.
“He also depends on donations, but as a precaution, he chose to establish a crepe-selling business. This serves as a safety net in case there are any disruptions or a possible halt in funding, ensuring he has reserves,” explained Bora.
The young translator emphasised the importance of conveying the purpose behind their business to customers. To this end, a message reading “These crepes are being sold to support orphans, dig wells and build a school” is prominently displayed on their cart. Their passion has not gone unnoticed by travellers, who actively contribute by purchasing crepes. The team views crepe sales as a means of fortifying their community.
From charity to environment
Bora also highlighted that in addition to their crepe-selling activities, Sotaro leads the youths in the regular cleaning of sewage canals and public areas, conducting this initiative three times a week. The funds needed to acquire plastic garbage bags, gloves and protective clothing are entirely generated from crepe sales. The community has further demonstrated kindness by supporting the group through the purchase of mineral water or by providing sustenance for the team during their cleanup efforts.
“I have set a goal to collect 100 tonnes of garbage, but it’s a formidable challenge. Presently, we’ve gathered 3,000kg of rubbish, which means we still have 97,000kg to reach our target,” Bora quoted Sotaro as saying.
Bora observed that while Sotaro’s humanitarian and environmental endeavours haven’t garnered widespread support, he remains optimistic about increased participation in the future as his initiatives have been gradually gaining recognition on social media platforms.
In a recent social media post, Sotaro expressed that he sells his desserts to generate income to support his team’s humanitarian projects. He opted for social media to disseminate this message, aiming to reach a broader audience and raise awareness about both his culinary offerings and his volunteer activities.
Sek Socheat, executive director of the Mindset Development Organisation, views the collaboration between Cambodian and Japanese youths in crafting and selling crepes as a positive step in generating income for well construction for those in need and orphan support. The issue of environmental cleanliness is vital for the overall well-being of people, both in urban and rural areas.
He further highlighted that Siem Reap, a province frequently visited by international tourists, must prioritise maintaining a clean environment and upholding good hygiene standards to establish itself as an attractive destination for visitors.
“I am truly proud of the collective endeavours of both young Cambodians and Japanese participating in these initiatives to address these challenges,” he said.
Sun Kong, director of the Siem Reap Provincial Department of Environment, expressed his pleasure and full support for the initiatives undertaken by the group. He stressed that environmental cleanliness is a shared responsibility involving every citizen, both private and public institutions and communities.
He affirmed that participating in these activities serves the purpose of improving the visual appeal and hygiene, not solely in the town but also extending to districts and public areas. This underscores the group’s commitment to fostering awareness and actively contributing to the creation of a clean and aesthetically pleasing environment across Siem Reap.
“I extend my gratitude to all stakeholders for their active involvement. The environment department regularly conducts both monthly and annual activities. Recently, environment minister Eang Sophalleth has launched an initiative to decrease the use of plastic bags, following the theme ‘Today I don’t use plastic bags’,” he said of the ongoing anti-plastic campaign targeting students from kindergartens to high schools as well as factory workers.