Wat Opot Children’s Community kitchen is a large 8 sided building, originally constructed with a thatch roof and open walls. It was nice and breezy…until rainy season, then it became a flowing stream, It was slowly updated over the years with walls, windows and a sturdy roof and eventually, three small additional rooms for cooking and a bathroom were added on.
After 10 years or so what was once a nice new bright and shiny kitchen, became dark rooms with black charcoal stained walls. As Wat Opot changed so did the needs of the kitchen. Cabinets were broken down with use and unused spaces became mounds of unorganized clutter. Our wonderful cooks never complained. They continued to cook as they always did (with charcoal) and improvised as needed.
Our kitchen needed a massive face-lift, but the large amount of money needed to fully update with modern furnishings and equipment just wasn’t available. Enter the Coffman family who got wind of our needs and they, along with friends and two generous corporate sponsors (QuickSpark and Stormwind), raised over $16,000! The dream of an updated kitchen, one without messy and unhealthy charcoal would finally come true.
With professional blueprints (well, professional compared to the napkin drawings over breakfast given to Mr. Pheab for the volunteer dorm), in hand we had somewhere for Mr. Pheab to start.
This is how the kitchen layout looked before renovation. Not really any flow and too many small rooms to maneuver around. In the dish washing area, we had to close up the doors to the outside as that became a local hangout for village dogs. With 40+ kids eating 3 meals a day, that’s a lot of scraps!
This is how the new kitchen was envisioned! An open floor plan, with a time saving flow having everything within reach, especially the pantry and dish washing area.
You can view the process from start to finished in the Facebook album, Mike Coffman created by clicking here. Or read on for a narrated version.
The original plan was to just gut out the interior and renovate…but after a good look at the outside walls (which were additions many years ago), you could see they were cracking and in some cases pulling apart and would not have stood on their own without the inner walls stabilizing them. Funny how you never notice things until you actually “look” at them.
Thus the complete knock-down renovation began. And we were very happy to have a constructive destructive outlet for the children as they willingly helped.
During the renovation, our kitchen staff moved outside, where they patiently cooked for over a month.
This is the former serving and dish washing areas
Here is the washing area before and after,
and the serving area specifically:
As this area evolved, we were able to incorporate a hand washing station to the right of the serving area and buy a cold water filter to the left. The metal grate above the serving area folds down to secure the kitchen against mischievous children and animals. The Buddha painting was created by a former Wat Opot child resident who is now attending the Phnom Penh Royal University of Art.
Looking inside the kitchen (in the initial blue print standing at the bathroom looking through the washing station doors).
Food Prep area is now modern and more comfortable.
View looking towards the back of the kitchen (in the initial blue print standing at the serving station looking towards the door by the bathroom).
The bathroom was the only original structure that was able to be salvaged, although we did a complete renovation with new toilet, door, tile and paint. The bathroom was formerly used as a vegetable/food cleaning area, as there wasn’t another place available. Now the kitchen boasts an additional sink separate from the dish washing area for the preparation of fruits and vegetables. The cleaned up washing area in the bathroom can be used for cleaning fish, poultry and meats.
Our former charcoal cooking area was replaced with an industrial gas stove/oven
and a gas industrial rice cooker (the children’s community eats about 10 kilos of rice a day). When renovating, we were able to incorporate little innovations such as plumbing water to the rice cooker which is next to the serving area so the ladies do not have to move the heavy pots of rice from one spot to another.
After (and actually during) the kitchen renovation, the large octagonal stage area was renovated as well. The stage, as many of you who have had the luxury (and dare I say privilege) to visit us know, is a main component of Wat Opot Children’s Community. Dance contests, singing contests, nightly meditation, nap time, play time, group meetings, events…you name it, this area is used for it.
Stage right – we tore down the right side wall which separated the stage from the kitchen (unused area on the initial blueprint).
Stage left – We tore down the old pantry/storage area. Nak and Wayne knocked the cement and brick walls down in under an hour.
And the final result….an enlarged open stage area with the speakers/media electronics incorporated into the built-in cabinets on both sides of the stage.
On the exterior, the side of the kitchen went from a barred in small washing room to a windowed area letting the breeze enter the length of the kitchen. (note: We are still working on the landscaping on the outside areas).
And the back:
With the amazing amount of money the Coffman family raised, we were able to do everything needed on the entire building, not just the kitchen. We were able to replace the rusted windows with new metal ones and new roofing instead of re-using the old, and the entire building, stage area and new kitchen tiled and painted. We were also able to buy 40 chairs and utilize some previously donated tables all of which can be broken down and stacked to clear the room for meditation and fun each evening!
You can see the coal blackened (formerly green) bathroom wall
It’s now fully functional!!
Breakfast before school:
So to wrap this up, here’s panoramic views:
Words just can’t express our thankfulness for the ability to do this. It turned out better than we could have expected AND we will hold a Wat Opot Community and Village Community dance contest on our new stage next week!
Thanks for stopping in!