Volunteering can be a life changing experience but I do realize that despite the fact we all would like to help other people, it certainly requires the right character and a lot of dedicated time. However, there are simple ways to contribute, even if you are just on your holiday. I previously visited Cope Centre where you can buy souvenirs that contribute to charity, but there is also another easy way to have a positive impact on the lives of local people.
I couldn’t think of a more delicious way to provide local support as eating out at Makphet restaurant in central Vientiane. At this award winning establishment one can enjoy some of the best local dishes while providing disadvantaged youth with the opportunity to get vocational training in cooking and service.
While I was there I met Thavone, operational manager at Makphet Restaurant, and he explains the concept. “At Makphet Restaurant people can learn to taste typical Lao food in a modern atmosphere. At the same time they can interact with the students who are learning how to run a local restaurant here.”
The menu contains only traditional Lao food with mouth watering names such as grilled river fish with sesame seeds and orange sauce or Lao style buffalo and potato stew. “Visitors are often surprised by the Lao food and they really like it.” For good gourmets who wants to take home some inspiration there is a cookbook with the restaurant’s famous dishes on sale, home made of course.
While you are eating your way through the traditional Lao food it’s hard to miss the small but remarkably bright shop inside the restaurant. It sells creative souvenirs such as cuddly toys, handbags, aprons and wallets. All products are handmade by the families of the students, using recycled products.
At the time of writing there are 14 students working at the restaurant, 7 in the kitchen and 7 for service in the dining area. With 14 teachers on duty as well, there is not much left to chance and the restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. When visiting the kitchen its obvious that the close guidance works out well. It’s clean and organized and most important: smelling good! In about 18 months the students here are primed to run their own business in the outside world.
So when you visit Vientiane, think twice about where you will have your dinner and opt for Makphet where you can make twice the difference with one single meal.
Makphet Restaurant is located in the centre of Vientiane, Laos and open Monday to Saturday from 11.00AM to 9.00PM (kitchen closed). Visit the Makphet website for most accurate information.