Deaf Operated: Epic Arts Cafe (Cambodia)

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Employees at Epic Arts Cafe

For those of you adventurous globe-trotters who want to travel to Cambodia, pay a visit to the Epic Arts Cafe.  Located in Kampot, Cambodia, Epic Arts Cafe was established in 2006 by an organization called Epic Arts.  The purpose of opening this cafe was to promote employment equality for Deaf and disabled Cambodians, and to unite the local Deaf community.  By employing ten Deaf and disabled workers, the cafe strives to create inclusive job opportunities.  Epic Arts Cafe was also intended to provide a place for members of the local Deaf community to gather, socialize, and exchange information.  However, this cafe is also popular among hearing locals, as well as tourists.  Currently, the cafe is self-sufficient, and any profits from the cafe are used to support Epic Arts programs.  In addition to the Epic Arts Cafe, Epic Arts maintains many projects in Cambodia (and in the UK and China) to promote equality for individuals of all abilities and disabilities through the arts.  Their “Every Person Counts” philosophy is the basis for Epic Arts’ programs, which encourage acceptance, equality, empowerment, and expression for people of all ages and abilities through artistic outlets such as performance, music, and visual art.  This organization has made a powerful impact in areas where there is little to no community or educational support for Deaf and disabled individuals.

In August of 2011, I had the opportunity to visit Epic Arts Cafe myself.  My experience was extremely positive and memorable.  All of the staff at the cafe was incredibly friendly, and I enjoyed interacting with the workers using my limited knowledge of Cambodian Sign Language.  This quaint cafe offered a variety of options on their menu, and I was very satisfied with my meal.  It was a great experience to see how the cafe had helped to unite the local Deaf community, and also promote equality for Deaf and disabled Cambodians.  During my visit, it was clear that the employees were proud to be working at the cafe and to be an important part of Kampot’s community.  I think the cafe’s success can be measured by its popularity among local Cambodians, as well as international tourists from around the world.

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Traci Olson at the Epic Arts Centre in Kampot, Cambodia

Following lunch at Epic Arts Cafe, I also had the opportunity to tour and interact with beneficiaries of Epic Arts’ programs.  Epic Arts maintains several projects in Cambodia including a Community Outreach Programme, Advocacy through the Arts Programme (Vocational Training Programme), Special Education Programme, and an Inclusive Arts Course.  It was incredible to witness the impact that Epic Arts’ projects had on those who directly benefited from these programs, and its influence on the local community to become more inclusive.  I was fascinated to learn about the past experiences of Deaf individuals involved with the program, and how Epic Arts has improved their lives.  After touring the Epic Arts Centre, I was able to participate in dance games and exercises with members of one of Epic Arts’ dance performance groups (which was mostly comprised of Deaf performers).  They were all so friendly and patient in teaching me new dance moves and exercises.  Before leaving, I was able to watch them perform a dance, and I was extremely impressed by their tremendous talent.  The choreography was complex and acrobatic and I was truly amazed by their performance.  It was such a great experience to not only visit the Epic Arts Cafe to support a great cause and organization, but to also connect with members of the Deaf community in Cambodia.  If your travels take you to Cambodia, I strongly recommend that you pay a visit Epic Arts Cafe!

Epic Arts Cafe is located in Kampot, Cambodia and is open daily from 7am to 5:30pm.  For more information regarding the cafe or Epic Arts, visit http://www.epicarts.org.uk/index.php/page/show/39.

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