Nakupenda is a love story – it literally means “I love you” in Swahili. A love story between the Khmer and European cultures. A love story between mankind and nature.

We are a young project that mixes permaculture farming with community living. In our place, we grow together by sharing knowledge and experience with each other. We respect nature and all living beings, and are on our way to a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Why we create in Nakupenda ?

1) We want to create a respectful project, where Europeans and Cambodians are “at the same level”.

Working – both in NGO during the years 2000, Singyi and Denis were facing the side effects of the humanitarism in poor countries: westerners were considered as rescuers while Cambodians where considering themselves as victims. This perverse and inadequate link – between foreigners who don’t even speak a word of Khmer and local people – lead us to absurdity and disillusion.

Moreover, sharing international couple reality make us understand quickly our different status… The migrations laws are quite absurd and don’t give the same rights to the world citizens. In 2011, facing absurd laws (in French Embassy in Phnom Penh), we nearly decided not to come back to Belgium, while facing the authorities of the French Embassy in Phnom Penh. Westerners have not the same rights than Cambodian (and citizens from many other South countries)…England and most countries of Europa – acts, as if citizens from “poor countries” will take benefit from the social status of European citizens, …

As a couple, we make us the promise to act as a “non westerner” citizens.

Finally, we want to create a community of people, where we believe that people are all equal in the world.

2) A focus on Body-Care and Mind awareness (meditation).

Since the beginning, we have desired to create a peaceful place / where we can meditate. Buddhism Theravada is the Buddhism existing in Cambodia and south-East Asian Countries. Buddhist monks are inspiring the Cambodian society. By their way of life (simple life, begging for food, walking barefoot, retiring in monastery, …) – they have become the centre of the society. Each Cambodian is questioned, puzzled and pushed by this positive energy of the monks.

However, this practice may ignore the inner part of the citizen / to develop their own “meditation mind”. The Buddhism Mahayana and the Tibetan Buddhism teaches us to be our own guide in life, reveals the importance of meditation in our everyday life.

In Nakupenda, we want to be a place of the meeting of both practice. Where the practice of the Cambodian Buddhist monks join the practice of the individuals.

Mindfulness can be practiced very easily in our everyday activity, like washing the dishes, planting a tree, watering the garden, harvesting, cooking, mulching, preparing natural products, …This practice – inspired by Thich Nhat Han – is very important Nakupenda. In August 2019, Sinya, the responsible of Nakupenda, decided to go to Kampong Cham to practice Vipassana for 10 days. She came back with the desire to create a meditation “spirit” in Nakupenda.

We also promote all kind of practice, that makes our mind quiet / and open our hearts : yoga, swimming, dancing, sport, group discussion, helping the community, non violence dialogue, assertiveness, … We specially encourage our volunteers to practice yoga, a very strong practice that prepares the mind to the meditation. In November 2019, Kate, one of our long-term volunteers decided to go to India to become a yoga teacher.

Finally, we tend to be a community where we are not dependent on any drugs (alcohol included), but also from Internet / smart phones, …

–> Take care of ourselves / physically and emotionally.

Create a place where we take care of ourselves physically /emotionally and spiritually is the 2d focus.

3) A place that respects the nature.

Facing a massive consuming society, soon, ourselves and lots of volunteers have felt the idea to live on a more self-sufficient way. That’s one of the reason we decided to buy a field and develop our own skills, own food, own resources.

In permaculture, as animals are part of the same nature and belongs to the same earth, we need respect to them and try not to perturb them, understand the way they can help our permaculture work. Beehives are also part of this dynamics.

We try to build – with our hands – the place where we live / where we work, with natural building (mix of earth, sand, straw, tree chips, …)

As much as possible, we want to become self-sufficient.

Our third focus is the importance to be reconnected to our Earth, Our Mother. We try, by this way, to reconnect and protect our unique planet, the earth.

Origin of Nakupenda

The project creators, Singyi and Denis, working – both in NGO during the years 2000, were facing the side effects of the humanitarism in poor countries: westerners were considered as rescuers while Cambodians where considering themselves as victims. For them, creating Nakupenda was highlighting the value of Equality between citizens in the world.

Growing community

In January 2018, Marie and Benoît – two experienced gardeners that Singyi and Denis met during their stay in the Avioth community in France – came to help. Their presence and ideas confirmed the will to use permaculture techniques and principles in the garden and the vision of becoming some kind of ecovillage.

A few months later, in March 2018, the first volunteers came: Aurélia and Hadrien. Soon followed by Pierre-Louis, the first long-term volunteer. He helped the family to manage the project for several months and subscribed it on social platforms – Facebook, Workaway and HelpX. Volunteers then started to join from all over the world and Nakupenda switched from a family project to an international community.

In September 2018, Sinya and Singyi went to Thailand to follow a Permaculture Design Course (combined with a Natural Building Course) in an inspiring project called Rak Tamachat. Soon after the departure of Singyi to Belgium, Sinya learned about meditation (vipassana) improved her knowledge in permacutlure, developed her skills in producing mushrooms, and become the manager of the project.

In April 2019, Malin came back a second time in Nakupenda, as a long-term volunteer. After this second experience, Malin decided to change his life, he left his job as a top-chef in Switzerland, and decided to start new life with Sinya, for this new project.

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In addition to our first natural products ( moringa, tumeric; holy basil; …) Malin developed new products, such as chilli sauce, ginger beer, passion cider and started a partnership with la Plantation, world famous pepper plantation.

Many thanks to our long-term volunteers :

– Pierre Louis who made Nakupenda international place

– Julie who created a website and developed community spirit into the project

– James who became our first gardener…

– Kate who guided meditation, yoga classes and developed our first natural products.

– Richard, who helped to develop the water pump system in Nakupenda.

– Mazi, who did realize a super video of our project, filming the Nakupenda spirit.

– Antoine, who helped to develop contact with La Plantation ( a well-known pepper industry in Kampot), where he used to work.

Our volunteers are the spirit and the energy of the project. We promote freedom, initiative and self-development.

Inspiration

As you can read in the above section, a project like Nakupenda wasn’t created in one day. We were inspired – and continue to be – by many projects / people with similar values: