Courtenay eatery raising funds for Cambodian shelter project

Tita’s serves Cambodian food Sunday for the Banteay Srey Project, which provides safe shelter for Cambodian women.

LISA (FREYA) METZ will serve Cambodian food Sunday at Tita's to raise funds for the Banteay Srey Project.

Tita’s Mexican Restaurant is serving Cambodian food this Sunday for the Banteay Srey Project, which provides safe shelter and opportunities for exploited young Cambodian women escaping prostitution.

The project was founded by the Courtenay restaurant’s owner Lisa (Freya) Metz. She will speak about her experiences in Cambodia and establishing the project over the past two years.

As co-owner of Tita’s for more than 12 years, she has a strong business background and has trained, mentored and empowered many local young women new to the workforce. She is now applying this experience and her skills full time to the Banteay Srey Project.

After her family adopted twin infant orphan girls from Cambodia when Freya was a child, she developed a lifelong interest in the country and Khmer culture. Freya has lived and travelled extensively in Cambodia, and speaks Khmer.

In Khmer, Banteay Srey means women’s temple, and refers to a famously beautiful temple built in honor of female deities in the Ankor Wat complex. The Banteay Srey Project provides a safe place for sexually exploited young Cambodian women to heal and grow in a nurturing environment and to build a new life.

Over the past year, Phase I of the project — renovations and construction of facilities and hiring and training Khmer staff — has been completed. Phase II — active recruiting of young women for the project’s programs — has begun. The project operates an on-site residential shelter as well as a women-only training spa.

Freya’s goal is to provide healing and skills for a better life for these women. Initial participation focuses on the women’s physical and psychological health, and then the women receive instruction in spa and business skills to work in the project’s spa and earn a training wage.

The women will be encouraged to transition from the Project when they are ready, working in spas in Cambodia’s burgeoning tourist industry or establishing their own businesses with project mentoring and support.

The gathering and fundraiser Oct. 14 is being run with the participation of Comox Valley supporters and volunteers. Gourmet Cambodian tapas will be served, and wine and beer will be available.

Freya returned from Cambodia with a variety of exotic Cambodia items — including Kampot’s famous pepper — which will be available for sale to support the project.

The event runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Advance tickets for a donation of $20 are available at the Laughing Oyster Bookstore and Blue Heron Books and also at the door on Oct. 14 if available.

— Banteay Srey Project

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