Khun Saiyuud Diwong, affectionately known as PooÂ (short for "Chompoo" orÂ rose apple),Â Â is a long-time resident of Klong Toey, the largest slum in Bangkok. For more than 5 years Khun Poo has been running her cooking school in Klong Toey for tourists as well as local residents. She represents a remarkable model of success and positivity in an often stark and complex landscape of poverty and hardship and has trained up a stellar team of fellow residents.
In late 2007, as the price of rice in Thailand doubled, she found that she could no longer make a living selling food from her house. Fellow resident and Australian national, Anji Barker, hadÂ been working with the community centre in Klong Toey for more than ten years. Using their contacts, Anji and some friends supported Khun Poo to start up her business. From modest beginnings in the front room of Khun Pooâ€™s houseÂ (with no English skills)Â the initiative has grown into a very successful cooking school. Khun Poo and her growing team have sinceÂ mastered the English language and nowadays the teamÂ can accommodate up to 12Â students, six days a week.
The cooking school is often booked out for weeks and the teamÂ even developed a popular catering business which has now become its own offshoot called Munjai Cafe and Catering.
A few years ago, Khun Poo published her own cookbook â€˜Cooking with Pooâ€™ which turned out to be a bestseller.
Khun Poo has been covered by media all over the world, but most important to her: she has changed the life of her family and the life of many neighbours in the Klong Toey community. She offers employment and supports others to start their own business. You can read more about neighbours helping each other at Helping Hands