Alternatives to Volunteering in Cambodia

Due to our commitment to empowering local staff, we became entirely Khmer operated in July 2016. Our local team who are the subject matter experts, continue to develop our community and help villagers break the cycle of poverty. We are leading the way for locally run organisations in Siem Reap, and are raising awareness that voluntourism and volunteering for short amounts of time aren’t what Cambodians need.

“Local people need to be empowered and valued. When local people are empowered to help their own community and their commitment and accomplishments are valued, it is an obvious evidence to prove to the other potential beneficiaries to trust and be inspired to transform their lives and not rely on foreigners. Foreigners are encouraged to help Cambodia, however, in terms of day-to-day operations, local staff should take responsibility.” – Salin, Education and Community Manager

Instead of volunteering in Cambodia, there are plenty of other ways you can help!

Make a monetary donation

A good way you can help in Cambodia is to donate money to reputable NGO’s. It is a good idea to research these NGO’s before travelling to Cambodia. Look out for organisations that are transparent and have their finances and annual reports online. Make sure that they have child protection policies, and require pre-bookings for you to visit.

When you do visit, don’t take photos (children are NOT tourist attractions), and keep an eye out for any red flags, such as the staff allowing you to roam the premises unaccompanied or walk into classrooms and ‘teach’ the children. A good NGO should have a strict visitor policy and child protection policy in place, and they should be adhering to it. As a responsible traveller, you are to respect that NGO’s are learning environments and the community should feel safe and comfortable. Disturbing the students/beneficiaries is not responsible, and reputable NGO’s should not allow you to do that.

A donation of $10 a month can provide education to a child at Human and Hope Association, covering the cost of a teacher’s salary, educational resources, clean drinking water and hygiene supplies. Become a Language Champion here.

Shop/Dine/Stay at Social Enterprises

There are many social enterprises in Cambodia that you can shop/dine/stay at. These social enterprises usually support the work of an NGO (non-government organisation), or simply just care about fair wages and conditions for their workers.

You may choose to catch a nightly circus show at Phare, the Cambodian Circus, where the profits support their mother NGO in Battambang. Or you may want to help in the preservation of Khmer culture by watching the Sacred Dancers of Angkor perform traditional Khmer dances.

When it comes to eating, Footprint Cafes has a delicious selection of food and donates 100% of net profits as educational grants back to the local community. Salabai is a hospitality training school that also has a restaurant, hotel and spa on their premises.

Soria Moria Boutique Hotel has an employee-share program, and also sells a gorgeous range of fair-trade products from multiple social enterprises and NGO’s. Cambodian Creation sells a large range of fair-trade products including handicrafts made by our seamstresses at Human and Hope Association.

Donate blood 

Donating blood is an incredible way to help Cambodians. Angkor Hospital for Children is a free hospital for children in Siem Reap that aims to provide children with access to high quality, compassionate care wherever they live and whatever their ability to pay.

They are always in need of blood donors, whether it be for an open heart surgery patient, a child suffering from chronic haemophilia or to a survivor of a motor bike accident. Just like in countries such as Australia, the lab staff will run a few quick tests to ensure your haemoglobin levels are high enough and blood pressure is within a safe range to donate. 

The best part about this is that it doesn’t cost you any money to make a big impact in a Cambodian child’s life!