We just finished our first of six weeks volunteering in rural Cambodia. It’s been a crazy week, but a real highlight of our trip so far.
If you’re thinking of volunteering in rural Cambodia yourself, this post has information about what to expect and how to get a position out here in the first place.
We’ve been travelling for a few months through South East Asia now and had been in Siem Reap for one day. We thought we’d seen what this part of the world is really like. We definitely hadn’t. Even after only one week, it’s clear to me that the best way to really integrate yourself into a culture is to actually live and work there. Acting like a tourist just won’t cut it.
What to Expect – The Place
Volunteering in rural Cambodia has been a great experience so far. However, you should know what it’s really like. If you’re from a Western country, your new home in Cambodia will be like a very small town in your own country; only fifty to a hundred years ago.
Steung Treng (where we’re working) has a market that consists of a few streets. Stalls are bursting from every available space. You can actually buy a lot of stuff from these markets – we got a bread bin, a laundry basket and deodorant from the same supplier. There’s a couple of Cambodian restaurants, but mostly we point at bowls of rice based dishes from street vendors ($1 usually). There’s one place in our town that serves foreign food, but honestly, it’s not great and it’s really expensive (comparatively).
Rural Cambodia is undoubtedly the most remote place we’ve ever been. There’s really no reason a tourist would come here, so don’t expect to see anyone from your world. That said, you can get by here quite easily with some adjustment. Find your favourite places to eat, your favourite places to buy groceries and your favourite places to unwind on the weekend. A major plus is that data is unbelieveably cheap here – $1 per week for unlimited data is crazy.
What to Expect – The People
The best reason to volunteer in rural Cambodia is the people. Without a doubt, they are the most friendly people we’ve ever met. The waves and ‘hellos!’ are copious, you can’t go anywhere without them. Everyone smiles at you and the people always seem genuinely happy to see you.
Cambodia’s recent history is tragic. Over a quarter of the population were exterminated by the Khmer Rouge government in the 1970’s. Millions of the most educated – doctors, lawyers and professionals were all taken out to the country and killed. As a result, Cambodia is on a real rebuilding mission. As one of the youngest populations in the world, they’re fighting hard for their place in the modern world.
Their sense of pride, optimism and generosity is a credit to a resilient people.
What to Expect – The Job
If you want to volunteer in rural Cambodia, I urge you to consider our school. Krou Yeung Centre was founded in the 2000’s by Sopheap Yin. Sopheap’s vision is to change Cambodia through education. His schools are all in rural Cambodia and the kids all spend half their time learning in English. The need is great for english speaking teachers – experience is preferred, but not required. For more information about the school, go here (I’m working on their new website!). If you’re interested in a position at Krou Yeung school, go here and fill in the form or contact me directly on my contact page.
There’s a whole host of things you can do here. The most common is teaching english (Like Mary), but I’m developing the website and online marketing strategy. Our friend Giulia came over from Italy to be the school gardener. If you have a skill set, it’s likely you could help someone here. If you’re not interested in our school, a great site to find work here is workaway.
Because of the heat, expect to start work at 7am. You’ll get a long lunch break during the hottest part of the day 11am-1pm. Then work again until 5pm. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s just too hot to work at noon. Our simple accomodation (bedroom and adjoining bathroom) is free and we get a $50 food allowance per week. This is more than enough.
At home, we’ve been used to working in high pressure environments. So far, I’ve found the work a little less demanding than what I’m used to, but more rewarding. I plan on writing another post when we’re finished so we’ll see then if anything has changed.
I’m really glad we’re here. The work we’re doing feels like its making a difference and we know the cause is noble.
Again, if you’re even remotely interested in volunteering in rural Cambodia, check out our school or contact me. You’ll get massive responsibility and more real experience than you’d get at home. Even if you’re not, try to do a little volunteer work with people who really could use your skill set.
All they want is your time. For us millenials, its all we’ve got.