Volunteer in Cambodia - Affordable, responsible volunteer experiences

Volunteer In Cambodia (VIC)

About

Driving development by language learning.

Volunteer in Cambodia! We provide affordable, high quality volunteer opportunities to teach English at our language center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Conversations With Foreigners.

CWF provides affordable English classes to Cambodian students, profits going to support rural development projects in North East Cambodia. International volunteers teach conversational English language classes to adult Khmer students from all walks of life.

Our unique teaching curriculum is rooted in real-life Cambodia, empowering students to use English as a real communication tool to talk about their own lives and express their own culture.

Experience the real Cambodia with cultural excursions, Khmer language lessons, and immerse yourself in the local community for the experience of a lifetime!

Founded
2006
Headquarters

#247C · Street 271 · Sangkat Toul Tum Poung II
Khan Chamkamon
Phnom Penh
Cambodia

Reviews

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Angus
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered as an English teacher at the school between August and October 2019, and I’ve just completed the term. It’s been truly amazing. I was brand new to teaching, so after being accepted by the school, I began to get nervous about the prospect of doing something I had no previous experience of. The school prepared me very well with a brilliant induction programme about how to teach, and importantly how to make it engaging and fun for the students. I received so much valuable advice for which I’m eternally grateful. I was assigned three conversation classes of different levels. Teaching here has been a very enriching and rewarding experience ... in terms of spending time at the school with the students who are so keen to learn and are a joy to be with. The management and staff are all very friendly and helpful and I’ve had a lot of laughs with them along the way. I thoroughly recommend trying a term of teaching here. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’m staying on for another term. Maybe I’ll see you!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
To not get nervous at the start because there’s no need. The school prepares you so well ... so the nerves disappear!
Default avatar
SHASHANK
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered with Conversations With Foreigners (CWF) in May 2019. I decided to join CWF because I saw it as a great opportunity for me to improve my teaching skills and gain teaching experience. I was a newly qualified teacher when I joined CWF and it was my first ever in-class teaching experience. I am proud to say that CWF went beyond meeting my expectations. I not only improved my teaching skills and gained teaching experience, but saw myself growing and evolving as a teacher and a person as well. Today I am a confident teacher with so many teaching techniques and ready-to-use classroom activities in my pocket, which I learnt during the professional development workshops given at the beginning of the program.
First of all, unlike other volunteer organizations, CWF is a very legit social enterprise, which runs a school having all facilities for volunteer teachers as well as for students. This means that you won’t be teaching a group of underprivileged children in a village, but students in a well-maintained school who pay their fee (which is very affordable). Also, 60% of their profit goes to fund their social projects in the provinces of Cambodia.
The staff of CWF really surprised me. The staff was very supportive, friendly and helpful. They were always ready to help us at any time of the day with a smile on their face. Right from the pickup at the airport till the end of the program they made me feel so welcomed and made sure that my stay there was comfortable. I was truly humbled.
I got training during the first week of the program and it proved to be so helpful that I still use what I learnt during the training, in my classroom at my present job.
Last but not the least, the students were very motivated and highly enthusiastic to learn. Also, I was humbled by the respect that they gave me.
It was truly a life-changing experience for me where I learnt, grew, evolved as a person and a teacher. Doesn’t matter whether you are a teacher by profession or not. If you are not, you will be by the end of the program. CWF has so much to offer to you, irrespective of what field you belong to. I would recommend anyone and everyone to join the program. It will be a life-time experience for you. Cambodia will give you memories to cherish for life and the Khmer people will win your heart away with their smiles. Go for it…

Default avatar
Conrad
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I joined this programme to improve my teaching skills and gain confidence in the classroom. I more than achieved both these goals thanks to CWF. The in house training and support staff are amazing. I’ve made friends for life with some of the staff and also some of the students. The teachers were a mix of ages, nationalities, and abilities. We all had something different to give and we all learnt from and about each other. The social scene is fantastic and there is a lot to see and do in Phnom Penn and the surrounding areas. The program offers many cultural visits and you also get to see some of the work that is done with the monies raised. The support you receive is second to none both on and off the school premises. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at CWF and would recommend it to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned professional or a beginner there is something for everyone. Go for it, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

What would you improve about this program?
The only gripe I heard in the whole time I was there is that they could do withA/C in the teachers house.
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John
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My volunteer experience at Conversations with Foreigners (CWF) began in March 2017. I taught at the Toul Tom Poung site until the end of May, then again from September to November of that year at their new school in the Toul Kork district. This led to a part time job at an entirely different school in Phnom Penh where I have been teaching until now.

I’d visited Cambodia as a tourist in 2015. Prior to my visit, all I knew about it was what I had read in the papers and in a travel guide.

When I found out about a volunteer teaching opportunity at CWF in late 2016, I wanted to make sure it’s a legitimate school. There were stories about questionable organizations in Cambodia and I certainly didn’t want to waste my time by jumping into something I didn’t know much about. I contacted the school and I asked if it was all right for me to come and visit. I didn’t want phone or skype interviews – I wanted to personally look into it. So, I flew to Phnom Penh from San Francisco, California. The Education Services Manager graciously took the time to explain the program to me and gave me a tour of the school building. Feeling well-assured that this school fit my criteria as a good place to volunteer, I signed on.

Here are some thoughts I would like to share:

• CWF is a legitimate ‘social enterprise’ school. Part of the students’ tuition is donated to socially responsible causes in other provinces to help marginalized communities (e.g., water purification program, free schooling for children from impoverished families, support for environmental causes, etc.).
• CWF staff, from the director to the guards, are friendly, helpful, and great to work with.
• CWF has a volunteer house which is walking distance to the school. There is a reasonable fee for staying at this house which includes three meals a day, 5 days a week, and internet service. CWF can also loan you a bicycle to use for the duration of your volunteer time. The Volunteer Services Coordinator is available to provide support to the teachers (one of the nicest people you can ever meet).
• The school has school supplies and teaching resources and materials available.
• Prior to teaching, all volunteers receive a one-week orientation and training. Ongoing training is also offered throughout the term.
• Prospective students are tested and assigned to classes according to their level. A class may be composed of high school students and professionals, and everyone in between.
• Saving the best for last, the students are eager, enthusiastic, and inspiring. They make me want to wake up in the morning and go to school. They motivate me to do my best, and to be as good a teacher as I can be.

This is my experience, one that has extended from CWF to my current school, but “experience” can vary and can depend on the volunteer’s purpose for coming to Cambodia. My take and my suggestion? Search yourself and find out what may motivate you to teach as a volunteer at CWF. What can you offer and what’s in it for you? Do you have the resilience to adapt to a culture that may have dissimilarities to yours?

When you find the right reasons, it can truly be a transformative experience, as it has been for me. CWF has a special place in my heart.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Traffic. I have traveled all over the world, and the traffic here is insane!
Default avatar
Ann
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My husband and I volunteered starting in Feb of 2018. The staff were wonderful and we felt completely supported from our first day to the last. We chose to live in the volunteer house and enjoyed the experience of being part of a ‘family’ of volunteers - eating together, discussing school, doing lesson plans, traveling, etc. Our cadre of volunteers included people from many different countries with varied backgrounds and ages which always made for interesting discussions, dinners out and travel. The workshops presented by the energetic, enthusiastic, knowledgeable education director gave us helpful instruction about teaching English to the Khmer people, as well as necessary cultural information. The students at the school were extremely receptive, friendly and appreciative. We enjoyed the ‘field trips’ where the school took us out to nearby rural areas so that we could see some of the projects that benefited from the CWF program. Cambodia is a fascinating country, growing out of a troubled past with gentle friendly people and much to see. The breaks from school gave us great opportunities to visit other parts of the country. Phnom Penh is a big, developing city with a bit of everything and anything, we particularly enjoyed the many local cafes, along with a good yoga studio and of course local shopping.

Be prepared to work hard - lesson planning and teaching are a full time job. Nothing too extreme but don’t expect working only a couple hours a day. My greatest challenge was the intense heat, we were there during the hot season and with no air conditioning in the volunteer house it was very hot.

Overall it was a wonderful experience!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Have a positive outlook and embrace all parts of the experience!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Conrad Wilson Thorpe

My wife and I sold our business and retired early, only to find that we were bored. We took a TEFL course and now combine our passions for travel and teaching.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because it came highly recommended from a friend and experienced teacher. We arranged a Skype interview and listened to their description of the program. The training and support sounded just right for us. They were passionate, enthusiastic, informative and caring. We have volunteered before but never had this level of scrutiny. They really do want to make sure that you are right for the project and also that the project is right for you. It exceeded our expectations in every way possible.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CWF helped us as much as they could. We gave them our flight details and they helped us with the visa application process. We arrived a week before the program started and they met us at the airport. They recommended a decent hotel for us before showing us round some longer term rental accommodations. We chose not to stay in the teacher house and we soon found a suitable apartment close to the school. There was a full orientation and safety program, with guided city, river and food excursions. We had two optional trips to see the work that CWF does with the monies raised.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Just turn up with an open and positive attitude. We had a great mix of nationalities, ages and abilities but everyone learnt something from each other. The students are the main reason for you being there, and they don't disappoint. They are respectful, grateful, and very shy at first. Respect their laws and customs and you will make friends for life.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

We worked 5 days a week from 3-30 pm to 8-30 pm in the classroom. There was additional lesson planning to do either at home or the school. Some of the other teachers did mornings, which I think started at 6-30. Most of the students work or study during the day and therefore have to come before or after a hard day. The school has all the resources you would expect for printing, copying, etc.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear is standing up in front of a room full of people and delivering a lesson. It still is, but I have a lot more confidence in my own ability. I now appreciate the value of good and thorough lesson planning. I also learnt that lessons should be fun for you and the students. They learn so much more when they are having a good time.

Is there any other advice you'd like to share with prospective travelers?

Try and mix with the locals as much as possible. Use local bars and restaurants, they really appreciate your patronage and it's not long until you're accepted as a local yourself. You might even pay locals prices instead of tourist prices. See and do whatever you can, whenever you can, because time flies by, and soon it's time to leave and say goodbye.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

John Bartolome

Following retirement as a social worker/counselor from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2014, John completed a TESOL/TEFL certification program with Oxford Seminars. Since March 2017, he has been teaching English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Why did you choose this program?

I initially put in applications to several countries in Asia, Europe and South America, but because I am over 60, no one seemed interested. I knew I had much to offer and really wanted to apply myself in teaching English. I was referred to this program by Oxford Seminars and it so happened that Cambodia was one of the countries on my list. I chose this program (CWF) because it is legitimate and engages in a social enterprise to help marginalized people in remote areas of Cambodia.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Conversations with Foreigners (CWF) walked me through the process of getting the necessary permit/visa to volunteer, gave me options and information about accommodations and other daily living needs, and provided all new volunteer teachers with a week-long orientation and training. Periodic training was also provided throughout the term. The school also provided books and other teaching materials.

I chose to find my own apartment near the school and I brought along teaching materials with me which I utilized to supplement my lessons.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be positive. Expect the unexpected. Ask yourself if you want to do this to serve others, or is this a self-serving endeavor? Those who come unprepared, mentally and emotionally, find themselves unhappy. Those who have open minds and the right intentions find the experience gratifying. Remember that teaching is about the students and what you can impart that would have positive benefits in their lives.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

When I taught at this program, I would usually spend time to prepare my lessons at home because I liked the peace and quiet. I would arrive at school about 30 minutes to an hour before my first class, depending on whether I had to make multiple copies for any of my classes, or prepare props, etc. Before classes or during breaks, teachers would gather in the volunteer room and share information about anything - lessons, places to eat or visit in the city, get to know each other, etc.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I became aware very quickly about discriminatory practices outside the US. As an Asian-American over 60 years of age, I practically had no chance of getting a teaching position, especially a paid teaching position. The volunteer opportunity gave me a chance to prove that I could do a good job. I have taught at three schools in Phnom Penh these last two years and I have not been late to school once. I have a total of three absences due to food poisoning. I was always prepared to teach each time I set foot in a classroom.

My views on the issue: I am very disappointed that discrimination is alive and well in Asia. The focus is not on competence or work ethics, but on superficial and commercially driven reasons. Their first preference is a young, white female; followed by a young, white male. As long as they have minimum qualifications, most schools will bypass more qualified, more experienced persons in favor of the "image" they seek.

What's your favorite memory of this trip?

It's hard to guess what prospective travelers would want to know because, in my experience, they vary considerably. I shared some advice above which I hope others would take seriously.

I have many favorite stories, but I am limited in time to share them here. All I can do is sum up those stories and say how much I have been enriched by my experiences, and how grateful I am that I summoned up the courage to conquer my fears and always stayed positive. I am touched and humbled at the same time by my students' positive feedback about me.