Cambodia is known as the land of exotic, magical temples, beautiful scenery, and friendly people. However, as a result of it's dark past and current state of development, it's also one of the more popular destinations for volunteering in Southeast Asia, with projects ranging from working in education to helping with community development.
NGOs and voluntourism projects proliferate in Cambodia, though sadly, so do a few scams. If you're looking for a volunteer project in Cambodia, be especially careful to vet your program and make sure it's a reputable volunteer organization.
Even though Cambodia’s education system is growing, dropout rates and illiteracy rates are high and remain amongst the highest in Southeast Asia. Volunteers in Cambodia have an opportunity to teach in a variety of different fields. As a volunteer, you can teach English in community centers or public schools. You can also teach intermediate computer skills to young adults or hospitality vocational classes to adults.
Work with Children
Cambodia has a very young population, and due to the high levels of poverty, many children are unfortunately either in orphanages or are forced to be street beggars. While in Cambodia you will have an opportunity to work with disabled and HIV positive children, orphans, and children who have faced drug use, sexual abuse, and economic exploitation.
Do note, however, if you're looking into volunteering with an orphanage in Cambodia, be especially careful of who you volunteer with. Orphanage scams are a problem in Cambodia, and you should make sure that your program doesn't allow you to interact directly with the children, requires background checks of their volunteers, and doesn't simply drag "volunteers" from off the street to "play with the children and give a donation".
Cambodia faces a very serious HIV/AIDS problem and the disease has spread from drug users and sex workers to the rest of the population. Even though sexual education has become more widespread and is promoted by the government, Cambodia still has one of the highest numbers of HIV cases in Asia, thus there is a need for volunteers to educate the population. Volunteers have an opportunity to assist a local organization on the fight against HIV/AIDS where they help engage high-risk groups and educate the public.
Your volunteer organization in Cambodia will most likely have a support system in place so they should be able to help you with any questions or needs that may arise. There is also an American embassy that you can rely on for information and answers to your questions.
Know Before You Go
Khmer is the predominant language in Cambodia and you will definitely learn some while you are there. It isn’t necessary to know the language as a volunteer, but highly recommended that you make an effort to learn at least the basics.
Can You Volunteer in Cambodia on a Budget?
Cambodia has a number of somewhat expensive shops and restaurants, and it is often tempting to go to on shopping sprees. However, if you are on a tight budget, be aware that Cambodia has numerous inexpensive options and it is in fact quite easy to stick to a smaller budget since you can get a lot out of dollars or euros in non-Western places like Cambodia.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Cambodia
As a volunteer in Cambodia, you should get vaccinations before coming in Hepatitis A & B, Japanese encephalitis, and Typhoid. More information can be found on MD Travel Health. Cambodia isn’t a particular dangerous country, but foreigners should still remain alert, especially for pickpockets in crowded areas.