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Cambodia forum

Living in Cambodia? I need your advice plse

Posted by ZalaTunzi on 20/9/2013 at 20:15

We want to start a grassroots charity program, anywhere in Cambodia that should benefit a small village. We want to mainly transfer skills and provide little (if any) material handouts. We want to help people capitalize on the opportunities presented in their own community.

I am not new to starting programs in developing worlds. Have lived and worked it for many years. Am very aware of well intentioned do-gooders doing more damage than good, and of ill-intentioned volunteers, of government apathy, etc. We really dont thave a lot of money.
Am also very aware that outsiders, especially from developed countries, cannot see thewood for the trees. We simply dont know what the people really need, and what they would most benefit by. That is why I am asking for your input.

I am preparing for a fact-finding trip in November. However, it is not easy to get to talk to the right people once on the ground there. I am hoping to hear from members of this forum who live in the community, who have seen it all, who are aware of what the communities can truly benefit by. Of course, we know there are limitations to how well a local community can manage resources, and of course that people may have different perceptions as to what a rich white organization should be giving. Am all too aware that I dont do well at being objective whenat ground zero ”I think with my heart when looking into a childs eyes.Therefore, before I go to Cambodia I need some help please.

Would really appreciate your input.


#1 ZalaTunzi has been a member since 20/9/2013. Location: Canada. Posts: 3
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Posted by oasisbarhatien on 20/9/2013 at 20:43

Posted from within Vietnam.

Whilst you may get some advice from people on this forum,it's really a travel orientated one.You might consider asking this question on a forum for expats,one I've found very useful is It's about living in Cambodia,mainly by people who actually live there,perhaps they can give you some advice

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Posted by ZalaTunzi on 20/9/2013 at 21:41

Thanks for the advice. I just now wondered why did I post here in the first place and realized I liked the format, the look & feel of the web page, and some of the discussions here. Nice site. But you are right, I will check out the expat forums. Thx

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Posted by MADMAC on 21/9/2013 at 03:28

Clean drinking water. Electrical power. Paved Roads. Schools.

Work to improve any of those is of enormous help to people who don't have access to them or who's quality is sub-standard.

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Posted by ZalaTunzi on 21/9/2013 at 10:35

Thanks Madmac,
That is helpful.

Water wells, handpumps, small reservoirs and filters are things we can get involved with.
Solar electrical panel installations can be tackled.
Schooling / skills training is our speciality but is of course rather complicated when/if one has to coordinate with Govt. Any partnership with any Govt is complicated, to say the least.
Of course there is the matter whether a community has the capacity to take care of stuff. In Africa we have seen many donations such as the above last no longer than a few weeks even after training. This is not so much a reflection on the "type people" as it is often a lack of past experience / exposure to technology and infrastructure that needs to be nurtured or maintained in order to last.

If you would like to weigh in on this it will be highly appreciated.
I understand that travelfish is a travel forum and we may be out of line here. If you prefer, please feel free to PM.
Thank you very much.

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Posted by MADMAC on 21/9/2013 at 22:33

Just out of curiousity where in Africa did you work.

I agree the biggest challenge in aide work is getting the community to take ownership.

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Posted by eastwest on 24/9/2013 at 23:53

A few things come to mind:

- What do you want to get out of this and why Cambodia? There are plenty of grass roots organisations in Cambodia. Some successful and some (actually most) not so. Cambodia is poor and developing but I can think of other countries that are more neglected and more in need of grass roots help.
- What sort of skills can you teach? Most of the NGOs focus on education for children/orphans and whilst that's fine and needed in some places there is actually an oversupply in the major places. If you can teach some actual skills so parents can provide better living for their families it would be much better. The biggest problem is that most young people want to move to Phnom Penh and become accountant or such.
- Are you willing to move to the real underdeveloped places? I live in Cambodia and I see all the western do-gooders set up their grass roots organisations in the "best" places such as Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kep, Battambang and Phnom Penh. This also relates to my first question because the places I mention are pretty well covered now but it seems that these grass roots organisation would like to do their work in a pleasant place as well where the westerners can enjoy their lives. It's the "ugly" places that need your help but are you willing to base yourself there?
- If you don't have a lot of money how can you help these people? Cambodia is not as poor as it seems. There is just a big gap between the rich and the poor and access to money is difficult for the poor. Many times the poor do have ideas but lack the funds and it's there where you could probably help the most. Think of helping with writing a proper business plan so they can take it to the bank for a loan. Or help them with developing other ideas other than the little restaurant they want to open..

I hope this helps you to get a little better idea.

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Posted by heleni on 25/9/2013 at 13:46

Building schools is great but what I think they desperately need is quality teachers. The best programme would be one to train teachers and guide them creating a curriculum.
Kep Garden project is one that is achieving things in a very rural area. It is run by an Australian couple and has been going for a few years now. If it doesn't come up on Google then please pm me for a link. They started from scratch and would be able to give you lots of advice.

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Posted by amnicoll on 26/9/2013 at 05:38

I agree with Heleni but would add you need to check out funding for paying the teachers and equipment

I have recently come back from a trip to Burundi and was very impressed with the way Action Aid worked in funding new schools through partnerships with the comunity and goverment.If you go down this route you may wish to see what they do in Cambodia

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Posted by Marius on 26/9/2013 at 11:36

You may consider contacting the folks at
I can't really vouch for it, but I met some of the co-founders in Florida, and it looks to be a very well run organization.


#10 Marius has been a member since 2/3/2011. Posts: 1

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