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Cambodia forum

Orphanage volunteering in Cambodia - to do or not to do?

Posted by susanne60 on 19/6/2015 at 03:04

I've heard a lot about how evil these so-called "orphanages" in Cambodia really are, such as hiring local kids to pose as hapless orphans while leaving them in awful living conditions. Only one third of orphanages in Phnom Penh are permitted by the government to operate, or so they say. The question here is, if one really wants to volunteer in an orphanage in Cambodia, how can one possibly find an ethical one? Has anyone volunteered in Cambodia before? How was your experience?

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Posted by amnicoll on 19/6/2015 at 06:35

Anyone who makes you pay (either direct or through overpriced accommodation or food should be avoided)

Not an orphanage but these people are above board

http://banyanlearningtree.org/

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Posted by TerroirTravel on 20/6/2015 at 01:12

How long are you planning to volunteer?

Here's a pretty good article about the state of volunteering in Cambodia. http://www.movetocambodia.com/working-in-cambodia/volunteering-in-cambodia/

That said, I stayed on a farm in south central Cambodia that had an after-school program teaching English and it was really great. I paid to stay there, was fed 3 x per day and while helping the kids wasn't mandatory, it was expected. These kids were not orphans, they rode their bikes from school for an hour or so class in whatever you wanted to teach, and they were completely adorable. And they asked heaps of questions that westerners would find rude, like "why don't you have any children?" But that's a cultural difference, and you just embrace it.

The surrounding area was beautiful, and riding bikes through the paddies and being hello-bombed was charming. Was it volunteering? No. Was it a lovely time in the country where I got to interact with some great kids? Yes, it was. (I taught them travel vocabulary and geography- since many of them will probably use their English skills in tourism)

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Posted by amnicoll on 20/6/2015 at 04:44

There are many of these schools and most of them will be only too happy to invite you in to teach for a day or weeks - Having a westerner is great kudos for the school and it is a wonderful way of getting to know the locals

Pick a small town and offer your services it can be very rewarding

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Posted by MADMAC on 22/6/2015 at 05:04

If you can afford to take a couple of years and live in a village and teach English at a small time school, it's really a great way to learn about the culture and learn the language of a place. This is more realistic in many cases than it sounds.

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Posted by amnicoll on 22/6/2015 at 06:27

madmac - I agree but one problem of doing that is you could be taking a local job

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Posted by susanne60 on 22/6/2015 at 22:09

Hi all, thank you for your help! I intend to stay there from 4 to 6 months. Last year I volunteered to teach English in Vietnam and had a great time there, as I could really see how my contribution helped improve the kids' future prospects. Yet the volunteering scene in Cambodia looks more complicated, and I've even read somewhere that it is because of the rising demand to volunteer in orphanages there that leads to the increase in the number of fake orphanages. Even when we go there with good intentions, we can still unintentionally leave some bad consequences ...

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Posted by MADMAC on 23/6/2015 at 00:13

"madmac - I agree but one problem of doing that is you could be taking a local job"

I can't speak for Cambodia, but in Thailand, there are specific budgets set aside for hiring foreign teachers. When I was in Luang Nok Tha they had housing set aside and a 10,000 baht a month budget for a teachers salary if they could find a teacher to do it. Here in Muk, it's the same, but more money is available. They still have Thais who teach English. But those budgets are specifically set aside for foreigners. May not be true in Cambodia, but I know it is in Thailand.

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Posted by amnicoll on 23/6/2015 at 05:25

yes I am aware of the Thai situation but the situation is very different in Cambodia (especially outside the big cities)

In most cases there are not the budgets for schools to hire native speakers and there are many private schools offering English lessons after normal school. In many (not all) cases the level of English spoken by the teachers is very poor and they often do not have any formal teaching training. the schools are usually just the one man and his dog or with a couple of friends helping with the teaching if they have several classes. They are small and often the main source of income for the teachers. Very similar to Thailand students are often good at reading and writing but hopeless at speaking

In nearly all of these schools they will welcome a native "volunteer" with open arms and in return for the teaching they will be very hospitable.

In reply to Suzzane I would say forget looking at the orphanages and just turn up and if you like the place stay and you will find it very rewarding you will have a great time and do a lot of good. If you want something more organised then follow the link I gave you before

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Posted by amnicoll on 24/6/2015 at 06:41

See this excellent article highlighted in the latest T/F newsletter

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/15/orphanage-tourism-who-are-foreign-volunteers-actually-helping

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Posted by anuradhavolsol on 25/6/2015 at 07:24

Hi Susan,

I understand your concern and what you are saying is actually true, but nowadays many volunteering organizations have their program in Cambodia and they have tied up with ethical NGO where kids actually need help, I am also working for one of such volunteering organization and would like to suggest you to contact their volunteers and discuss them about their experience through Facebook groups or chats whichever way you are comfortable.

We have sent many volunteers in Cambodia for orphanage program, if you want we can help you get in touch with them so you can decide better. But just because few people are not doing ethical practice, don't stop yourself from helping the kids in need.

#11 anuradhavolsol has been a member since 25/6/2015. Posts: 1

Posted by AzookiTravel on 25/6/2015 at 07:33

Hello susanne60,

We also read that some of the Orphanage (illegitimate) were able to get children by actually paying their parents to lend or even sell them. It is best recommended that people could lend their help by eliminating 'money' as an option. Research for the legit orphanage.

Thanks for sharing your interest on helping those in need. Goodluck with your adventure.

#12 AzookiTravel has been a member since 25/6/2015. Posts: 14


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