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Travelling through Cambodia and have a little spare time on your visa? Feeling it would be nice to get of the Siem Reap/Battambang tourist trail then maybe a week or two as a volunteer in Cambodia could be the answer.
Maybe you’re a volunteering veteran or maybe a complete volunteer virgin? Either way, here’s a few things to consider when choosing the right place to volunteer in Cambodia. Plus a bit about my own personal experience as a volunteer in Kampot.
How to find a place to volunteer
When it comes to finding a place to volunteer in Cambodia there a numerous options. From word of mouth right through to knocking hostel managers doors and asking if they need help for a bed and meals.
While you can’t guarantee that you will definitely hear of an opportunity you can always do what I do and hit the laptop and check the main volunteer/work exchange sites.
Here’s a few of the more popular work exchange websites and resources:
Workaway: This is my first go to when I’m thinking of spending a little time volunteering and Workaway was the platform I used when I was a volunteer in Cambodia.
At the time of writing there are 124 workaway hosts in Cambodia. See for yourself.
Helpx: Helpx or help exchange is another pretty good resource when it comes to volunteering. The user interface is nowhere near as slick as the Workaway one but there are always plenty of hosts to choose from.
At this moment in time there are 82 Helpx hosts in Cambodia. See for yourself.
WWOOF: WWOOF stands for Working Weekends On Organic Farms. Not really one of my favourites, it seems whenever I Check WWOOF for opportunities there are very few.
In fact, at this current time there are only 6 WWOOF hosts and only 3 of them have been active in the last year. I’m not linking to WWOOF as I don’t like it and also, I don’t want to was your time.
Choosing the right place to volunteer in Cambodia
Now that we’ve been through where to find volunteer opportunities in Cambodia, let’s have a look at what is available to choose from. After all, from my experience of volunteering it’s not always sunshine and rainbows.
It is VERY important that you choose a placement that is fair and suits you and your needs.
Where would you like to be?
Well where would you like to go!? I’d guess like me, you haven’t been all over Cambodia and part of looking for a volunteer placement is to be able to see somewhere new.
Would you like to be on the beach? Or would you like to be isolated in the middle of the jungle? I’ve tried both of these, and both have their pros and both have there cons.
For example: I Volunteered in Thailand, in the jungle. Who doesn’t want to experience the jungle?
While it certainly was an experience to remember and I really enjoyed the work. The downside was that I was the only volunteer at the time, there was nothing to do, the mosquitos were horrendous and the jungle, alone, at night, SCARY AS SHIT!!!
What would you like to do?
What kind of work are you happiest doing?
Are you a social butterfly? Then maybe working in a hostel for bed and board will suit you best. In my experience there are loads of opportunities for this in Cambodia and the job role can range from making beds, cleaning up after the guests, working in the bar or taking the hardcore drinkers on the local bar crawl around Siem Reap.
Do you love children? In Cambodia there is an abundance of volunteer opportunities for teaching children English, you don’t even have to be a native speaker. Not really for me (I only know bad English) but some placements even offer a wage as well as accommodation and food.
Do you love agriculture and subsistence farming? Learning how to grow organic crops, build houses out of local materials and permaculture. All packed onto a tropical island. Sounds pretty good eh!? Check out some of the placements on Koh Rong Samloem.
How long can you volunteer for?
Some placements request that you stay for a minimum amount of time. This is more normally the case in the opportunities working with children, as it takes a little longer for the novelty to wear off for the children and for you to get into the swing of it.
On the other hand some placements are happy for a few days help if that’s all you have free.
When you contact a placement and offer to help for a certain period of time then try to commit to at least this amount of time. I say this because if you rock up saying you’ll stay for 6 weeks then the chances are you’re host will be turning other volunteers away because they have no empty beds. If you then decide to leave on a whim, the host is left without any help.
If you say 3 weeks then stay for 3 weeks! Simple!
Things you should get straight before you start.
There are a few things you need to negotiate before the placement starts. Here’s the most vital:
- Working Hours: I’ve seen some hosts expecting 6-7 hours work a day, 7 days a week. The most you should be expected to work is 5 hours per day for 5 days.
- Accommodation: Some hosts don’t have much room and will expect you to bring your own tent. Others will give you a bed in a 20 bed workers dorm room with no privacy whatsoever.
- Meals: Sometimes you’ll have to cook for yourself, sometimes you will have 3 hot meals cooked for you and sometimes you’ll be expected to cook for everyone. If you’re a fussy eater like me then cooking for yourself is always top of the wish list when it comes to looking for a host.
My experience as a volunteer in Cambodia.
I had a 1 month visa for Cambodia and managed to spare 10 days to help out of a placement in Kampot. Here’s how it went.
After much searching around on Workaway and weeding out all of the opportunities that didn’t suit. I ended up with 10 days spent helping to renovate a dilapidated 6 bedroom house/mansion set in half an acre of garden.
The plan was to refurb and modernise the house, add a bar on the roof terrace and eventually open it as a child friendly guest house.
The placement was situated on the outskirts of the lovely little town that is Kampot. My favourite place that I visited in Cambodia.
Where do you start with the hosts!? Steve and Amanda, two of the most energetic, fun and in some ways completely bonkers people I have ever met.
I say completely bonkers because it was when they were backpacking through the Philippines with their young child Finya that they decided to they would like to open up a guesthouse somewhere.
Fast forward 1 year and here we are in Kampot, 10 year lease on the dilapidated house, 10 workawayers and a monumental task ahead of them.
Every credit for having the stones to follow your dreams dive into something like this.
Helping 2 amazing people get a step closer to realising their dream is worth 10 days of my time hands down. Especially when so many of us have these dreams but are too scared to go for it.
What was expected of me
Upon arrival, a very informal chat with Steve outlined what was expected of the workawayers.
The only rules were that we had to work 5 hours a day for 5 days a week. We could choose what days, what time we started and finished. Also, it did not matter to Amanda and Steve what work you did as long as it was productive.
For example, if you had green fingers then fixing up the garden could be your job or if you were a dab hand with a paint brush then grab a tin of paint and a roller and away you go.
We all found this was a good way of organising many volunteers and getting the most out of the skills we possessed.
In return for following these laid back rules we were given a bed, 3 solid meals a day, and 2 free beers a day at the bar on working days. Perfect!!
The general vibe in the Playground
The general vibe in the Playground was amazing. Everyone knew what they were doing and were pretty much left alone to do it. It was always a very relaxed atmosphere.
After the working day we would all congregate on the rooftop bar for a few beers, maybe a game of poker or 2.
Life at the Playground was sweet!!
As well as numerous outings into town to get some fried dumplings and a few beers. We also used to go to the local bars in Kampot. In kampot there is an unwritten schedule of what bar to go to on what night.
For example, Tuesday night is a live band on at the Banyan Tree, Thursday could be the night to go to Levels. Its a type of agreement between the bars to ensure everyone gets their fair share of custom each week. Works well!!
Apart from hitting the town, we also all rent motorbikes and headed up into the Bokor hills for an explore. Bokor hill station is an old abandoned French colonial luxury mountain resort built in the 1920’s. All that is left now are just abandoned stone buildings
Where is the playground now?
Well it was around August 2018 when I was helping renovate the Playground in Kampot. Today, the works are complete and the Playground open for business.
That’s it. My guide on how to choose a place to volunteer in Cambodia. Have you had any good or bad experiences volunteering in Cambodia? Myself and other readers would love to hear them. Fill that comments box!!