Volunteering in Cambodia

Following decades of conflict, Cambodia is still an extremely poor country. There are a plethora of aid projects in the country, some definitely more beneficial and philanthropic than others, many downright criminal and exploitative. Make no mistake: Development and aid are businesses, and the steady flow of foreign aid is what keeps Prime Minister Hun Sen in power and denies Cambodian citizens political emancipation. That said, there are some worthwhile projects. Orphanages, schools, and environmental protection top the lists.

Children attending M'Lop Tapang school in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, dance with a Musician 3rd Class of the Pacific Fleet Band
Children attending M’Lop Tapang school in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, dance with a Musician 3rd Class of the Pacific Fleet Band during a Pacific Partnership community relations event. Photo © U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Greg Badger/Released, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (tel. 023/214-152) is an umbrella organization for local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Cambodia. The committee’s website features a handy map of the country indicating what projects are currently running in which areas of the country, with project descriptions and website links.

The U.S. Peace Corps has been sending volunteers to countries around the globe since 1961, when this U.S. government program was founded by President John F. Kennedy. Its current acting director is former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. The Peace Corps has been active in Cambodia since 2006 and is currently involved in teacher training. Tours usually last two years and are preceded by language and project-specific training.

GoAbroad (U.S. tel. 720/570-1702) is an organization based in the United States that connects young people with jobs and volunteer opportunities abroad. They publish a long list of teaching and care opportunities in Cambodia.

HealthCareVolunteer is the world’s largest listing of health-related volunteer opportunities around the world. This U.S.-based charity offers volunteer placements for skilled health professionals in a dental clinic and a private medical clinic in Cambodia.

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), a UK-based charity, sends skilled volunteers to participate in aid projects around the world, including many placements in Cambodia. Candidates are expected to stay with their projects at least 1-2 years.

Globalteer is another UK-based nonprofit charity that places volunteers for shorter periods into aid programs around the world, including interesting and rewarding projects in Cambodia.

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