Are you heading to Cambodia and looking for ways you can help in Siem Reap?
Instead of jumping on the ‘voluntourism’ wagon, which has many negative consequences, you can effectively help in other ways! The best way you can help Cambodians is to be a responsible traveller. Do your research about the country up front, educate yourself on the culture and familiarise yourself with basic Khmer sayings. Then, take a look at these three ways you can help in Siem Reap and select one!
Giving blood at Angkor Hospital for Children. Source: Ya Nuon
Donating blood is an incredible way to help Cambodians. Angkor Hospital for Children is a free hospital for children in Siem Reap that aims to provide children with access to high quality, compassionate care wherever they live and whatever their ability to pay.
They are always in need of blood donors, whether it be for an open heart surgery patient, a child suffering from chronic haemophilia or to a survivor of a motor bike accident. Just like in countries such as Australia, the lab staff will run a few quick tests to ensure your haemoglobin levels are high enough and blood pressure is within a safe range to donate.
The best part about this is that it doesn’t cost you any money to make a big impact in a Cambodian child’s life!
Location: Tep Vong (Achamean) Road & Oum Chhay Street, Svay Dangkum, Siem Reap,
Hours: 8am – 4pm
‘Eclipse’ at Phare, the Cambodian Circus
Shop/Dine/Stay at Social Enterprises
There are a large amount of social enterprises in Siem Reap that you can shop/dine/stay at. These social enterprises usually support the work of an NGO (non-government organisation), or simply just care about fair wages and conditions for their workers.
You may choose to catch a nightly circus show at Phare, the Cambodian Circus, where the profits support their mother NGO in Battambang. Or you may want to help in the preservation of Khmer culture by watching the Sacred Dancers of Angkor perform traditional Khmer dances.
When it comes to eating, Footprint Cafes has a delicious selection of food and donates 100% of net profits as educational grants back to the local community. Salabai is a hospitality training school that also has a restaurant, hotel and spa on their premises.
Soria Moria Boutique Hotel has an employee-share program, and also sells a gorgeous range of fair-trade products from multiple social enterprises and NGO’s.
There are many more social enterprises you can support with your dollars, and the Social Enterprise Cambodia website lists many of them. If you were interested, research into a few!
A donation can go a long way in Cambodia.
Make a monetary donation
Money goes a long way in Cambodia. Another good way you can help in Siem Reap is to donate money to reputable NGO’s. It is a good idea to research these NGO’s before travelling to Cambodia. Look out for organisations that are transparent and have their finances and annual reports online. Make sure that they have child protection policies, and require pre-bookings for you to visit.
When you do visit, don’t take photos (children are NOT tourist attractions), and keep an eye out for any red flags, such as the staff allowing you to roam the premises unaccompanied or walk into classrooms and ‘teach’ the children. A good NGO should have a strict visitor policy and child protection policy in place, and they should be adhering to it. As a responsible traveller, you are to respect that NGO’s are learning environments and the community should feel safe and comfortable. Disturbing the students/beneficiaries is not responsible, and reputable NGO’s should not allow you to do that.
Also, consider the time it takes for a staff member to show you around. This is time they could be spending developing their community, so a substantial donation (an absolute minimum of $50USD) is suggested. Then, once you are inspired from your visit, head home and fundraise for the cause!