How To Help Impoverished Communities In Cambodia

By Daniela Frendo, Epicure & Culture Contributor 

In Cambodia, 10% of children aged between five and seventeen have never attended school. Many others drop out and seek work to support their family. In fact, about 9% of children in Cambodia are engaged in child labor. The majority of children work in agriculture, doing menial (and sometimes hazardous) tasks like fishing, logging and shrimp peeling.  Meanwhile, public schools in Cambodia are understaffed and poorly equipped. Higher education fees are unaffordable, discouraging many students from pursuing further education.

In light of these difficulties, one Southeast Asia-based tour company features things to do in Cambodia that help lead to sustainable change in marginalized communities.

global ethics

Photo courtesy of Journeys Within Tour Company

Addressing The Needs Of Locals & Tourists 

When Brandon and Andrea Ross moved to Cambodia to set up their boutique hotel and global ethics-focused tour company, Journeys Within, they experienced first-hand the struggles of impoverished communities in rural areas. At the same time, their clients expressed a keen interest in helping local people lead better lives.

The couple decided to take action.

In 2005 they created Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC), a non-profit organization addressing the needs of local people. They work to “promote economic, educational and improved health opportunities through access to basic services such as clean water, microfinance, education and community liaison programs.” Before long visitors were donating money toward water wells and a language school.

Moreover, Brandon and Andrea recently launched a volunteer program to maximize their clients’ impact on the local community. Says Andrea, “As we developed the tour company and JWOC over the last 10 years, we really wanted to focus on a way for guests and volunteers to have a positive impact and not be a drag on resources. Because of this, we ask all our travelers and volunteers to donate to the organization as part of their commitment. This ensures that any added expenses are covered and not a drain on our donations.”

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global ethics

Photo courtesy of Journeys Within Tour Company

Engaging Travelers With Cultural Things To Do In Cambodia

The Journeys Within Active Philanthropy program gives travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture through volunteering on a variety of projects, some of which include teaching, nutrition training and clean water access. Staff at Journeys Within review the skills and abilities of each volunteer, then match them to a suitable cause.

Andrea firmly believes this philanthropic approach to travel can change the world. The Active Philanthropy program was designed to give travelers a greater sense of connection with the local community. Volunteers get to meet their beneficiaries, gain a deeper understanding of the issues affecting marginalized communities, and experience enriching interactions with the locals.

She says, “Once you’ve donated to a project you then get to visit and learn more about the project and the people it benefits. It’s a wonderful way to make a contribution to a community and then have your experience benefit because of it.”

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global ethics

Photo courtesy of Journeys Within Tour Company

Global Ethics & Making A Positive Impact

Building wells and ensuring a steady supply of clean water was one of the first initiatives undertaken by the Journeys Within Our Community. The most common diseases in Cambodia — which are often fatal — are caused by contaminated water and lack of sanitation. The organization has so far been able to provide clean water to over 2,000 people, mainly thanks to contributions made by travelers and volunteers.

The organization also manages three language schools, two in Cambodia and one in Laos. People taking part in the Active Philanthropy Program can spend a week teaching English to local residents, or sponsor a Cambodian student who wishes to study at University. Another great way for visitors to empower local communities is by providing funds for microloans to local entrepreneurs so they can start their own small business.

When sponsoring a potential University student or an aspiring entrepreneur, donors have the opportunity to meet their beneficiary, see their home and listen to their stories. Therefore, besides donating time and money, travelers also get to see Cambodia through the eyes of a local.

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global ethics

Photo courtesy of Journeys Within Tour Company

Volunteering Concerns

One major concern when volunteering abroad is the volunteer taking the job of a local. According to Andrea, Journeys Within has a system in place to ensure this doesn’t happen. She explains, “Most of our volunteers are short term so their contribution is really their donation, which allows our projects to grow. With that said, we have put together a system over the years that looks at how volunteers and visitors can do the most good with the least disturbance. For instance, placing volunteers in an English class where talking to and hearing Western accents is a huge advantage to the students. We also talk to each visitor and volunteer to see if they have a skill set that is something needed by our team.”

The Active Philanthropy Program has recently won the Educational Travel Community’s 2016 Responsible Tourism Showcase Award for being an excellent example of responsible and community-based tourism.

Note: Epicure & Culture has not used Journeys Within for our travels as of yet, and the above information comes from online research and interviews with their team. Before booking any volunteer experience with any organizations we encourage you to do your own research. Please visit our Volunteer section for assistance. 

 

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Daniela Frendo is a travel writer and photographer from Malta. No matter how often she travels, she keeps breaking out in cold sweats at boarding gates. She is terrified of flying, but willing to try out stomach-churning delicacies wherever she goes. Her trips aren’t complete without doing a bit of trekking, experiencing local culture and getting a souvenir t-shirt.She has a degree in Communications and divides her time between teaching English and writing for different publications, including her own travel blog www.grumpycamel.com.

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