Volunteer at an orphanage in Cambodia and make a real difference to the lives of some of the most needy children in this beautiful developing country.
Approximately 1 in 10 young people in Cambodia under the age of 18 are orphans. Many orphans are forced to beg, collect rubbish or enter the Cambodian child sex trade. This is a serious issue in Cambodia that the government and local NGOs are desperately trying to address. Although the number of orphans is in decline; the lack of resources and funding available to the orphanages result in many children not receiving the sufficient level of care and support they need.
Our orphanage placement is based in the centre of the Takeo province. It is known as the ‘Provincial Centre Orphanage’ around 8km from our volunteer accommodation. It is important to note that not all of the children at the orphanage we support have lost both of their parents. Some have been taken into care as they arrive from abusive backgrounds, families that cannot afford to look after them or they have been rescued from human trafficking or the sex trade.
67 children that range from 4 to 20 years old stay at the orphanage. The orphanage is owned by the government and was founded in 1979 after the war with Khmer Rouge which left many children without parents. The war naturally left many children without a place to live, no one to care for them and without education opportunities. The aim of the Provincial Centre Orphanage remains to provide care, education, training and accommodation to enhance the childrens progress and opportunity.
The director of the orphanage himself was originally an orphan at the Provincial Centre Orphanage before returning in 2002. 10 local staff make up the team at the orphanage in total and they maintain the daily operations from the cooking and cleaning to the teaching and empowerment. Many of the staff at the orphanage do not speak English and it is likely you will find the older children who have a greater level of basic English easier to communicate with and understand.
You should arrive into Phnom Penh International Airport (airport code PNH) on the selected Monday start date. Programmes start on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.
The programme ends on the Sunday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day.
Can I use this program as part of a university or college placement?
It is certainly possible to use one of PMGY’s programmes as part of your university or college placement. Project staff can sign off any paperwork required by your course tutors. PMGY regularly receives medical, childcare, psychology and nursing placement students at our projects around the world and we have ties with some of the leading universities.
If you’re a course tutor and would like further information about how one of PMGY’s programmes could meet the placement requirements for your degree course then please contact us.
Is it safe to travel to PMGY destinations?
Although our volunteers work in the developing world, we always ensure our host locations are safe. Each programme has been extensively researched and has passed our strict vetting process. Our UK team undergo an extensive routine when establishing our in-country infrastructures and we continue to monitor our safety procedures on a regular basis. Furthermore, we monitor the stability of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis. Through our constant contact with consulates and embassies and our reports from our overseas teams, we are able to ensure that our volunteers are never placed in unstable regions.
The PMGY team have visited and participated in every programme we offer and verified them based on our own independent criteria. We carefully inspect every little detail of our set-up. From inspecting the living conditions, checking out the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, to tasting the food you’ll be eating – each and every programme we establish has gone through a lengthy and rigorous vetting process. Risk assessments have been written for all areas in which PMGY operate and our experienced local coordinators are always on-hand to manage any emergencies that may occur. Our UK team are always on the road reviewing our risk management procedures in the field and monitoring local conditions.
In emergency situations we have the necessary protocols and equipment in place and we are able to evacuate our volunteers from potential dangers. Our local coordinators are trained to deal with emergency circumstances.
All volunteers will receive a PMGY Volunteer Handbook once they have paid their deposit and confirmed their place on the programme. We will send you an email entitled ‘Welcome to PMGY’ which will include a link where you can download the Volunteer Handbook. Please note that we DO NOT send a hardcopy of the PMGY Volunteer Handbook.
This Handbook contains literally everything you need to know – from what to pack, to how to obtain a visa, to local language guides. It is really important that you read through the Volunteer Handbook carefully once you’ve downloaded it. If you require any further information not covered in the Volunteer Handbook then our team are always on-hand to assist you.
Your primary role at the orphanage is to interact and engage with the children. This can be anything from helping with hygiene, teaching English, doing arts and crafts, playing games and sports or helping the local staff with maintenance (for example washing clothes or helping prepare food). At the orphanage you will find there is a library class facility, a big outdoor space and classroom space to support any activities you wish to do each day.
Volunteers are advised to note It is a mandatory requirement for you to sign in and sign out in the log book when arriving and leaving the orphanage premises. Whilst there is no rule preventing volunteers from taking photos at the orphanage, volunteers are reminded to do this with caution and respect due to the vulnerability of some of the children and that the local staff may not be to approving of this either.
As the children attend government school in the early morning and afternoon volunteers will spend only a couple hours at the orphanage across each day. Volunteers are therefore encouraged to return to our community education programme next to where our volunteer accommodation is based. Here you can interact and prepare activities for the younger children aged 4-7 years old who otherwise are often left to their own devices and can sometimes become disengaged. There is lots of outdoor space and resources to facilitate with this.
Alternatively, you are more than welcome to join one of the classes taking place and buddy up with one of the teaching volunteers. In general the younger children come to the school in the early afternoon with the older children coming late afternoon.
IN & AROUND PHNOM PENH
PMGY volunteers are based 90 minutes away from central, exotic Phnom Penh. Set along the banks of the mighty Mekong, Cambodia’s capital is the Asia many dream about as well as an attack on the senses. And that’s all part of the attraction!
From the glimmering spires of the Royal Palace to the trendy café culture, the city is one of the hippest in the region and fast becoming an essential feature in the itinerary of anyone travelling to South East Asia.
PMGY’s volunteer programmes in Cambodia allow you to engage with some of the most disenfranchised members of the community and see a side of this magnificent country to which the average visitor will be totally oblivious. Whilst you’re not volunteering there a number of wonders throughout the whole country that will keep you entertained.
S-21 (TUOL SLENG) PRISON
This prison was the Khmer Rouge’s primary interrogation and extermination centre, designed to purge anti-Khmer Rouge elements from the new society Pol Pot and his henchmen began ruthlessly creating. Before the 1975-79 regime, the building was a school. The prison cells contain a variety of information about the history of the Khmer Rouge, victims of the S-21 prison and an insight into what went on behind the prison gates.
Choeung Ek, commonly known as the ‘Killing Fields’, is the site where thousands of Khmer Rouge prisoners were executed and subsequently buried. It is particularly harrowing when you discover the sheer scope of the atrocities that took place. Located around 30 minutes from central Phnom Penh, you can hire a tuk-tuk to take you to and from Choeung Ek.
We suggest that you watch the film ‘The Killing Fields’ by Roland Joffé and/or read one of the following two books: ‘First They Killed My Father’ by Loung Ung or ‘Year Zero’ by Francois Ponchaud. These will definitely give you a good background as to what happened in Cambodia during these torrid years and heighten your experience of visiting Tuol Sleng prison and Choeung Ek.
The Royal Palace is located opposite the ever present Tonle Sap River. Although not as large and impressive as the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace is still a point of immense beauty. The Silver Pagoda is simply brilliant and the surrounding gardens are extremely beautiful.
It’s best to visit the temple first thing in the morning whilst it’s cooler and before the large tour groups overwhelm the place and creep into every photo you take! Be warned you must cover your shoulders and knees in order to gain access.
Located just opposite the Royal Palace, the museum has a large art collection, statues of Hindu gods as well as two magnificent statues, one of king Jayavarman, the other of Yama, the Hindu god of death. No photos are allowed and it is a must visit to get the vibe of the city and country, for any visitor.
You will be picked up at the airport by the Plan My Gap Year team and taken to your accommodation.
If you would like us to also arrange your return, we will charge a fee of £35.
During your time with PMGY you will live in our volunteer accommodation which is just around a 20 minute tuk tuk from the centre of Takeo where you will find local restaurants, convenience stores and ATMs. You’ll be living with other volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way.
The accommodation is basic but comfortable in a dormitory like form. Each room has bunk beds with up to 14 people per room in same-sex rooms. Volunteers are provided with fans in the room and their own mosquito net and bedding. You are also welcome to bring your own mats or blow up mattresses if you want some extra comfort.
Bathrooms are shared, have a shower and western style toilet. The water is cold but this shouldn’t be a problem as Cambodia is hot and humid all year-round! Volunteers are advised to bring their own toiletries from home as a lot of the products in Cambodia (for example shampoo and shower gel) have bleach in them, so it may be better to bring these kind of products from back home.
We encourage you to bring some small padlocks for your suitcase and/or store any valuables with our local team in their private area. There will also be fridge space available for volunteers to store any items they need to keep chilled. Volunteers are advised to note that cupboard space is not available within the dorm.
The volunteer accommodation is located right next to where our local team live and on the same site to where we run our afternoon teaching programme. Although volunteers have their own private space there is still the security of living next to our local team who can assist you if need be. It is also a great way to learn more about Cambodian culture and practise your new-found language skills!
Please note that the accommodation volunteers live in is within very close proximity to a lot of animals, including dogs, cats, cows and chickens.
During our busiest months (June to September) you may be placed at alternative accommodation. This could be a nearby guesthouse or one of our summer Volunteer Houses.
Each day we will provide you with breakfast and dinner (Monday-Friday) at the accommodation which will be prepared by the cook – all cutlery and crockery etc is provided. For breakfast, you’ll be provided with toast, eggs, jam, noodles, coffee, tea. In the evening you will be provided with a traditional Cambodian dish with the odd western meal. Filtered drinking water is available free of charge for you to help yourself as you please.
You will need to purchase your own lunch. Volunteers are advised to budget around £2 each day for lunch.
All meals at the weekend are at volunteers expense and not included in the programme fee. Volunteers will usually travel at the weekends anyhow.