A unique program which includes community development, teaching and elephant conservation in the city of Siem Reap, at the coast and in the remote jungle.
Cambodia is exactly what you picture Asia to be – dusty roads with animals on the pavement, motorcycles everywhere, ancient temples, poverty around every corner, but also beauty in everything – phenomenal architecture, a sad yet rich history and a leisurely pace to life.
Unlike other parts of Asia, in Cambodia you’ll find no bullet trains, skyscrapers or rapid internet. Cambodia feels real, not the kind of Asia that has been changed by modern ways and western visitors. It is diverse and rich in culture, but new to the tourism scene, meaning you aren’t shielded away from the real Cambodia by tourist traps.
The Cambodian people are the some of the most generous people in the world, even in the poorest areas, people continue to smile and laugh. The optimism is infectious, and you’ll find that you can’t help but return their smiles.
Programs and Schedule
Typically our programs are for 10 or 6 weeks long, taking in some or all of the sights and experiences you'll find described below with plenty of downtime for you to explore.
Siem Reap: Weeks 1-6
Siem Reap is a town rich in history, where East fuses with West in spectacular style, situated at the foot of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple complex, close to spectacular forests, waterfalls and Tonle Sap, South East Asia’s largest inland lake.
This old French colonial capital echoes European influences, with shuttered windows and delicate ironwork, but now interspersed with a buzzing nightlife, street food on tap, night markets and cafes.
Water Pump Project
Here you will work with a team of local construction workers learning to mix cement, lay pipes and install water pumps to build wells in local communities, providing access to clean, safe drinking water and implementing better hygiene. Within these communities, people live in deep poverty with little access to education or basic amenities, and it is estimated that only half of the population have access to clean water, so this really is a life-changing project.
Many people in rural areas don’t have toilets, having to walk far from their home, into the forested area to go to the bathroom, which can be unsafe. So, in collaboration with one of our partner NGO’s, we aim to help some of the local families address the issue by building a flushing toilet. By widening our relationship within this community, we can monitor the health of the kids and keep encouraging their parents to prioritise their kid’s education.
Sadly, the education system in Cambodia is very poor; teachers salaries are low, the teaching quality poor and in many cases kids are forced to leave school to work on the streets of Cambodia, as over three quarters of Cambodia’s children live in poverty. We work with NGO’s and schools who provide a free education and skills to children in the community.
Kid Tea – Teaching
Kid Tea is an amazing NGO based in Siem Reap, providing a free education for underprivileged kids and teens. They provide a warm, personal environment where students are cared for and inspired to set ambitious goals.
Here you will help teach English, computer and sewing lessons whilst assisting with any maintenance needed around the place, making this an inspiring place to be.
Elma School Project – Teaching
ELMA School (ELMA stands for Education, Love, Motivation, and Action) was set up in the peaceful, rural village of Sambour, just outside of Siem Reap in 2006, in memory of Alice Elma Thomson.
ELMA has just three simple classrooms where you will help them provide English and ‘further learning’ classes, improving their awareness of health, welfare and to enhance their sense of community and belonging.
Sihanoukville: Weeks 7-8
Now you’ll venture south of Siem Reap to sunny Sihanoukville, surrounded by white-sandy beaches and undeveloped tropical islands, Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s most happening beach destination with its pristine beaches, palm trees and the occasional full moon parties.
‘Let Us Create’ Children’s Painting Project
Here you’ll find some of the city’s poorest children working among the happy holidaymakers, as children are often forced by their families to work because tourists are more likely to buy a can of coke or crafts from a youngster. These children are incredibly vulnerable to abuse and miss out on the most valuable years of education in order to scrape a living.
Let Us Create (LUC) provides a safe haven in the form of a day center, providing nutritional food, clean drinking water, educational lessons and a creative outlet for over 100 registered children, who would otherwise scavenge through garbage bins or sell souvenirs to tourists on the beach. Here you will help them with their work in various ways, depending on the needs of the organization at the time.
Mondulkuri Elephant Sanctuary: Weeks 9-10
From here, you’ll journey east towards Vietnam, past fields of swaying sugar palms, rice paddies and up into densely forested hill country transacted by thundering waterfalls.
Mondulkuri is one of Cambodia’s last great wildernesses, a vital wildlife corridor and home to the indigenous Pnong people. The Pnong are a tribe of hunter-gatherers, for whom a bond with elephants is at the very heart of their culture. Sadly, the ancient traditions and livelihood of this unique community are under threat as the environmental pressures of 21st Century Cambodia fast encroach on their homeland. Thankfully, help is at hand.
Elephant Valley Project
For the next week, you will live and volunteer in the "Elephant Valley", a secluded jungle-bound project, rehabilitating these gentle grey giants and protecting the Pnong tribe’s rural way of life.
Here you will help the mahouts wash the elephants in the river or at the washing station, bringing in supplementary food, their favourite being banana trees. Physical contact with elephants is not encouraged, unless it is initiated by the animal itself, so please do not expect to ride elephants during this phase.
You will also help with a variety of other projects, which in the past have included digging trenches, building water towers, constructing guesthouses, weeding, etc.
We aim to keep you busy for 5 - 8 hours each day, from about 7a.m to 5p.m with a lunch break in between. But please remain flexible.
The weekends are yours to do with as you please, with the exception of Sihanoukville, where you are needed to work on Saturdays (i.e. 6 days per week). Generally, at weekends, you’re welcome to stay and chill at the Leap house, or head off if you’re craving a change of scene.
Angkor Wat Temple Complex
Cambodia’s iconic temple is the very heart and soul of this fiercely proud, spiritual nation, and a glimpse of the sun rising over its majestic peaks is not to be missed. The largest religious site on earth, Angkor comprises of hundreds of temples spread throughout the jungle.
Tonle Sap Lake
South East Asia’s largest inland lake is home to rare birds, half of Cambodia’s fish stock and (yes, we admit it) quite a few crocodiles. It is the remarkable floating villages that make a cruise on the lake truly un-missable.
Phnom Kulen Waterfall
This is an incredible waterfall, tucked away in the luscious jungle 40km from Siem Reap.
Pub Street is arguably Siem Reap’s most famous attraction after Angkor Wat Temple Complex. It is home to top notch world cuisine from dim sum to burger bars, karaoke, internet cafes and night markets that offer a variety of souvenirs.
Siem Reap boasts some luxurious 5 *hotels that even non-residents can enjoy. for about US$6 per day.
Cambodia’s capital couldn’t be more of a contrast to the laid back vibe of Siem Reap. A frenetic, sprawling, high-rise city, this is the chaotic centre of business, politics and the country’s dark past. We recommend that you spend a weekend in Phnom Penh between your project phases, taking in its many cultural and historical attractions.
The National Museum houses a millennia’s worth of Khmer sculpture and a shrine to the traditions that communism attempted to flatten. A must for history and art buffs alike, with entrance costing US$3.
The Killing Fields/Toul Sleng Genocide Museum
As the chosen base of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, Phnom Penh bears the scars of this brutal regime more prominently than most. Although harrowing, a visit to one of the city’s two genocides is an important step to understanding both the deep trauma that runs through this nation and strength in overcoming such horror.
Smack bang in the middle of a marine national park, Sihanoukville offers uncharted virgin scuba dive sites with excellent visibility.
You will be picked up from the airport and taken to the team accommodation.
The whole team will stay in a comfortable house, in a safe residential area. You’ll sleep in dormitory style bedrooms, on double or single beds – bedding is provided. We still recommend you bring a light sleeping bag or liner for comfort. There are European style bathrooms, that have showers, which everyone will share.
Let Us Create (LUC) has a volunteer house in the downtown area. You’ll sleep on mattresses on the floor, Cambodian style. Clean sheets and bedding, including pillows will be provided.
Mondulkuri (Elephant Valley Project)
You will stay in a simple bungalow (AKA Hefalump House) in shared bedrooms on the slopes of the Elephant Valley, giving you stunning views over the forest.
Throughout most phases, staff will cook three meals a day. Don’t expect ‘haute cuisine’, but do expect authentic Cambodian food with ingredients fresh from the market.
In Sihanoukville our volunteers usually eat at a designated restaurant accompanied by the project leader.
Rice and noodle dishes form the basis for most meals, with aromatic curries (our favourite being the ‘fish Amok’), stir fried vegetables and egg dishes alongside. Lunch could be soup or rice and noodles. Breakfast consists of French bread or toast, fruit and sometimes an omelette.
If you have any special dietary requirements, let us know prior to departure and we will do our best to accommodate them.
Safe drinking water, tea, coffee, and juice will be provided throughout at each phase. Please do NOT drink tap water. You will have to pay for any extra soft drinks, snacks and beers away from the house.