9 Causes in Cambodia You Should Volunteer With

by Jennifer Bangoura

Nestled between Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam on the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia is an exciting country to launch your volunteer adventure in Southeast Asia. Volunteer opportunities in Cambodia are numerous and the types of programs available are diverse, satisfying any skill set you have to offer or are looking to develop. With a tumultuous history following the Khmer Rouge takeover in the 1970s, today Cambodia is navigating a more vibrant economy based on textiles, tourism, and agriculture.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Beyond the beautiful palaces and temples, Cambodia is ripe with volunteer opportunities.

From helping animals to supporting theater programs or getting involved with building and construction projects, the volunteer possibilities in Cambodia are endless! You also can’t beat the location, especially if you’re looking to add meaning to your Southeast Asian adventure by doing more than lounging on a beach. With tons of tourist attractions in Cambodia to visit before or after your volunteer experience, you can make your trip an unforgettable adventure by giving back to the communities you’re traveling through.

If you’re having a hard time deciding how to volunteer in Cambodia, check out these nine causes in Cambodia you should volunteer with:

1. Caring for Animals

Are you someone who can’t watch a television commercial about animal shelters without tearing up as Sarah Mclachlan plays softly in the background? If so, you should consider supporting an animal welfare project in Cambodia. Wipe away those tears because there are animals out there who need more than your sympathy; they need your time and effort to make a better life!

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2. An Apple a Day Keeps the Volunteers Coming this Way

Cambodia is a unique place to volunteer abroad because it offers so many specialized volunteer experiences in a wide variety of sectors. If you’re passionate about volunteering in the health sector, you can look into programs in medicine and dentistry, or even physical therapy. Make sure to research your health volunteering options thoroughly so you know what the requirements are before you sign up. Some medical volunteer programs in Cambodia will require a year (or three) of medical school while others are offering more of a beginner’s opportunity for those looking to get their feet wet in the medical field without requiring a prior medical background. Whatever way you choose to volunteer in Cambodia, you will have a chance to experience first-hand the importance of quality health care while supporting access to it for others.

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Homes in Cambodia along a river
Work with small villages to help create sustainable access to clean drinking water.

3. Water, Water Everywhere

While the beaches of Cambodia will undoubtedly call your name, there are also many Cambodians in need of access to clean drinking water to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases. Take your passion for water from the beach to a community in need and support a water project in Cambodia. Live in a community near the famous Angkor Wat temple to help install water filters or travel by boat from Cambodia to Vietnam and learn about Cambodian culture while contributing to water projects that will change the lives of community members. Water is a precious commodity you take for granted when you can always trust the source. Help Cambodians trust the source of their water by giving your time through water projects!

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4. Wherefore art thou volunteer?

Were you the lead in your high school plays? Did you take (and love!) theater classes in college? If being on the stage (or working behind the scenes) brings you joy, look into volunteering in drama programs in Cambodia. From teaching music to sharing your love of dance or theater, you’ll simultaneously learn from the Khmer people’s rich culture while sharing your own passion for these creative forms of expression.

Bonus: you can overcome language barriers with the universal language of the arts!

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Banteay Srei Temple in Cambodia
If you’ve got your heart set on seeing all of Cambodia’s beautiful temples, why not work on restoration projects?

5. Go Green!

Historically, Cambodia has been a country with vast forests and a hotbed for biodiversity, but agricultural activity and mass clearings of forests have given it the undesirable title as a country experiencing some of the worst deforestation in the world. Help turn that title around by volunteering on tree planting projects in dire need of some more roots. If you’ve got a green thumb, you’ll find a place to put it to work while volunteering in Cambodia. Even the Buddhist monks are getting behind the environmental cause to plant trees in their communities.

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6. Make it an Eco-adventure

For some, Southeast Asia is synonymous with tourism. Why not make your tourism sustainable and add an eco- to the front of it? Support eco-tourism in Cambodia by contributing to anthropology projects related to the Bunong people or volunteering at an elephant sanctuary. Projects like these not only strengthen your own skill set as a researcher and environmentalist, they also tangibly support families whose incomes rely on tourism. Do your part to make tourism eco-friendly in a country where the footprint of tourists can be quite heavy!

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Kids on a boat
Volunteer with children in Cambodia teaching performance arts

7. If You Build It, They Will Come

Are you ready to not only get your hands dirty, but also have something physical to represent your time volunteering abroad in Cambodia? Then why not look into building and construction volunteer projects? When you look back at your time volunteering in Cambodia you’ll not only have the memory of a meaningful experience, you’ll also leave a positive, physical impression trailing behind you.

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8. Under the Sea

If the thought of tearing yourself away from the Cambodian beaches to volunteer makes you sad, then fear not; there are a number of marine conservation volunteer projects that can keep you on the beach and supporting worthwhile causes. You can chart the health of coral reefs and help conservation efforts for local fisherman, while keeping your toes in the sand or your flippers in the water. If you’ve been meaning to add a scuba certification to your list of qualifications, you can get certified in Cambodia while helping to grow artificial coral reefs that support biodiversity. We can raise our fins to that!

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Man filming a scene
Volunteer with journalism and media projects

9. Lights, Camera, Action!

Are writing or filmmaking your passions and you’re looking for a way to take your skills around the world? Look into media projects in Cambodia to satisfy your desire for adventure while honing your craft. With a rich, but also troubling, history, Cambodians are poised to share their unique perspective with the world. Help them find their voice and share their message so others can grow from their experience and better understand their background. This could also be a great jumping off point for a shiny new career as a freelance journalist

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When trying to decide how to volunteer in Cambodia, you will want to take some time to read reviews and compare the different programs available to you in the fields that interest you; there are a lot of options and ways to volunteer in Cambodia for you to choose from! All volunteer programs are not made equal and the time you have to research is finite, so take advantage of all the resources on GoAbroad to assist you in your search.

Cambodia isn’t just another stop on your Southeast Asian volunteering tour. It can be the first and final destination if you choose a volunteer project carefully; one that not only answers your needs and passions as an international volunteer, but also (and more importantly) sustainably and meaningfully supports the communities you’re serving. Always keep these causes in mind when trying to decide how to volunteer in Cambodia, and you are sure to make lasting impact!