There is currently a lively debate about the voluntary sector about the actual impact volunteers make on the communities and people they aim to help. The term Voluntourism has come to define the growing number of volunteer projects which have little value to beneficiaries. Instead these projects provide little other than warm fuzzy feelings and photo opportunities for the volunteer, and possibly lasting negative effects on children and communities. These projects are often short term, and cost the volunteer significant amount of money – far more than the actual cost of running such projects.
CWF’s Volunteer in Cambodia program was established to have a positive impact for everyone involved. The passion and hard work of our volunteers allows us to provide a valuable service to students at an affordable price, but our impact reaches beyond the CWF program:
Benefits to students
Increased confidence when speaking English
Increased job opportunities
Greater understanding of other cultures
Exposure to an international world view
Benefits to Cambodia
Increased understanding of modern Cambodia and Khmer culture
Positive impact on the local economy
Benefits to CRDT
Regular, sustainable funding that can be used to improve capacity.
Increased awareness of their work
Increased awareness of development issues in Cambodia
Benefits to CWF Staff
Running a social business provides employment for 16 local staff.
Capacity development and training opportunities
CWF provides numerous other staff benefits such as:
50% scholarships for university Bachelor or Master’s degrees;
Free English lessons at CWF for themselves and another member of their family
A managed Providence Fund to support staff financial security
Accident and medical insurance
Benefits to Volunteers
Practical teaching experience
Immersive cultural experience and understanding
Free Khmer language lessons
Certificate of appreciation and recommendation letter
Testing the Waters & Giving Back
CWF provide a supportive environment for test-driving a career in ESL. Many volunteers used the teaching practice obtained through the CWF program as a springboard into their ESL careers. More than 20 still live in Cambodia – up to 4 years after their semester – and many past volunteers have gone on to complete TESOL, TEFL, and CELTA certificates, and Bachelors in education. Many past volunteers are around the globe right now, teaching ESL in South America, Europe, and throughout Asia. The CWF program is ideal for getting out into the world and making a difference while still reaping rewards of learning and personal development.
Practical Skills, Capacity Development & Motivation
As a teacher, you become a role model and leader for your students. Supervision, classroom management, and decision-making skills are all honed through teaching, and these practical skills can transfer to your own life and career. The pursuit of personal growth and self-initiated capacity development indicates to employers your personality, commitment, and desire to understand and make a positive impact on the community. The CWF experience also provides an opportunity for graduates to prove their dependability, flexibility, and capacity for responsibility and maturity.
Cultural understanding & Networking
An immersive program like CWF’s can expose you to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and opportunity for self-reflection. The challenges of living in a new culture and country and experiences things you wouldn’t normally experience at home. Volunteering, whether at home or abroad, is a great way to network. The CWF program will help you make new friendships and connections with people from all over the world, widen your global perspective and understanding, and provide a valuable insight into the challenges, successes, and failures of international development work.
We’re proud of the positive impact we’re making,
and we’re continually striving to improve our program for both volunteers and student outcomes. However, there is an increasing number of volunteer programs where the impact is low, or even negative.
If you are considering travel and volunteerism anywhere in the world, be sure to understand the consequences of your impact. Volunteering with the wrong organisation can cause more harm than good.
Children from poor families in Cambodia are highly vulnerable, often facing daily threats to their health, education, safety and overall development. Every day in Cambodia, children are exposed to abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect. These issues are often exacerbated by gender inequity, marginalization of urban and rural poor, and negative attitudes and discrimination towards ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
The justice system in Cambodia is still emerging and illequipped to respond to the needs of children who come
into contact with the law whether as victims, witnesses or offenders. Inadequate judicial and law-enforcement contribute to the problem of violence, exploitation and abuse of both boys and girls in Cambodia.
Every child has the right to be protected from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. CWF works with The Code, and other local partners, to implement Child Protection policies and procedures in support of a safer future for Cambodian youth.
Questions to ask yourself before volunteering abroad:
1. Would I be allowed to do this at home?
If the answer is no, then why is it OK here? It’s a simple question, but perhaps the least considered when visiting developing countries. An organisation which allows you to walk in off the street and start interacting with young people or children without background checks and references, turn around and leave.
Imagine the public outcry if vulnerable people in your own country were subject to high risk environment.
2. Is visiting an orphanage a good idea?
If you can walk in to an orphanage and start interacting with children without stringent background checks or a proven learning or support framework, it certainly isn’t not an organisation that takes has the best interests of the child in mind.
The reality is that few of us are properly trained to support traumatised or vulnerable children. Instead, think about helping in a way that is both sustainable and effective, which supports the welfare of at-risk people such as organisations working to provide training and capacity building programs for families and young people, or those which provide access to education, improve food security, and help heal through medical, counselling, and psychological services. Many of these organisations need support to improve their services through fundraising and awareness campaigns, capacity development, and your skills could make a real contribution.
While CWF is strongly opposed to orphanage tourism, we do support organisations who take appropriate steps to ensure volunteers are suitably qualified, checked, and managed with the best interests of the child such as Khemera Cambodia.
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3. Where does my money go?
If you are paying a fee to participate in a volunteer program, you should be confident that the money you pay is used effectively for the intended projects. Financial transparency is a critical factor in determining whether you should support or get involved with any organisation. Appropriate registrations with government are also an important part to ensure that appropriate local taxes are paid, and local regulations are adhered to.
4. Am I taking away income from a local person?
If a trained, experienced local can do it, and get an income to support their own family and economy, why should you remove that opportunity? Displacement of local employment opportunities by foreign volunteers building schools or houses is not a positive impact.
If you are going to donate goods, source them from within the country. Donating goods from overseas can harm local markets and income sources. Try to source goods outside of your target beneficiary’s country only if no alternative exists.
CWF offers a unique service to student, an important part of which is exposure to a myriad of cultures, backgrounds, and accents, and a real opportunity for cross cultural exchange.