What I Learned from Volunteering in Cambodia

STA Travel’s Tom Ringham, a Travel Expert in our Plymouth store, headed to Cambodia for an incredible week volunteering with local communities. He tells us why it changed his life.

Earlier this year, STA Travel offered me the opportunity to volunteer on their Teaching Children in Cambodia trip. My response? Uhhh…yes please!

The chance of a lifetime

I’d never been to Cambodia before so I relished the idea of going to such a beautiful country with its rich culture and challenging history – and obviously I welcomed the chance to escape the wet and miserable UK for 40 degree tropical heat!

Flying into Siem Reap via Singapore, we had a couple of days to recuperate and explore Cambodia’s tourist capital. A must see here is the breathtaking Angkor Wat; the world’s largest temple complex and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Go at sunrise and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

We also had the opportunity to visit one of the floating villages situated on Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. Seeing the standards of living of the community who call this stretch of water home really provided concrete evidence that the services we offer really can make a difference, and that much, much more is needed.

Cambodia river village

A truly eye-opening experience

I’ve heard many stories of trips to Cambodia but nothing prepared me for this project. Based in Mondul 3, an old military base which has become one of the poorest slums just outside of Siem Reap, New Hope Cambodia serves over 300 families providing education, welfare and basic healthcare to this impoverished community.

Our time helping out in school lessons commenced straight after a tour – and a MANIC playtime with the kids where I soon became the new climbing frame. As we were only there for a short period, the majority of our time was spent helping in the construction of a new training restaurant which will allow members of the community to learn new skills and gain entrance into the tourism industry. The project provides opportunities for its pupils and the local residents to gain employment via these means, as well as a good education which the majority of this community has been deprived of. This education will then feed directly back into the community through employment, and in turn improve the circumstances of each individual family for generations to come.

Our efforts went towards helping some of Cambodia’s most poverty stricken people prepare and work for a better future. Throughout our week, one thing remained consistent: I really was making a difference to the welfare of these people and the objectives of the project. I know the blood, sweat and tears we spilled will be worth it!

Goodbye is the hardest word

Leaving for home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced in my travels. This project really puts things into perspective, and the satisfaction of knowing your efforts really do make a massive difference to these people is incredible.

None of this would have been possible without the support and dedication of our trusted CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Kakada who couldn’t go far enough out of his way to show off the best of his beloved Cambodia and make this a truly memorable experience. And of course the rest of the group – thank you all for a fantastic trip and for all of your hard work!

Running cambodian kids

Cambodia has left its mark on me; the warmth and generosity of the Khmer people are something I’ll never forget. If YOU ever have the opportunity and means to visit Cambodia and, even better, offer your time and energy to this fantastic project, don’t even question it – it WILL change their lives for the better in ways you can’t imagine.

It will change yours, too.

Ever thought of volunteering? Check out all our opportunities in Asia and get ready to see the world differently. Have you already donated your time to a project like this one? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.