Ethics of Volunteering

Before you volunteer, do think about what you're doing and who you're hoping to benefit. If this is just to clear your guilt, get a few photos for Facebook and having a Madonna Moment, then that's your problem - and really it is unethical to inflict your wishes and your agenda on local children. Our organisation exists to benefit them - not us.

NGOs in Cambodia are collectively getting critical of volunteers who are here to put in a quick appearance, and spend most of that time taking photos, and Savong has talked about having a ban on cameras at the School and at SOC.  As Friends International organisation says: Children are not a Tourist Attraction.

So think about the long term legacy you wish to leave in Cambodia. You can discuss these things with us if you wish before you come.  Having a clear ethical compass is useful.  If you make a friend in a nation such as Cambodia, are you prepared to have that friend for life?

Volunteers need also to be sensitive to the local culture.

  • You are a guest in a school environment. Read the Child Safety Policy.
  • Wear appropriate and conservative clothing. Don't be scruffy. Females: no short shorts or revealing tank tops. Local standards are very modest and very tidy.
  • Keep a professional relationship only: arms length from the students you teach and from the teachers you work with. No flirting or hint of sexual activity.  Do not cross this line or we must take police action. Child safety is paramount - and that goes for students of all ages.
  • Do not single out particular students - for example to give them money or special gifts. Our school and childrens home try to operate fairly, and a kind well-meaning gesture towards one student can have unintended consequences and prove hurtful to others.
  • Do not compromise the dignity of anyone you meet or photograph. We've seen photos taken by tourists - photos of crippled children - from Cambodia and other poor nations - posted on Facebook with derogatory, insensitive and ultimately unfunny comments that neither dignify the children in the photos nor say much about the intelligence of the tourists.
  • The key word is respect.

Volunteers are welcome! Why not bring your skills to the Cambodian classroom?


Wanting to volunteer? Help us get to know you...

If you are looking to volunteer at Savong School or Savong Orphan Centre help us get to know you before you arrive. By filling in this form and emailing back we can work together to provide a smoother experience for you, for us and - especially - for our students. Do consider this: that volunteering is less about what it can do for you, and MORE about what you can bring to disadvantaged students of Cambodia. This has got to be about delivering a lot more than mere pics for your facebook page.

Also if you wish to read about other volunteers' experiences we add links to every blog we can find on the web. These give a good idea of what the experience is like. Go to our Links Page.

Also - while you're thinking of us - why not follow us on Twitter/

Guide for Volunteers

Over 2010 we began putting together a guide for volunteers. This is in PDF format and can be dowloaded - though it is a work in progress. However just a quick note about why we've put the guide together:

  • We want to help volunteers better prepare. We want to make the experience smoother and easier. Planning a journey to Cambodia involves a lot of research and the best volunteering experiences come from being well-prepared and having clear objectives for the journey. What difference are you planning to make for the children? (It's mostly about them isn't it?)
  • We want a better cultural fit. Volunteers to Savong's School are coming into the heart of Cambodia and the way we dress, talk and behave can be inappropriate. For example females in short-shorts? Not a good look, even though we know you're on holiday and we know the climate is super-hot.
  • We want a stronger rapport between you and the teachers and staff. It helps everyone if you can discuss your plans in advance with the local staff so they can work along side you - and you work alongside them.
  • Some philosophical discussion. Volunteering attracts plenty of critics - and some of the criticisms are quite justified. So a little bit of discussion about the role of volunteers, the difference we can make (and about the damage we can do!) is well worthwhile.

Many thanks! Here's the link so you can download the PDF. Click Here.

Duncan Stuart


See Also...
Where to find us

Here's a map of where we're located - just over 12kms due East of Siem Reap.

So from town, head out on National Highway 6 12kms - then turn right toward the Rolous temples and you'll just about be at the school.

Weather forecast - Siem Reap

What's the weather like this week?


Top News Stories - Savong's School Cambodia


Changes are being made to the volunteering system at Savong School and the SOC Children's Home. In line with several other NGOs in Cambodia, a donation of $200+ will be required prior to volunteering.  This is modest by general standards (many volunteering experiences charge over $2,000) but is designed for two reasons:

  1. To discourage casuals who turn up for a day, disrupt classes, take photos and then leave - providing no benefit whatever for the local students.
  2. Yes - we do need funds. Just like any school in any community (no matter what country) we need more resources including textbooks, laptops, and funds to support our scholarship students through University.
  3. Don't forget that volunteers need to arrange beforehand to visit the school. Bring ID such as Passport, in line with other NGOs we will ask for a Police Clearance/Background check form as well. See our page on Child Safety.


Click on the picture to download the PDF or the right hand picture to find our regularly updated blog.


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