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.
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.
- CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE VISITOR INFORMATION SHEET This helps us get to know you.
- CLICK HERE FOR OUR BACKGROUND GUIDE FOR VOLUNTEERS. A work in progress.
- CLICK HERE FOR OUR CHILD SAFETY POLICY. Guidelines and warnings.
- Don’t forget to check when the local Cambodian holidays are held! Imagine turning up to find school was out for two weeks! Click here to see when are the Cambodian hoildays.
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.
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.