Coming to Cambodia it is instantly obvious that there is a severe amount of poverty. Cambodia is still trying to catch up with the rest of the world after the devastation of the Pol Pot era, and in a country where at least 50% of the population is under 15 you will notice people doing whatever they can to make a buck.
These days there is a growing trend in people travelling to Asia who think it might be a good idea to visit an Cambodian orphanage. They figure what harm could it do, I’ll take them some gift, spend some quality time and everyone leaves happy. Just below the surface, the reality will leave a sour taste in the mouth…
Here’s the facts about Cambodian Orphanage Tourism
– Children are not tourist attractions and although you may feel you are doing a good thing it’s really not helping the kids who continue to feel abandoned by adults when you return to your cosy home (wherever in the world that may be).
– The amount of Cambodian orphanages keeps increasing, by as much as 75% in the last five years! Statistics are showing that most of these kids have at least one living parent. Sadly parents are seeing this “new tourism” as an opportunity to give up their children to an orphanage, sometimes in the belief they’ll get a better upbringing and education but often just because they benefit financially by “renting” the kids out.
– According to the website Cambodian Orphanages Not the Solution many of the orphanages are unsafe for children to be living in and do not adhere to the United Nations policies on Child Protection. This new boom in tourism in Cambodia is causing some serious issues, that only we can put a stop to.
– Money you give to the Cambodian orphanages, even if directly to a child, will quite likely end up lining the pockets of the owner and won’t help the kids at all.
Do Not Buy Anything From Street Kids!
Another way in which tourists are not helping the kids of Cambodia is by buying souvenirs. On the streets you will see kids doing practically anything to make money: collecting water bottles for recycling, selling anything from books, bangles to fire crackers and dangerous fireworks and also just begging for money often with their younger sibling (I’m talking babies here) in tow.
Although your heart will instantly go out to them, as a traveller if you buy these items it just encourages them (or their guardian) to continue selling. This often means that kids miss out on going to school because they are kept on the streets, often late into the night, thus the cycle of uneducated Cambodians continues.
So I bet you’re feeling kinda down about the whole Cambodia situation now? It’s not all doom and gloom and there are still ways you can do your part and help the wonderful people of Cambodia rebuild.
These days there are many amazing organisations doing their part for the community. By helping stop the cycle of uneducated Cambodians; mostly the homeless, poor, abused children or the victims of human trafficking, and giving them another chance at a normal life, we can help Cambodia heal and re-grow and feel pretty good about it at the same time.
How can You help…?
Yes by going out and eating a tasty meal you can help disadvantaged children. There are more and more restaurants popping up in Cambodia that take kids and teach them hospitality skills. This includes cooking, service, cleaning, waiting and dealing with money, giving them a lifelong skill that can help them to stay employed.
Many of these restaurants have become so popular that you have to make a reservation well in advance if you want a table, and the food served certainly makes it worthwhile.
As great as this idea is, there are always a few shifty people that notice restaurants with signs that say “non profit” getting a lot of business and decide to put the same sign on their restaurant (even though they do nothing for the education of underprivileged locals). Do your research beforehand and make sure you’re getting the real deal.
Here’s a list of a few certified restaurants:
– Haven Training Restaurant
Address: Sok San Street, Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia
20m past the X-Bar, on the right.
Phone: +855 78 34 24 04
– Sister Srey Cafe
Address: centrally located at the riverside between the Trade Center and Old Market.
Phone: 097 723 8001 or check out their Facebook page:
Address: Sok San street (same as Haven) next to Chenda pharmacy
Phone: (+855)81 410 783
– Hagar Restaurant / Catering
Address: No. 44 Street 310, Beoung Keng Kang 1, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phone: 070 221 501/ 012 306 075
email : email@example.com
– Friends the Restaurant
Address: #215 Street 13
Phone: +855 (0)12 802 072
– Romdeng Restaurant
Address: #74 Street 174
Phone: +855 (0)92 219 565
Address: Sandan is located approximately 100 meters from the Golden Lions Circle on the road to the Sokha Beach.
phone: 034 4524000
Choose NGO Accommodation!
Many guesthouses are linked with organisations to teach and encourage the Cambodian youth. Just by choosing a guesthouse that supports causes like concert or the child safety network then you are already doing your part.
– Rosy Guest House
Prices from $4.50 – $11 per person
Address:# 0074, Phum Slor Kram, Siem Reap District
Phone: Reception: +855 (0)63 965 059
Mobile: +855 (0)17 814 011
– Firefly Guesthouse
Prices from $10 – $26 per night
Address: 37 TRAPEANG SES VILLAGE, SANGKAT KOKCHORK
PHONE: +855 63 969 110
– Bou Savy Guesthouse
Prices from $9 – $21
Address: located on National Road N#6, along side with Sokha Hotel. Just 05minutes walk to Royal Resident and Lucky Mall Super Market.
Phone: (855) 12 898 627
Phnom Penh (for the flash packers)
– White Linen Boutique Hotel
Price: from $35 – $55 per night
Address: Street 442
#227, Phnom Penh
Phone: +855 023 997 120
– You Khin House
Price $38 – $70 (for a self contained unit)
Address: 13a, street 830 Sangkat Tonle Basak Phnom Penh, Cambodia (http://www.youkhinhouse.com/index.php?location)
Phone: Office: +855 (0) 23 22 48 43
-Beach Road Hotel
Price $24 – $50 (high season) $17 – $35 ( low season)
Address: Serendipity Road, Mondul 4, Sangkat 4, Khan Mittapheap, Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Phone : +855 (0) 17 827 677
– Monkey Republic
Price $3 – $10
Address: Serendipity Road across from Beach road hotel
(Monkey Republic don’t do reservations)
Enjoy the Arts!
Did you know that Cambodia has it’s very own circus? It’s true, and it’s genuinely an international standard of talent, if on a budget. Phare circus in Siem Reap is a fantastic example of people helping the youth through the Arts, and for $15 you know you are getting a good show and helping more kids get educated in acrobatics, music, drama etc.
There are also plenty of local shows around that feature traditional dancing or storytelling. This is a fantastic way to learn more about the traditions and culture of the Cambodian people and once again all proceeds go towards helping the youth.
If you’re not really into theatrics there are also many emerging artists who have galleries around town, where you can take home an original piece of artwork.
– Phare the Cambodian Circus
Price: $15 per person
Address: Comaille Road, behind Angkor National Museum in front of Angkor Century Hotel
Phone:855 (0) 92 225 320 / 21
Web: Get Your Tickets HERE
-Romeet Contempoary Arts Space
Address: 34E Street 178, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
phone: +855 (0)92 953 567 or +855 (0)77550759
– Plae Pakka: living arts show
Address: 128-G9 Sothearos Blvd Tonle Bassac, Chamkamorn Phnom Penh
Phone: +855 023 986 032
When you visit Cambodia remember to enjoy everything there is about this wonderful country, the amazing temples, stunning beaches and the smiles of the locals. Their friendliness will win you over in a heart beat.
YES you will want to help the people of Cambodia but please help them the right way. The way that makes sure the money really goes to the needy and not into the pockets of the grifters and scam artists that have set up shop here. The less money these people make, then, hopefully the less children we will see on the streets and in orphanages, because they’ll be in school instead. Perhaps a school you’re well placed money helped to build?
Now isn’t that a much a nicer souvenir than a crappy string bracelet
Have you been to visit a Cambodian orphanage? Let us know in the comments your perspective of what you experienced.
For more information please check out the following websites: