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Cambodia

Elephant conservation, teaching & community development.

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Discover Cambodia

Step into the Asia of yesteryear.

Stepping into Cambodia is like stepping back to the Asia of yesteryear. The pace of life is slow, the ancient culture all-embracing and the people are kind…so very kind despite the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s which aimed to break its soul. But not to be beaten the resilient survivors emerged to create a peaceful, verdant land with arms outstretched to visitors putting themselves very much on the back-packing map.

But they need more than tourists – they need volunteers to reach below the surface to help communities lift themselves out of poverty and to instill their self-belief. In return, they will show you a country full of colour and culture as you will have time to explore Ankor Wat, the floating lakes, the bustling jungle and oh so pretty beaches.

Venture out to Cambodia to get stuck into a mix of teaching, community development and elephant conservation in 3 contrasting and vibrant locations.


Program Itinerary

Embark on a journey that will take you from the vibrant city of Siem Reap to the beaches of Kep and onto the jungles of Mondulkiri in the East. Integrating into the local communities you will teach English, improve sanitation in rural villages and protect treasured elephants.

The following is a sample itinerary and is going to be updated for January 2021.

Overview

Siem Reap

East Meets West

Siem Reap is a town rich in history, where East fuses with the West in spectacular style. It is situated at the foot of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple complex, close to spectacular forests, waterfalls and Tonle Sap, South East Asia’s largest inland lake.

This old French colonial capital, echo’s European influences, with shuttered windows and delicate ironwork, but now interspersed with a buzzing nightlife, street food on tap, night markets and cafes. It’s a fun and vibrant place.

Accommodation

The whole team will stay together in our volunteer house, in a safe residential area, just a short tuk tuk ride from the busy centre of Siem Reap.

You’ll sleep in dormitory style bedrooms with European style bathrooms with showers.

Food

3 meals a day are provided.

Expect: authentic Cambodian food with rice and noodle dishes forming the basis of most meals.

Wk 1 - 6

Spitler Village Water Project + Teaching

Better Hygiene, Better Education

Despite its beautiful exterior, Siem Reap is one of the poorest regions in Cambodia, where the difference between rich and poor is stark. Communities of displaced people, victims of land mines and sex workers live in deep poverty on the outskirts of town with little access to education or basic amenities.

During your time in Siem Reap you will venture out to one of these rural villages to help with these simple but life changing projects:

Better Hygiene

Many people in rural areas don’t have toilets, having to walk far from their home, into the forested area to go to the bathroom, which can be unsafe.

In collaboration with one of our partner NGO’s we aim to help some of the local families’ address this issue by helping to build a flushing toilet.

By widening our relationship within this community, we can monitor the health of the kids and keep encouraging their parents to prioritize their kid’s education.

Teaching Conversational English

Due to the vast number of adult deaths during the genocide of the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia has one of the youngest populations in the world but sadly one of the worst education systems.

However, help is at hand as local NGO’s such as ‘Kid Tea’ and 'Elma' get busy to provide a free education for underprivileged kids.

Every afternoon you will help at Kid Tea or Elma to teach English, computer and sewing lessons whilst assisting with any maintenance needed around the place, making this a more inspiring place to be.

We are fortunate enough to have workbooks, providing structure and curriculum ideas, but you'll have the freedom to be as creative and active as you like.

Overview

Mondulkiri

Close to the Vietnam Boarder

From here, you’ll journey east towards Vietnam, past fields of swaying sugar palms, rice paddies and up into densely forested hill country interspersed with thundering waterfalls.

Welcome to Mondulkiri, one of Cambodia’s last great wildernesses, a vital wildlife corridor and home to the indigenous Pnong people. The Pnong are a tribe of hunter-gatherers, for whom a bond with elephants is at the very heart of their culture. Sadly, the ancient traditions and livelihood of this unique community are under threat as the environmental pressures of 21st Century Cambodia fast encroach on their homeland.

Thankfully, help is at hand, in the Elephant Valley Project.

Please note, this is unavailable in July.

Accommodation

Here you will stay in a simple bungalow (AKA Hefalump House!) on the slopes of the Elephant Valley Project, giving you stunning views over the surrounding forest. Sunsets can be spent unwinding here, enjoying the amazing sounds of the nocturnal forest creatures and the gibbons calling as they prepare to sleep. Bliss.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Wk 7

Elephant Valley Project Elephant Conservation

Deep in the Elephant Valley

For the next week, you will live and volunteer in "Elephant Valley", a secluded jungle-bound project, rehabilitating these gentle grey giants and protecting the Pnong tribe’s rural way of life.

Only a few years ago, there was enough forest in Mondulkiri for a mahout to just let his elephant wander around, with little more than a leg binding but this is no longer the case. A mahout now has to tend to his elephant regularly to stop damage to a neighbour’s crops or injury from a poacher.

Here you will help the mahouts wash the elephants in the river or at the washing station and bring in supplementary food, their favourite being banana trees.

You will also help with a variety of maintenance projects, which in the past have included digging trenches, building water towers, constructing guesthouses and weeding.

Overview

Kep Beach

A Hip Beach Town

Your next destination will be down on the south coast at Kep - a little off the beaten track gem overlooking Rabbit Island.

Kep offers pristine beaches, palm trees (and the occasional full moon party) without the crowds. Tropical islands and crystal clear waters, so pack your snorkel.


Accommodation

Here you‘ll be staying in a house owned by our project close to the beach.

Food

3 meals provided of local fresh food.

Wk 8

Kep Garden Association Reading and speaking English

Reading and learning to speak English

Sometimes the most beautiful places on earth disguise the cruelest social problems. Look a little closer at the postcard perfection of of Kep's beaches and you will see too many children working when they should be at school. But the schools are over crowded and underfunded despite the invaluable efforts of local NGOs such as Kep Garden Association.

Under the direction of Kep Gardens Association you will help school children, of varying ages, with their reading and conversational English programme, providing one-on-one time.Y ou will also help with their sport and activity clubs.

Program Details & Costs

We have one departure to Cambodia in January for 5 or 8 weeks It is possible to go for less time to accommodate your dates and budget. Just get in touch to discuss your options.

Jan program starts on:

2021: 8 Jan

Costs

8 weeks
6 weeks Siem Reap + 1 week EVP + 1 week Kep Beach
2020: £39942021: £3994

5 weeks
5 weeks Siem Reap
2020: £25502021: £2550

Dates Don't Suit?

Don't worry - we can work around this, just get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Budget

Flights: £800 (depending on time of year and availability)

Spending Money: £60 per week approximately


Social Life

Guaranteed. You will travel and live with a tight team of volunteers throughout, so always someone to hang out with.

Cultural Exchange

Through living and working beside rural communities who will welcome you into their society.

Contrast

See the best of Cambodia by living and working in an ancient city, in the depths of the jungle and on the white sandy beaches.

The Bigger Picture

All our projects are long term and you are part of the flow of volunteers needed to keep progress in motion.

Monday to Friday

Expect to busy with your projects 5 days per week for about 5 hours a day.

Weekends

The weekends are yours to do with as you please. You’re welcome to stay and chill at the Leap house or head off to explore.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Visit the Angkor Wat Temple Complex - the largest religious site on earth.
  • Sail across Tonle Sap, South East Asia’s largest inland lake, home to floating villages.
  • Cool down under the Phnom Kulen Waterfall.
  • Explore Pub Street and surrounding markets.
  • Pay your respects at The Killing Fields/Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.
  • Other: scuba diving/snorkeling, island hopping, mountain biking.

Cambodia is a special place for us as its devastating history is only a snippet away in time, making our projects feel even more urgent.

The Khmer Rouge

From 1975-1979 Cambodia was governed by the Khmer Rouge and their sadistic leader, Pol Pot. During this 3 year and 8 month period, it is estimated that approximately 3 million Cambodians died from either execution, famine or overworking. Considering that the population of Cambodia, or Kampuchea as it was known, was only 8 million during this time, that was nearly half the population killed, plunging the country into deep poverty and destruction.

Aftermath

Miraculously what has emerged is a peaceful, verdant land with arms outstretched to visitors. Their culture remains trusting, kind and remarkably forgiving. Industry and business started to regenerate heavily dependent on tourism and more recently on voluntourism, but with all things in life, some have good intentions, some do not.

One of the good guys is Socheat Hun, who we have been working with now for 8 years. His company is called Real World Adventures - which does just that, but for us he has used his local contacts to give us access to grass root projects, way off the tourist trail, which are striving to make a difference for struggling communities and wildlife.

Take Siem Reap for example - one of the poorest regions in Cambodia. It is estimated that only half the population have access to clean water and less than a quarter have a toilet. Disease is prevalent. Over the last 8 years we have been tackling this by building toilets and wells in the small villages on the outskirts of town, with the aim of restoring health and dignity for many over looked by the shroud of deprivation.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been getting up to...

First week in the jungle, elephant time Sophie Rumble

The next two weeks would be spent in a remote jungle in Mondulkiri volunteering at the Elephant Valley Project. Our day was divided into two parts; elephant observation, where we learnt all about the different elephants, and secondly volunteering. The jungle took us a while to get used to, in the first few days it was a frequent occurrence to hear screams during the evening when people went to the toilet and were faced with huge spiders/ scorpions/ frogs!

The project had around 8 elephants, this included Sambo, who is considered to be the most famous elephant in Cambodia. We learnt a lot about her cruel history where she spent the majority of her life begging along the river in Phomn Penh. Here she was fed all sorts of foods that elephants shouldn’t eat- including birthday cake! Sadly, one day she stepped on a nail which went straight through her foot and subsequently resulted in a bad infection which was never properly treated until she came to EVP.

Over the week we all learnt loads about elephants and the mahouts. For example, elephants typically spend 20 hours a day eating – not a bad life. Also, that the bond between the mahout and the elephant is as strong as the bond between family as they spend all day, everyday together.

For the volunteering part, we spent most of the week clearing a part of the jungle so that we can create a banana field to feed the elephants. This involved the use machetes which the boys were definitely excited about

The raw beauty of Cambodia Georgia Ling

Hey guys! I’m writing to you from Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where the Leapers have spent a week working at a school and exploring the exotic beaches that the province has to offer! Sihanoukville certainly felt different to the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap. Driving through the shantytowns of Siem Reap was a shocking eye-opener to the poverty of the countryside, but the fishing towns of Sihanoukville was an overwhelming picture of desolation. To think that locations such as these exist for a percentage of the world’s children to grow up in presents a terrifyingly real problem. The sad reality is that some only ponder upon the real issues in the world without having any inclination to do something about it. I think governmental and non-governmental programmes such as the one I am participating in should be advertised with much more fervour as an opportunity to help the plight of the less fortunate whilst also being able to experience different cultures in the world, which will undoubtedly contribute to a person’s worldview and their attitude towards multiculturalism.

The school at Sihanoukville tells us of much the same story. With leaking roofs and a lack of fans, the classrooms are by no means a comfortable and convenient space for learning. The Leapers contributed to tidying up the school by picking up rubbish around the site, as well as painting the walls to make the school look more presentable. Whilst doing so, we had the opportunity to talk to many of the children who could speak English and learn about their lives. Since the school was located in a fishing village, their parents tended to work in the fish-market community, which meant that their income was irregular and the family vulnerable. Despite the school’s condition, their ambitions were not dampened.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat Victoria Price

This past week in Siem Reap has been pretty great, we have gotten into the routine of manual labour in the morning and teaching English in the afternoons during the week.

The students at the schools are very cheeky so to begin with a lot of us struggled to get them engaged during lessons but practice makes perfect and now we leave school each day with pictures and an uncountable number of high fives! They really are very adorable. Today we went to Spitler school and took part in a cultural exchange, we got shown some traditional Cambodian dance which was really beautiful.

We have started work on the toilet which is much harder than I expected, I don’t think brick laying is a career I should pursue but it’s fun to learn a new skill and to play with the children we are helping during our breaks. Although it is hard to communicate most of the time we have realised they really enjoy piggy backs and rock-paper-scissors!

This weekend we visited Angkor Wat, we woke up at 4:00 to try and see the sun rise but missed it by about half an hour but it was still insanely beautiful, possibly the most photogenic building ever. We also saw two other temples, one of them being where tomb raider was filmed, there where trees growing on top and the buildings and roots wrapped round all of the ruins, it felt like we were in the heart of a rain forest.

We also all received a water blessing so we now have incredibly good luck, it was an interesting experience, not as spiritual as I thought it would be as the man before us brought his new motor cycle to be blessed and the monk just drenched us all with water as we tried to hold in giggles, but if it means nothing bad will happen to us now so it was definitely worth it.

We are adjusting to the extreme heat, and I am looking forward to finishing the toilet this week as we have all worked so hard on it. I am also looking forward to some more Fro-yos and a $4 massage as well as taking part in the legendary pub crawl in order to make the most of our final week in Siem Reap.

Watch our videos

Cambodia

January 2017.

"A great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring"

I really think the leap provides an amazing unique travel experience. We got to get so involved with the local people and learn about the country in a way I don't think I would have experienced without the leap. I did travel with other companies after in different countries and did not get the same sense of being immersed in the culture.

I travelled to Borneo with the company and the trip had a great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring. I made friends for life as I am still in close contact with the friends I made with the leap and would recommend this company to everyone. All the staff I spoke to on the phone planning it and then who looked after us in the country were so friendly.

- Alice Sharp

"I wish I could go back "

My experience in Ecuador was amazing. I have been home for two weeks and already want to go back to ecuador. My leader and my group was the best. Everyone instantly clicked and grew closer together everyday. All of the work was hard but we had fun while doing it. We brought speakers out to work with us so we had some music playing while we worked! I also liked the variety of work that we do in the communities. The adventure weeks were the best. Jumping off bridges, white water rafting, beaches, biking down volcanos, and so much more. You can't do anything better than that!

I wish I could go back now, with the same group, same leader, and do so many more things and make so many more memories. That trip is one I will never forget.

- Caroline Sides

"Would 100% do it all again"

Such an incredible month. It really was an experience that I will never forget and this was all down to Andrea and Red. They made the trip so enjoyable and everything we did was sure to make an impact on the conservancy, which was such a nice thing to see and feel.

Base camp was a super cool place to stay for the month and certainly wasn't like anywhere I had stayed before. Unreal. Thank you so much to both of you and I wish you all the best xx

- Millie

"The most incredible experience"

This 10 week programme was truly the most incredible experience, where I have made amazing friends and immersed myself in getting to know a whole new place and culture.

The camp itself has members of all different volunteer programmes, allowing you to develop incredible relationships with people from all over the world in such a unique environment. I did a month of marine conservation and a month of teaching. The marine conservation was beautiful, and being able to get an advanced open water PADI in marine protected areas of Madagascar was very special.

As for the teaching, this was something which was so special to me, it allowed me to become so connected with the community, and I created bonds with people that I will truly never forget. Seeing students progress over time was so rewarding and allowed me to develop such close relationships. The staff members are super relaxed and it really feels like your own community! Honestly the best experience!!!

- Izzy Proud

"​Madagascar was a dream"

The country is absolutely stunning and the people are so friendly. The marine and forest conservation aspects were fantastic and I learnt so much from the amazing diversity of nature out there. Teaching however, even though I thought it would be my least favourite aspect of the trip, was so inspiring and just so much fun.

When you're trying to teach a class of 60 the body parts using 'head shoulders knees and toes' it can get rather manic, but seeing the kids grasp it and ask for more when the bell rings (not running from class like we do back here) really makes you feel like you're making a difference! Wouldn't chance the experience for anything!

- Amelia

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