Volunteer Program: a shared experience at REACH Siem Reap.

By Penélope Guevara

REACH Siem Reap NGO’s mission is rooted in the belief that every child, regardless of their background, has the potential and resilience to succeed. We are committed to providing them with the fair chance they deserve to thrive. 

Operating a comprehensive range of 12 programs with limited human resources is a challenge, but it is essential to helping our students and families achieve a prosperous future. Each program plays a vital role in addressing the diverse needs of our beneficiaries, and we strive to operate them at their full capacity. 

Green Room students during their English classes at our Cambodian charity.

As an NGO, despite the challenges that come with limited resources, REACH remains steadfast in our commitment to delivering impactful and sustainable services. By ensuring that each program is staffed with dedicated full time local employees, who possess the necessary experience and passion, the organisation maximises its ability to create meaningful change in the lives of those we serve. 
With a lot of hard work and determination, our in-country team have come a long way in developing our offerings. As our newly established programs begin to generate transformative impacts, we know that there is still so much more to be done to give our students the best possible opportunities. 

And that’s where our incredible international volunteers come in! 

Past volunteer Katie during her volunteer work in Cambodia. 

Over the last 3 years, the development of each program within REACH has been exceptionally supported by the heartfelt contributions of international volunteers who have generously shared their time, skills, and knowledge towards assisting our local team. With enormous goals and not enough hours in the day, volunteers have been an invaluable pillar of support to our team. 

Working hand-in-hand with volunteers has brought numerous benefits for both our local team and the international supporters who make their way over to Cambodia to support our cause. With local leadership at the core of our ethos, through our Volunteering Program our Khmer team leverage support from skilled international volunteers to enhance their work and fast-track their goals. This cross-cultural exchange often results in a diversity of perspectives and expertise that bolster the effectiveness of our programs. 

Past volunteer assisting our Repair Shop team. 

Our approach to ethical volunteering 

Volunteering has evolved significantly over the years, transforming from a traditional model based on simple charitable acts to a more comprehensive and impactful approach. In the past, volunteering often focused solely on providing immediate assistance without realising the long-lasting impact of each act.  

Organisations all over the world started witnessing the negative outcome of unmonitored actions from volunteers and its effects on the community. Disruptions, emotional abuse and corruption, led organisations and social enterprises to raise awareness of how volunteering should focus on ethical practices to address global issues and the root causes of social challenges instead of focusing solely on the volunteers’ desires. This crucial change has given rise to a more holistic and sustainable approach to volunteering, one that recognises the significance of long-term solutions and community empowerment.  

Community workshops and team training are a great way to volunteering in Cambodia. 

Since REACH started welcoming volunteers back in 2020, being able to host an ethical practice to ensure the welfare of our children and families has been the number one rule of the program.  

Through a clear selection and induction process, our team has emphasised the importance of cultural sensitivity, responsible engagement, and respect for the dignity and rights of the community we all support. With comprehensive guidance and ground rules, the REACH Volunteer Program has had the involvement of committed volunteers from all around the world who have passionately contributed to a positive and lasting impact on the locally managed programs while avoiding unintended harm to the community.  

With dedicated assistance from our diverse range of volunteers, our team has made significant progress in various areas that we simply would not have had the funds or human resources to develop at this level, so early on. 

Ethical volunteer work in Cambodia is crucial to empower the community and provide the necessary support. 

much has been improved at REACH thanks to volunteers that it would not be possible to fit every achievement into one blog… some of our highlights include: 

Financial Systems & Strategic Planning 

The committed volunteers from our International Advisory Board have contributed a substantial amount of time sharing their expertise. They have been guiding our Founder on our strategy every quarter, while also helping to develop robust financial management practices that ensure our organisation’s sustainability and accountability.  

Educational Frameworks 

In the area of education, the collaborative efforts of volunteers working on the ground and from their home countries have resulted in the creation of a comprehensive English Curriculum for our Education Program. Working in pairs together with our local Curriculum Developers, volunteers with professional experience in education developed over 1,000 lesson plans that facilitate the language acquisition and empowerment of our students with valuable, comprehensive classes that will boost their communication skills and help them have more opportunities in their futures.  

Past volunteer Laura, has been assisting our Curriculum Developers to create lesson plans for our English classes. 

Elective Offerings 

In order of importance, our Educational English & Ethics classes were always the priority, but thanks to the support of volunteers, we have also been able to launch exciting electives for our kids early on. 
Over the years, volunteers have played a crucial role in developing bicycle routes and implementing road safety initiatives for our REACH Riders Club. In a more recent example, international support has benefited the garden curriculum, which has been crafted with the help of volunteers to enable children to learn about how to grow their own organic food, the ecosystem and nutrition.  

Past volunteer, Chris while volunteering as a Cycling Assistant during our REACH bike rides in Cambodia. 

Internal Systems & Policies 

Volunteers have also helped fast track the development of our internal systems and administrative processes. With their skills and expertise, they have been helping our team to improve their efficiency and effectiveness within the organisation.  
To help us continue running with high professionalism, Board Members who actively assist our senior team as volunteers developed an HR Manual to ensure that everyone involved in the organisation properly follows all our internal policies.  

On top of that, our ‘Family & Student Master sheet’ was created by this same passionate volunteer to help all our Program Managers track students’ attendance, grades, public schools, classrooms and all the connections to our many programs. 

Professional Development 

Moreover, international support has directly contributed to our team’s professional development through workshops and courses. From online courses to Public Speaking sessions and even professional social work guidance, volunteers have amplified our teams’ skills and capabilities. These achievements stand as a testament to the indispensable value of dedicated volunteers behind the scenes. 

Members of our REACH team after completing a professional Public Speaking course sponsored by Jo Evans. 

With 11 intergrated programs, more than 240 students and over 130 families, at REACH, we focus on long-term, sustainable projects. We believe that it is essential to build strong connections within the community so that volunteers are not just providing a band-aid solution but are offering support directly to our team that will make a lasting difference.  

The areas where our team constantly need support are: 

  • Curriculum Development 
  • Kitchen and Garden Assistants 
  • Repairs Shop Assistants 
  • Cycling support 
  • Communications and Marketing Assistants 
  • Administrative support 

Cambodian volunteer programs run in an ethical way can help with the development and improvement of the community.  

We are also looking for qualified professionals to help us in the following areas: 

  • Social Workers 
  • Psychologists and counsellors 
  • Medical support 
  • Program Developers 

How to become a volunteer at REACH? 

Our program has a selection process that has been designed to screen prospective volunteers who are not only skilled and passionate but whose values also align with the core values and ethical principles of REACH.  
To ensure local empowerment comes first, our Cambodian team members are responsible for delivering all programs to our beneficiaries. As such, volunteers are not allowed to host classes or replace any positions that are led by our team. A volunteer’s role is to assist, support and enhance what our dedicated Khmer team are already doing.  

Past volunteer Ben -a qualified social worker- assisting our team during a community workshop.

With this in mind, we have limited placements available at any given time, and priority is given to volunteers who are willing to support in the areas and projects that are identified by our local team. 
This thoughtful approach to placements at REACH not only safeguards the welfare of our students but also ensures that each selected volunteer can contribute to our mission in a meaningful and effective way. 

Stage 1: Application & Screening Call 
At the start of the of the process, volunteers are asked to fill in an application form, provide us with their CV and are scheduled into an initial screening call with our Volunteer Manager. 
During this call, our team assesses if the prospective volunteer has suitable skills and availability to support the internal projects and goals we are currently trying to achieve. If the volunteer has the right mindset, time available and a keen willingness to support our team, their application is passed, a tentative placement is offered, and they proceed to the next stage. 

Every volunteer is carefully selected to ensure each individual is matched with an area of need, and most importantly, safeguarding our children.

Stage 2: Vetting the Volunteer 
REACH’s vetting process in place to ensure the highest standards of child protection and overall well-being of the community. The welfare of the children we serve is always the top priority, and our organisation takes great care in selecting volunteers who align with our strict policies.  
Before a volunteer’s placement can be made official, they must submit a valid Working With Childrens Check or Police Clearance and agree to comply with our Child Protection Policy & Code of Conduct at all times. 
Once this has been acknowledged and we’ve received the clearances, we then ask for the following: 

  • Copy of their Passport 
  • Proof of Health or Travel insurance 
  • Flight details  
  • A donation of $450AUD that will directly support our programs 

A percentage of this monetary contribution goes towards to: 

  • Two-way airport transfers 
  • Pre-arrival assistance from our team with visa enquiries 
  • Recommendations and special rates for accommodation  
  • 2 REACH t-shirts and a branded drinking bottle 
  • Management of their placement and the sustainability of the NGO 

Cambodia charity work from our international volunteers. 

Volunteering Periods 
Ideally, we look for volunteers who can commit to at least 1 month in-country, but with a keen understanding of the diverse circumstances and availability of our supporters, our organisation recognises that not everyone can commit to long-term placements.  
With this in mind, if we can identify suitable areas in need of short-term support and suitable candidates are willing to commit to their assigned tasks, our team has the flexibility to accept individuals who can contribute their time in various capacities. 
This ensures that people with different schedules and commitments can still engage in meaningful volunteer work and make a positive impact.   

Commitment, transparency, compassion, open-mindedness, flexibility, sustainability are the values that REACH seeks in every volunteer.

A shared experience 

Behind every volunteer placement, our team diligently works to ensure a seamless and well-organised experience. We invest considerable effort in coordinating all the necessary logistics, carefully matching volunteers with suitable projects, briefing our local team, and preparing comprehensive orientation materials.  

With this focus, our team is committed to creating an environment where volunteers can fully immerse themselves in the chosen area, knowing that everything has been planned and arranged to be non-disruptive for our local team and ensuring to be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.  

From arranging accommodations and transportation to providing ongoing support throughout their placement, we strive to make the volunteer journey as smooth and rewarding as possible. Through this program, volunteers have the opportunity to witness firsthand the positive impact of REACH’s programs in the community, experiencing the transformative power of holistic support, education, and community empowerment in action. 

The Eakins family enjoying the beautiful Cambodia after volunteering at REACH Siem Reap.

Once selected to assist our team, volunteers have the opportunity to witness firsthand the positive impact of REACH’s programs, experiencing the transformative power of holistic support, education, and community empowerment in action. This exposure deepens their understanding of the unique challenges faced by impoverished communities and strengthens their commitment to making a difference. 

Moreover, the warmth and welcoming nature of the REACH team creates an environment where volunteers feel valued and supported. Past volunteers often express a strong desire to return, not just because of the meaningful work but also because of the tight-knit and inclusive community that has been fostered. The camaraderie and shared dedication to the cause make the volunteer experience at REACH truly special.  

To read the experience from one of our past volunteers, click here.  

Past volunteer Marlee during class observation.

We’re looking for interns! 

In addition to welcoming volunteers, the REACH team are now on the hunt for humanitarians interested in completing internships with us in Cambodia.  

We are looking for interns to help us develop specific areas and projects within our organisation.  

To qualify to intern you must be: 

  • Available for a minimum of 3 months, 5 days a week 
  • Pass our screening & vetting process 
  • At least 20 years of age 
  • Fluent in English or Khmer 
  • Be studying/commencing a career in a specific focus area relating to our NGO (marketing, program development, international aid, social work, education) 
  • Have great computer literacy skills and willing to bring own laptop 

Compassionate individuals, who share their time and skills, have helped our team improve and develop our integrated programs in a professional way. 

How does an internship differ from volunteering? 

Volunteers and interns both play crucial roles in REACH, but they have a few key differences.  

Internships are specifically designed for specific projects and require professional skills and development. They are more focused on providing work experience to university students and individuals seeking an inside look into the back-end operations of a grassroots NGO.  

Interns have the opportunity to be placed in a specific department to support with the development of a project, and while on site, will become an integral part of our team. They are onboarded as employees and are provided with access to our internal systems, allowing them to work closely with our dedicated staff.  

Cambodia volunteer trips have a powerful and positive impact when following an ethical approach. 

In exchange for their valuable contributions, our organisation is committed to providing recommendation letters and ensuring interns leave with valuable field experience to enhance their future endeavours. 

This hands-on experience ranges from creating educational resources and curriculum enhancements to conducting research and implementing sustainable initiatives for the optimum development of our programs. Helping our team trace a plan to develop the next stages of our programs is the perfect example of how interns gain practical skills, explore their interests, and make significant contributions to the ongoing work of the organisation.  

At the core of REACH’s mission, there is a deep belief in the potential and resilience of every family enrolled in our program.

What do interns receive? 

Internships have helped our team to have fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and specialised knowledge. This mutually beneficial exchange cultivates a collaborative environment where both the organisation and the interns can learn, grow, and contribute to the overarching mission of empowering impoverished Cambodian children and their families. 

In exchange for your valuable work and dedication, at the end of your internship, you will receive:  

  • Operational experience where both your work and the results are highly tangible and matter to the organisation. 
  • Certificate of internship  
  • Recommendation letter 
  • Work and field experience at a grassroots NGO  

At the core of REACH’s mission, there is a deep belief in the potential and resilience of every family enrolled in our program. Our team has the conviction that every child deserves a fair chance to thrive and succeed. Through the dedication of the REACH team, the tireless efforts of volunteers, and the unwavering support of our community of supporters, we have seen our students and families improve in 3 years, benefiting from our support.  

Cross-cultural experiences have proof to be beneficial for the students and international volunteers. 

Together, we can build a world where every child finds love, care, and the opportunity to create a brighter future. 

If you are interested in an internship opportunity with REACH, feel free to email our team at: info@reachsiemreap.org for more information on available projects and how to get involved.

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