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children belong in families - community support in Treak, Cambodia (CW)

Location: Cambodia
Project type: community support
Price from: £1095.00 - details below

Volunteer with Treak Community Centre - help to create opportunities for local people to learn new skills, increase their own ability and self-confidence, towards enabling them to take control of their own futures.

Skills required

We work closely with the local people who manage this project, and they have identified their primary needs.

Many abilities and skills will be welcomed by this holistic community support project to help them deliver their wide range of programme activities - for example:
  • gardening enthusiasts, practical skills
  • artists / drama / musicians (for workshops and to help include these into the English lessons where appropriate)
  • health care professionals - for our basic health and hygiene programme - heavy restrictions preclude practising medicine
  • sport coaches - there is a football team that plays in the local NGO league at weekends
  • marketing, fundraising, proposal writing
  • business skills - for Treak Creations which provides work for women from the community
  • teaching and teaching assistants
  • life skills of all kinds will be welcomed
Basic requirements for all of the above: enthusiasm, flexibility, patience!

This project offers a responsible alternative to the volunteer who would like to work in childcare but is rightly concerned about the ethics of short term volunteer work abroad in an orphanage.

Main project details

Treak Community Centre is all about creating opportunities for local people, rather than dependency. The project is ongoing and works to help people learn new skills, also increasing their own abilities, self-confidence and feelings of self-worth in the hope that these attributes will enable them to take control of their own futures.  The education programmes at Treak enable local village people to obtain decent jobs, especially in the tourism industry in nearby Siem Reap.  These jobs are helping to break the cycle of poverty that runs across much of rural Cambodia.

Treak Community Centre operates the following programmes, all of which are free for the students:
  • School - focusing on teaching English, general studies and personal and social education (nearly 300 children)
  • Nursery -  kindergarten education for 120 children, especially for the poorest families, encouraging engagement in education 
  • Library - many families in the village don't own a single book and the children are hungry for the opportunity to read 
  • Community Support Programme - provides employment, training, and food for poor villagers
Though Treak's main activities are in providing education, as the centre operates in a poor village, they get people in real crisis coming to them for assistance: no money, no food, no baby milk, sickness, family bereavement etc. 
Treak offers help through their Community Support programme, of which the main components are the garden programme - showing how people with little or no land can grow food for their families, the sewing programme - providing work for women of the village through the newly established social enterprise Treak Creations, and the brick-making and recycling programme - used to build useful structures in the village including the school itself, toilets for every home and even complete houses.  Its most important function however is to enable people to receive help with dignity as anyone needing assistance pays for this through work on one of these community projects.  The project manager, Salin.,wants people to contribute in some way for the help they get by working at the centre etc. 
Daily Timetable    Monday to Friday 
Nursery classes 8.00 to 11.00 
English classes 8.00 to 11.00, (lunch break 11.00 to 1.00), then 1.00 to 4.00
Library 1.00 to 4.00 
Staff meetings held every Friday morning for staff and volunteers.
All teaching staff speak good English and will help with translation in the lessons. 

The school was on rented land with a 5 year lease due to expire in 2017.  After much fundraising they were able to buy some land directly behind the current site and they have built a completely new school on the land that has been bought.  This is now a permanent centre owned by TCC, built of bricks and concrete, including a school for the children which is especially important as the village doesn't have a government primary school.  The centre consists of a 2 storey block of rooms containing 4 classrooms, 2 nursery classes, a library, 2 offices, a meeting room and a seminar room for presentations and community meetings; there is also a skills centre, a playground and small sports area, and a small kitchen.  The school is being built by local people, including making their own bricks.

The new buildings will enable the school to improve and expand their education programmes, and they are also particularly keen to develop ways to help the women of the village, especially those with young children to look after.  

You can also volunteer on this project from home through our e-volunteer programme.  For more information about e-volunteering click here.


Treak village is about 4 kilometres to the south of Siem Reap town, which is the main tourism service town for the World Heritage site at Angkor Wat.  Though Siem Reap is pretty developed by Cambodian standards, if you make that 4 kilometre journey it is like travelling back in time 100 years.  Indeed, in many parts of the village, life goes on much as it has done for the past 1,000 years!  You can see wooden carts being pulled by cows, haystacks by people's houses where the straw from their rice fields is piled up, and pigs and hens and ducks and cows all living around and under the houses.  
People traditionally built their houses from whatever materials they could find and poor people's houses are still built in exactly the same way.  People who can afford to buy bricks and concrete are considered rich; poor houses are a single floor, about 6 metres by 4 metres, with a wooden frame and walls made of panels woven from grass and strips of bamboo.  The roofs are woven grass or palm leaves; if people can save up a bit of money they like to make a roof with corrugated metal sheets as these last much longer than the grass, which has to be replaced every 2 years or so.
The poorest people have no land and build little shelters out of whatever they can find: bamboo poles; bits of old tin; plastic bags; old tarpaulins; cardboard; grass; old bits of wood that other people have finished with etc.
Around 80% of the people in Cambodia live in the countryside.  Many people are farmers with a small rice field and a few animals; many are subsistence farmers who just grow enough for them and their families; many cannot even grow enough and their food runs out before the next rice crop is ready.  Increasingly, as the population steadily recovers, people find they have no land, or they have to divide up their land for their children.
There is no piped water supply in Treak village; all the water comes from wells and many families share wells.  The water has to be boiled or run through water filters before it is safe to drink but 30% of the families don't have water filters.
There is no sewage system in the village; people have simple collecting tanks next to their toilets that have to be emptied out.  50% of people have no toilet and have to use the forest.
There is no gas supply, there is no tarmac road; no one is connected to the telephone system.   
In parts of the village the only visible signs of modern life are mobile phones, televisions running off car batteries or the electricity supply, and a few motorbikes.  
Treak village is a very typical rural Cambodian village. Most people are subsistence farmers or fisherman; around half of the adults are illiterate, which is a direct consequence of the Khmer Rouge period when schools were closed, education was abandoned, and many teachers were killed or fled the country. At the end of the Khmer Rouge period in 1979 there were less than 10% of the teachers left.  Education continues to improve but it is still pretty basic and teachers' salaries are very low; this impacts on the standard of teaching, which is also often poor. There is still a shortage of teachers and school buildings so half of the children go to school in the morning and the other half go in the afternoon. The teachers have to teach the same lessons twice, starting at 7.00 in the morning and finishing at 5.00 in the afternoon, 6 days a week and all for about $80 - $100 per month.
There isn't a government primary school in Treak village.  The children have to attend one of the schools in the neighbouring villages.  Over 90% of children start primary school but many don't finish.  Only half of the children go on to start lower secondary school with only 18% of them going on to start senior high school.  The situation is much worse in the more rural areas that make up the majority of the country.  In addition, girls have much less chance of finishing school than boys and it's highly unlikely that a rural girl will complete her schooling.  
Treak village has 2,000 people living in 330 families.  Around 20% are on the official government poverty list which means they earn less than $1 per day.  30 families are classed as living in extreme poverty; this means that they have no land or job or savings or support from family members etc.  Families living in poverty find it very hard to afford to send their children to school so the children cannot get good jobs when they grow up and the cycle of poverty starts all over again.  There are good jobs within the tourism industry in nearby Siem Reap, though many are only for people who can speak & write English.

'There were so many highlights of my volunteer experience and it is difficult to pinpoint particular ones.  I think the best part overall was working with an incredible group of dedicated and hardworking teachers who give their all and make it the place it is.'  Volunteer, Sophie

Volunteer opportunities in this community support programme can involve health care, child care, teaching skills, sport, craft - and other experience will also be put to good use. Take a look at the list of needs, as identified by the project, near the top of this page. Work with local people and play your part in responsible volunteer projects abroad.

Minimum duration

minimum 4 weeks recommended - depending on your skills, shorter trips could be arranged.

Living Conditions

You will stay at a locally owned, family run guest house. A simple breakfast is included - simple and cheap lunch and dinner are available  onsite  from as little as $3.00 - however there are many local restaurants where you can eat for as little as $6.00

You will have your own basic private shower and WC with TV, fan and wifi. Air conditioning is available at an additional $4.00 per day

Alternative accomodation can be arranged at small hotels with air conditioning and a swimming pool and that added comfort you may need from an additional $200 per week.

Project costs

from £1095 for 4 weeks based on bed and breakfast, single guesthouse accommodation 

Please note sterling prices are an estimate based on the dollar prices below at an exchange rate of $1.20 to £1.00
Read about our costs and pricing policy here - watch an explanatory interview with programme director Sallie Grayson

Returning volunteers will receive a 25% reduction in project management and matching fees
Additional weeks are costed at a sliding reducing rate. Please ask for details.

Please note these costs are correct to the best of our knowledge but can only be confirmed at time of booking due to changes in transport and taxes outside our control.

Included: bed and breakfast guesthouse, airport transfers, full local orientation & child protection workshop, social event, local SIM card (not including data), project & placement liaison.
Your contribution will fund the work of the programme and purchase the materials you may need.

How your money is spent based on 4 weeks
$252  - direct costs in Cambodia (transfers, accommodation, orientation & child protection workshop information packs)
$350  - project management, liaison & supervision in Cambodia
$400  - project contribution in Cambodia
£260 - recruitment, matching & project development in UK

Not included: flights, insurance, visa costs, personal expenses such as phone calls, data packages for smartphones, medical expenses, daily transport to the project - this can be arranged during the matching process.

 If you or your friends and family wish to make further donations to this project please contact us at

Recommended reading has a great reading list

check out slideshare - youtube - our blog - facebook for volunteer interviews & project news

UN report on Residential care in Cambodia

An excellent guide to volunteering with children from Better care Network

Project gallery

Registered volunteers can learn about the local team for this project - LOG ON to learn more about this project and the local team we work with. Not registered yet? It's easy and free HERE!

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