NGOs to Support in Cambodia

NGOs to Support in Cambodia

Cambodia is one of those places that absolutely broke my heart yet left me feeling so hopeful. Although the country has a catastrophically tragic past, I had a sense that the Khmer people try not to let it affect their spirits. I couldn’t help but reflect how my own nation would cope if our circumstances were the same. Would we have the same positive mindset and zest for life or would we falter? It’s hard to say. What I do know is that there are plenty of NGOs to support in Cambodia to continue to help the communities thrive.

If you aren’t well-versed on Cambodia’s tumultuous past, I’ll give you a brief synopsis.

Similar to Vietnam, Cambodian rebels formed an anti-establishment movement once citizens grew tired of French colonialism. Cambodia’s crusade didn’t really make any waves throughout society until around 1970 when Khmer Rouge supporters began a widespread insurgency against the government. For years, the murderous leader Pol Pot and his henchmen continued to force support throughout Cambodia until they successfully overthrew the government in 1975.

The whole point of this was to create an agrarian utopia (or a self-sufficient society) under his totalitarian regime. In order to make this happen, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge guerrillas systematically eliminated anyone and anything that would help the country thrive in modern society. He figured the best way to go about doing this was to completely wipe out intellectuals and middle-class citizens — we’re talking scholars, teachers, bureaucrats, anyone who knew another language, etc. — and eradicate their loved ones along the way. He drove people out of cities into the countryside and abolished any semblance of modern society such as money, free markets and schools.

It is estimated that between April 1975 and January 1979, the Khmer Rouge murdered up to 2,000,000 Cambodians by way of starvation, torture and forced labor. After the defeat of the Khmer Rouge, tens of millions of landmines were placed throughout the nation and continue to claim lives and limbs of people to this day.

Not surprisingly, the result of three decades of civil war have greatly affected the country’s progress. Since the Pol Pot army killed most of Cambodia’s skilled workers, the country hasn’t been able to flourish as much as its neighbouring countries have in recent years. In fact, about 65.3 percent of Cambodians are under the age of 30!

While this post-conflict nation certainly has made some positive progress in recent years, Khmer people still struggle each day. One of the ways travelers can help boost Cambodia’s economy is by supporting businesses and organizations that directly benefit Khmer people. I did my best to give my money to NGOs in Cambodia when I could, and I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites for those of you who are interested in doing the same.

 

NGOs to support in Cambodia www.willfulandwildhearted.com

NGOs TO SUPPORT IN CAMBODIA

1. New Leaf Eatery

This quaint cafe is located just a short walk from the town’s infamous Pub Street and is certainly not to be missed. It’s a perfect place to cool down after walking around in the extreme Cambodian heat for several hours. As soon as I sat down I was offered a cold washcloth that had been soaked in essential oils – talk about customer service!

NGOs to support in Cambodia

The mantra of this organization is simple: education empowers people and has potential to drive out poverty as a result. If you agree, definitely pay this spot a visit. Not only do 100 percent of the proceeds go toward educational efforts in the province, but the food and drink are incredible! The cafe offers international fare as well as traditional Khmer food, sells handmade goods by local artists and includes a used book section. Any purchases made are placed inside a cute, homemade bag made of recycled newspaper. The environmentally-conscious not-for-profit does what it can to make our world a little greener. New Leaf Eatery uses bio-degradable packaging, all drinks are served using bamboo straws, no paper towels are used, all food is locally sourced and all of the cooking oil is donated to Naga Biofuels.

I popped in here at a really convenient time in my life. I was bummed out about my e-reader breaking earlier that day, so you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered New Leaf Eatery also serves as a used book shop. I purchased Ready Player One, which quickly became one of my favorites.

In my opinion, New Leaf Eatery is definitely one of the best NGOs to support in Cambodia!

Location: 306 Phum Mondul, | 1 Svay Dungkum, Siem Reap District, Cambodia

 

2. Vimean Beauty Salon

Okay, guys. I’m super particular about who cuts my hair. Resorting to such services in Korea was mildly traumatizing and always left me incredibly disappointed. When I arrived in Siem Reap, I decided it was time for a chop. I spent about an hour researching salons that were not only reasonably priced but also well-reviewed. This is when I came across Vimean Beauty Salon, a shop run by former sex trafficking victims finding their freedom by helping other women. Now, this was perfect for my quest to find as many NGOs to support in Cambodia as I could.

NGOs to support in Cambodia

So, I planned an afternoon of pampering for myself, but unfortunately when I got to Vimean Beauty Salon I discovered it was CLOSED due to a public holiday. Womp, womp. Disappointed, I stupidly walked into some random barber shop and got one of the worst haircuts of my life. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

If you find yourself in Siem Reap anytime soon, want to get a fresh haircut and leave with a happy heart, this could be a great choice.

Location: #560, Mondol 1 Village, Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap District, Cambodia

 

3. Friends the Restaurant

If you’re keen to lend a few dollars to a good cause, this is certainly one of the top NGOs to support in Cambodia! Run in tandem with the Friends International NGO, Friends the Restaurant is a wonderful spot doing what it can to give back. While the organization has several locations in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, this particular restaurant in Phnom Penh is the only one of its kind. Its menu includes an array of mouth-watering tapas from Western and Khmer influence as well as delicious daiquiris and desserts.

NGOs to support in Cambodia www.willfulandwildhearted.com

 

If you aren’t aware of the efforts of Friends International, the organization reaches out to youth and their families who are struggling to get by. The group focuses on helping the at-risk children by sending them to school and/or training them in a variety of skills that are aimed to help them thrive in the day-to-day. The goal is to bring families together and give the children something to look forward to.

Location: #215 Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 

4. Sugar ‘n Spice Cafe

Operated under Daughters of Cambodia, this cafe serves as a safe haven for women who were formally involved in Cambodia’s sex industry against their will. While socio-economic factors play a major role in the nation’s human trafficking horrors, one of the primary setbacks for women who leave the industry is the fact that they’re rejected by their communities and have zero support.

Daughters of Cambodia offers not only financial but emotional support for women in its two-step program. Once accepted, the women are given counselling for their trauma, medical support and are provided with liveable wages. The catch? None of the women are sought out. They arrive on their own accord. As a result, very few women in the program return to the industry.

NGOs to support in Cambodia

I can’t speak for the entire menu, but judging by the quality of my eggs florentine, I think it’s safe to say this place is worth paying a visit. As I’ve mentioned before, be sure to order the cafe’s famous chocolate fudge brownie. I think about that brownie on a bi-weekly basis.

Location:  #321, Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Being a mindful traveler is something that is important to me and I hope others feel the same. If you found this post helpful or know someone who is heading to Cambodia themselves, share the love, please!

Do you have stories or suggestions regarding NGOs to support in Cambodia? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below.

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42 Comments

  1. July 6, 2016 / 6:02 am

    These are awesome! I only new about Daughters of Cambodia and Friends n Stuff when we were there! It’s so nice to see more places like this pop up trying to help the locals and community. We dined at the Friends N Stuff restaurant and it was incredible. I really wish we knew about the other places when we were visiting. Thanks for sharing!

    • July 7, 2016 / 3:31 am

      Yeah girl! I wish you could have too but hopefully there are other opportunities in the future. There will be so many in Indonesia and wherever else you’re about to be going, so it’s a wonderful thing. Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. July 6, 2016 / 4:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Your post is very informative. I didn’t about most of them — so really glad to find out about it today. Definitely would love to try the salon though.

    • July 7, 2016 / 3:28 am

      I’m so sad that I missed the salon! If I ever go back I hope it’s still open! Thanks for your support!

  3. July 6, 2016 / 7:33 pm

    I really love this post. I fell in love with Cambodia when I visited and I was especially moved by the tragic history that the people of Cambodian have had to face. Still, their spirits have not been crushed which really says something about the culture. It;s nice to be made aware of Cambodian businesses that are helping their own people.

    Great post!

    • July 7, 2016 / 3:29 am

      Thank you so much! I agree – it was eye and heart opening to see how strong the people are. I think its country has been pushed aside and on the back burner, which has to be frustrating for them. At any rate, one of my favorite countries for sure. So much history – good and bad and the people were lovely. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

  4. July 6, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    This is a wonderful share! I love seeing places like this around the world because it gives me a little hope for humanity in a world driven by greed and corruption. Truthfully, your article has actually given me the desire to seek out more places like these. 😀

    • July 7, 2016 / 3:28 am

      That was my aim, so I’m glad to have reached it! I really think it’s important to be a mindful traveler, so any time I can encourage others to do the same is a great day. I love places like this as well – it makes me feel better about where my money is actually going. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

  5. July 6, 2016 / 9:09 pm

    Wow this is a really great article. Thank you for the history lesson on Cambodia; I had no idea the extent of it. Would you mind if I shared your post on my Twitter?

    • July 7, 2016 / 3:23 am

      Thanks for reading! Of course I don’t mind. Thanks for your support – I think it’s so important to be mindful while we travel and understand the implications of our actions. I’m always trying to encourage others to travel responsibly, too.

  6. July 6, 2016 / 9:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I didn’t know about this until now. Will share this with my friends who are traveling to Cambodia soon.

    • July 7, 2016 / 3:26 am

      Thanks so much, Shoba! I think your friends will really like them! They’re all centrally-located and reasonably priced. Thank you for your support and for reading!

  7. July 7, 2016 / 3:20 am

    The Cambodian statistics are staggering! 2 million deaths within the 1970s and 65% of the population is under thirty wow! You’ve shed some light here for readers all over the world. Pinning this post because these are all the types of organizations I would love to support.

    • July 7, 2016 / 3:24 am

      It’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? If you like books, I suggest reading At First They Killed My Father – it’s horrific but important to know. Thanks so much for reading and spreading the word. Us like-minded travelers gotta support one another!

  8. July 7, 2016 / 5:47 am

    Thank you for this information. It’s great to know about these places that are contributing to help the Cambodian people. And even better if we can get some tasty food there too!

    • July 7, 2016 / 2:03 pm

      You’re welcome! Thank YOU for reading! I couldn’t agree more – a win-win situation!

  9. July 7, 2016 / 6:18 am

    I knew about the history of Cambodia, but not of these NGOs. This post is a prime example on how traveling can enlighten people about the world. As you said, being a mindful traveler is very important. Thank you for sharing.

    • July 7, 2016 / 2:02 pm

      Thanks so much! I am always very conscious on my global footprint, which is why I was definitely really happy to come across these places. Thanks so much for reading!

  10. July 7, 2016 / 9:37 am

    Cambodia is definitely on my top 10 lists of countries to visit. Your article just confirmed that!

    • July 7, 2016 / 2:01 pm

      Awesome!! I really hope you can visit as soon as possible.

  11. July 7, 2016 / 9:43 am

    What a wonderful post. The Cambodian people look so happy and friendly but they suffered so much under Pol Pot. When I visit I’ll be proud to support such initiatives to help them build a better and safer future. Excellent example of responsible tourism,

    • July 7, 2016 / 2:00 pm

      Thank you so much! Yes, they suffered an insane amount of trauma. Everyone there knows someone who was affected to some degree. I shook hands with a survivor at the Killing Fields and couldn’t hold back the tears. It’s seriously a wonderful country to visit. I really hope you can get to check out some of them while you’re there, if not all of them!

  12. July 7, 2016 / 10:33 am

    Thanks for sharing Laura – couldn’t agree more that it is important to be a mindful traveller. It’s important to highlight issues and efforts like this! 🙂

    • July 7, 2016 / 2:04 pm

      Thanks so much! It’s super important for me, which is why I’m always on a quest to be as mindful as possible when I’m on the road. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insight!

  13. July 7, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    Such a fantastic post, I love that you’ve put this together. I’ve spent a month in Cambodia two years ago, and I agree it’s so important to be mindful when travelling, great work, really well written piece.

    • July 7, 2016 / 5:53 pm

      Thanks so much, Aimee! I really appreciate it!

  14. July 8, 2016 / 2:37 am

    You can also add the water well project and several other projects supported by the Mad Monkey hostel. They do a lot of good work. We joined one of their projects once.

    • July 8, 2016 / 12:41 pm

      Thanks so much for the input! I wish I’d heard of these while I was there. I love that a hostel as prevalent in the country as Mad Monkey is doing great things. Thanks for reading!

  15. July 8, 2016 / 2:51 am

    Thanks for all the background and information! I havent been to Cambodia but is always good to find this information to be prepared for that day!

    • July 8, 2016 / 12:41 pm

      I hope you can go someday! Thanks so much for reading!

  16. July 8, 2016 / 6:36 am

    Amazing stuff, Laura! It’s really refreshing seeing people traveling and really striving to help others and make a difference in the lives of people who need the support. I applaud your humanitarian efforts, and I truly enjoyed reading this blog post. Keep changing the world!

    • July 8, 2016 / 12:45 pm

      Thanks so much, Matthew! I appreciate your support!

  17. July 8, 2016 / 7:05 am

    Here’s to putting our differences aside. 🙂 I think this is a great post highlighting the difficulties of Cambodia and what we can do as tourists to help them. Their past is much like the Holocaust and definitely one overlooked by the rest of the world. If I ever trek to Cambodia, I’d like to get my hair cut at the Vimean Beauty Salon.

  18. July 8, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    Your posts always tug at the heart. I love this post. There’s no immediate plan for us to visit Cambodia but I would be sharing this post. Thanks, Laura.

    • July 8, 2016 / 3:13 pm

      Thanks, Wendy! I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for reading as well as your kind words.

  19. July 9, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    A very informative post. I will keep it in mind and on Pinterest for when I travel in Cambodia next winter. Thanks for caring and sharing!

  20. July 10, 2016 / 12:48 am

    This is such worthy information to share! Everyone needs to eat, drink and get their wig snipped so we may as well do it while giving something back. I’m so clueless about history and I actually didn’t know the story behind Cambodia’s past! I’ve saw so many pictures of the killing fields and knew that they had come through a horrendous time, but I didn’t know why exactly. So thanks for filling me in!! Hope this post can help people make an educated choice about things they can do to help out ln their next trip to Cambodia! 🙂

  21. John
    July 10, 2016 / 9:18 am

    Thanks for writing this post. I plan on going to Cambodia soon so I’ll definitely try to find some of these places.

  22. Sean Keogh
    July 11, 2016 / 1:41 am

    I visited Cambodia 2 years ago. I knew nothing about their tragic history before I went there. The genocide museum and Killing Fields broke my heart too.

  23. July 12, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Again, thank you for setting your post with all the history (best summarized) to give you readers some context. I think that’s what I find extremely lacking in most travel blogs because bloggers are more concerned about readability as they are about thoroughness. This is so amazing and I wish I could be in Cambodia again to support all these goodwill ventures but you are pushing me to start searching for NGOs to support here in Vietnam. I am going to feature this link in my Best of June post! You are so incredible babes <3

  24. November 23, 2016 / 3:43 am

    This is such a great guide. I hope I can check out all of these spots one day! I’m also so glad that you took the time to share a bit of history. It’s so important to understand a country’s history to truly understand its people and culture.

  25. May 12, 2017 / 3:32 am

    What a great list! I was really disappointed that I didn’t search out as many NGOs the last time I was in SE Asia, but I will be sure to look these up when I’m in Cambodia this fall. I also loved the historical recap. It’s absolutely horrendous and I was amazed at how little I knew about the Khmer Rouge before my trip there. It’s great to educate people.

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