It is important to partake in ethical travel when visiting countries such as Cambodia.
Cambodia is an increasingly popular tourist destination, with more than four million foreigners visiting the country each year, and over two million of those visiting the famous Angkor Wat Archaeological Park near Siem Reap.
Cambodia is a country still recuperating from the devastated Khmer Rouge regime, which saw the loss of two million citizens in the 1970s, followed by many years of civil war.
When you visit you are likely to feel the urge to help, and we hope these tips will help you maximise your positive impact and avoid any unintended negative consequences.
- Avoid participating in short-term voluntourism – Imagine that your children study with a different teacher every few days or every few weeks, with no curriculum or long term plan. They have different strangers coming and going from their lives, often with no consistency or preparation. We wouldn’t want a low quality education for our children, so let’s not give people in developing countries any less. Instead of volunteering, find a reputable NGO (such as Human and Hope Association) and donate to the salaries for qualified, local teachers instead. Or, if you would rather donate supplies, ask the NGO what they need and buy locally so as to support local businesses.
- Support social enterprises – Many NGOs run social enterprises in Cambodia, training people so that they have access to stable employment and fair wages. When you shop or dine at these enterprises, you are supporting the development of Cambodia and also these NGOs. It is a great way for you to be involved in the capacity building of these people whilst also getting some benefit, like beautiful, unique goods.
- Don’t take photos of people without permission – You would not like it if a stranger came up to you or your family and started taking photos without permission. So put yourself in another person’s shoes, and only take photos with permission of the subject, or, if they are a child, their parents’ permission. Also be conscious of portraying people with dignity and respect – a good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t want you or your children to be photographed that way, pass on the photo!
- Spend a few extra dollars on that massage/tour/trinket – Sure, that one-dollar massage may be enticing, however stop and think of how little the person giving it must be getting paid. By showing businesses that we are willing to pay higher prices for ethically operated businesses, they might just understand that a fair living wage for their staff is best for all involved.
- Don’t give money to street children – When you give money (or presents) to children, you are encouraging them to stay out of school and stay on the street. The children and their parents will see the benefit of receiving money then and now, as opposed to taking the time to be educated and have a stable, well-paying job in the future. This traps them in the poverty cycle, and your $1 ends up doing more harm than good.
Heading to Cambodia soon? We’d love to see your pics! Feel free to tag us on Instagram, especially if you visit one of our shops in Cambodia at Peace Café, Footprint Cafés, Very Berry, Soria Moria Boutique Hotel and Phare, the Cambodian Circus.