This blog post is part of a two-part series sharing some perspectives and experiences of Dork Silong, a Cambodian who has grown up surrounded by NGO culture.
My name is Dork Silong, I am a Cambodian educator and tour guide with a passion for helping people. I was born in a rural area near the border with Thailand. My father was an intellectual who somehow survived the Khmer Rouge. In a different context he probably could have got a high-level job but because of the situation of those years he ended up as just a farmer. However he always instilled in me from a very young age that education is the solution to poverty. I knew that if I wanted to be anything other than a farmer then I had to study very hard – I did that and I did very well at school. I was taught English by monks and within a couple of years I was teaching English myself at the monks’ school.
However when it came to university my parents had no money to support me, so I moved to Siem Reap town where I could work and study at the same time. I chose Education as my major as I knew that education had already changed my life and I wanted to help ensure that everyone in Cambodia had the same kind of opportunity. I honestly believe it is the only way to help my country. People think that success means to have a lot of money or political power, but I feel at my most successful when I am in a classroom helping a kid to be a better critical thinker. Creating a new generation of bright and compassionate leaders is what success means to me.
I worked for one year in low-level tourism jobs, starting as a bellboy, but after that I went back to teaching. My degree was in “Education and Curriculum Writing” which not a lot of people studied, and I found that my skills were in high demand. As soon as I graduated there were many private schools and NGOs contacting me asking for my services, as they all wanted a cohesive English curriculum. Some of them offered to pay me but when it was just for my friends I wrote them curricula for free.
Many of my friends, who were my classmates at university, came from the eastern part of Siem Reap. What I have come to know is that in this area, everyone dreams of owning an NGO, because it is seen as the best way to get rich. So when they left university, many of these friends started their own NGO immediately – but as they had no idea about how to set up a school and write a curriculum and everything, they had to involve me. I was happy to help them as I thought children would benefit from it. Inevitably, after I had written a curriculum, I was asked to help with the marketing for the NGO too, as it was something else that my friends had no idea about and that required good English skills. So they all came back to me asking for my help again.
My friends said that we needed to do fundraising in order for the NGOs to start running. I had been on a training course run by an Australian mentoring program that walked us through how to write a convincing fundraising proposal, and again I was happy to use my skills to help my friends. I had thought I was doing it for the benefit of the community. But something that one of my friends said to me really challenged that idea. He basically said: “If you write this proposal for me I will give you 30 percent of the money.” I was shocked, and asked him: “Aren’t you helping people with this money?” and his response was: “Yes, but I am also helping myself. I will get rich from this.” I told him that I thought it was the wrong way to think, that if he wanted to get rich he should start a business not an NGO – NGO work should come from the heart! At that time I started to question myself and all these projects I had been involved in.
The more I learned about what was really going on with these projects the worse I found it to be. For example many of these English classes were run entirely with volunteers as teachers – they don’t get paid anything except for maybe some travel expenses. But in the budgets sent to donors they all have funded salaries! What is more, all the NGOs were desperate to propose some kind of building project – they wanted to build a school, a library, a toilet block. But the reason for that is just that you can get a lot of money for building projects and it is easy to keep most of that money in your pocket. For example, a local-style building in Cambodia costs about $5-6000 to build, but in the proposal they will write it in as at least $10,000. There is no kind of accountability at all. Many people say they are going to build a school but when I see the design it looks more like a house. When I ask them why it looks like that the answer is that the NGO will only last for a few years, and when it closes down they will have the land, they will have the building and they can use it as their house. Really it is just a way for those people to get someone else to build their house for them.
I honestly don’t know why donors agree to build buildings with their money. When I look back I wonder if one of the problems was that donors were actually interested in the curriculum I had written, and that kind of legitimised the whole thing and convinced them the project was worth it. I worry that I did the wrong thing, and supported something that was fake.
I can honestly tell you that in that area of east Siem Reap, all the parents are looking to marry their children to someone who owns an NGO. If you ask them why, they’ll say because it means they are a rich person. The parents won’t even know that the idea of an NGO is to help people, to them it is just code to mean someone who has money.
I am not trying to say that all NGOs are bad, not at all. I have worked with a lot of NGOs all around Cambodia – working to support the elections, working in human rights, working to stop domestic violence – and many of them do a good job and cooperate with the government. In fact I have only seen this kind of obsession with founding NGOs to make money in Siem Reap – and the big reason for that is that there are lots of tourists in Siem Reap, who can be easily convinced to part with money if it looks like a good cause.
The fake NGOs are very good at making statistics that seem to show they are doing good work. Like for example if they work in agriculture, they might have a nice glossy brochure showing the number of farmers that attended a training, the number of people that came to a meeting and the money that was spent – all the information clearly laid out. But I am always left asking: “What are the results?” These NGOs don’t do any kind of impact assessment. The NGOs will be able to tell you about a lot of input and a lot of processes, but if you ask about the impact it is basically zero.
It generally works out well for the volunteers that come to support these organisations. The NGO owners are happy because they make their money, the volunteers are happy because they have a nice experience and get some nice pictures for their Instagram. But no-one actually cares if any good was done as result. It is really sad because the victim in the story is the children in those schools. People who are involved in this are stealing my people’s future.
For example, if you are driving a motorbike and you don’t do it well you will fall down instantly and hurt yourself, and everyone will know about it because they can see with their eyes. But education is not like that. If you don’t care about the kids in your school you won’t see them get hurt on the day you teach them. But you are hurting their future – you cannot see it immediately but the effect is just as bad. That’s why I am so frustrated with people who start schools because it seems like easy money – they are slowly killing their students.
Most of the people involved in these schools are completely unqualified. They have no background in education, they treat it like a business. And the teachers that volunteer to run the classes are not qualified. So the teachers plays games with the students and have fun with them, but may not teach them anything. I saw one school near my house that was operating for three years with the same kids and they only ever taught them two books! It was like the children got to learn how to count from one to ten but never got to count beyond that. They must have been so bored and annoyed with those two books. I worry that this will kill the critical thinking capacity of the children and kill their passion for learning.
All the NGO schools teach only two subjects – English and Computing. This is partly because Siem Reap is a tourist hub and everyone thinks that these two subjects will get you a job. But also partly because there is a free supply of English teachers in the form of foreign volunteers. Nowadays some of them offer Chinese too for the same reasons. When an NGO school gets very successful with its fundraising it might start to give out more things for free, like clothes, food or school materials, and then the students prefer to go to that school and spend less time in the government school which teaches all their other subjects, like Maths or Khmer language.
This idea of getting handouts at school is influenced by tourism. Whenever I see tourists getting involved in these projects they ask the same question: “What can I bring?” And of course the owners ask for the same things – buy us books, buy us pens, donate computers, throw us a party. All the schools ask for the same things because they all copy each other.
This problem with handouts extends to other type of volunteer projects too, like house-building, which is a topic we will explore in the next blog post.
Dork Silong is an educator, tour guide and previous NGO worker who lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He is passionate about education as a force for social transformation and doing good effectively. He works as a freelance guide for educational travel company Ayana Journeys. In his free time he enjoys fishing, biking, reading, photography, and he is always up for learning a new skill. The featured image shows Silong in a rural village in Cambodia.
Wow, that was brilliant and so thought-provoking. Thank you for writing this, and good on you for studying curriculum writing! It is so important and often overlooked.
Thanks Emma, It is my pleasure to share it as a local perspective.
Well expressed Silong, my friend. I hope you continue on your path to reach your goals
I always love to share about my country not only the pro but also con. Thanks Mike.
I met Silong in Cambodia as our tour guide. His passion for education to tourists about the history of Cambodia and his views on the future education of Cambodian children is inspiring. Silong mentioned that he also volunteers time to help people impacted by landmines left from the Cambodian civil war. It was absolute pleasure to meet Silong.
Hi Bill, Thanks for reading the article. we had a lot of fun together while you were here. I always love to share what is a local perspective is. we together can do something for our world we are living in.
Such a well-written piece. Thank you for shedding light on this issue. I didn’t know there’s such a dark side to tourism and volunteerism. The fake NGO owners are obviously lining their pockets with the $ donated.
What I don’t understand is what you meant by ‘Singaporean actor is asked to sponsor the building of school in return for $100, 000 a year? Sponsor as in? What work did he do?
Pretty sure the actor is forking out the money to sponsor his friend’s school. Not getting money. But he gets good press for being “heavily” involved in charity work, without even realizing he’s supporting a scam.
Very nicely written! I play with children all day, but then I am an Early Childhood Education teacher, my kids are 3-5 years. They learn English because I speak with them, I try to teach them fundamental learning skills. I am lucky my collegues want to learn from me, but the school doesn’t. They have money (they bought a statue to worship) but they do not spend it on educational toys, books or a good curriculum. Most of my foreign collegues are everything else than teachers or educators.
Really nice to read what you have expressed here Niroan. Thanks for sharing your experience of a deeply cultural practice here – we always care about our own beliefs without questioning “Why?” Anyways we an are old nation but still young. We are hopeful that things are slowly improving. Thank you for believing in Education.
I’ve been working along with many “real NGOs” and to me some of his statements are true and some are not. You can’t compared the ngos that were established to make real changes in the local community to the money hangry ones. There are a few of those fake ones I that I know and they needed to be stopped. As many of you know that Cambodia is a very poor country and many are unable to do anything on their own because of lacks of education and financial resources, so to be able to receive a house that’s a life changing that they can never dreamed of able to do on their own. If you are a serious person that want to make a real change, associate yourself with the actual places and not the grassroots and family run NGOS. Volunteerism is one of the best thing happen in Siem Reap and shouldn’t be destroyed by a few greedy individuals.
Totally respect your thoughts in sharing that comment. I believe the same thing that you do, that the money-hungry NGOs should be stopped and the good ones can keep doing their amazing job.
Sadly Siem Reap province is the second poorest province of the country. Could it be because of the fast development of the tourism industry here that local people have not adapted to it easily? We don’t have much money but we have a lot of love and happiness, and we do need education for our future.
When a doctor does an operation on the patient, it hurts the patient but the doctor’s intention is to help. I understand that my article is maybe exposing too much harsh reality and that not many people mention it publicly like this, but my intention is to share my perspective as a local person living here. The situation I describe is real here. I just wanted to offer my perspective to give some tips to volunteers, to think before they get involved with something.
We will post the second article soon. Hope you will join us here again and offer more comments!
Anyways, thanks for your thoughts.
Dear Silong, Roeun,
Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts, Silong. And Roeun, for sharing your counterpoint, of which is also relevant because both of you are right. There are good NGOs, and there are unscrupulous people who have started NGOs for purposes less than nobel, or perhaps even started with a nobel cause but allowed the lure of wealth through unethical /dishonest means led them off the mark.
I am based in Singapore and have been involved in NGO collaboration and training volunteers who lead volunteer teams to serve communities internationally since 2002. Our leaders collaborate with NGOs that you mention of, Reoun. And we have also warned them to do due diligence before confirming their wish to work in partnership with NGOs in case they end up working with those you mention of, Silong.
Because our leaders handover their partnership to future teams to continue the collaboration, the issues you have spoken of here, Silong, is particularly helpful. That’s because many leaders go to serve in honesty and sincerity. And that outlook blinds them to the dubious NGOs. So reading your words reinforces the need for tighter vigilance and shrewness.
Thank you once again for being candid to enable a better future for both the communities and our volunteers.
This is amazing! What an intelligent and thoughtful person! This is the first time Ive read a critique of what goes on in Siem Reap from the perspective of a Khmer…and one that sees through it all so clearly. As an expat, Ive been appalled at some of the stories Ive heard from volunteers that have come here wanting to help, but are basically getting ripped off. One very bad example was a person who paid thousands of dollars upfront to volunteer in a school to have the school say they are on holidays for the whole time the person was here. The construction projects are also a problem, as if they really cared about helping the local community, they would help Khmers learn new building techniques, donate some tools, teach new skills and educate on health and safety. Instead, unqualified and untrained foreigners pay to build houses, taking away useful work and learning opportunities from Khmers. It feels good for the volunteer, the NGO makes a profit, someone gets a house…but the community barely benefits. You are exactly right about what you are saying and well done for being brave enough to tell the truth.
Thanks Natalie for your supportive ideas. It is my pleasure as a local living here to share my perspective. Together we always can share and learn from each other to work out what is right. If we try to remain ignorant about something negative like this, it is like we are supporting it to happen. I won’t ignore it – I love to share the reality.
I am ending my first visit to Cambodia today. I am. In Phnom Penh.
I have been invited to Phnom Penh to bring the study skills development programme that I have been offering in Singapore, where I live.
I am glad you wrote about this. It helps me to be alert to the types of NGO that are operating in Cambodia.
It is my pleasure to share it. I am really happy to hear that you now have some more ideas about this tricky topic of NGOs.
Thanks for the good read, Si Long. Seems unfortunate that the government requires registration of NGO’s but provides little to no oversight after that happens. Is it possible that the good NGO’s could work with government to help police the industry?
Failing that, ”Learning Service” is playing an important role in getting the word out on responsible/ethical tourism and hopefully that will help control how much the bad NGO’s can get away with. Keep up the good work – so much left to be done by all of us to ensure that what goes on is empowerment and not dis-empowerment,
Thanks so much for this comment Rick. Claire here from Learning Service – really appreciate your recognition of the work we do! If you don’t already, please follow us on Facebook (or Insta or Twitter) as we are always posting about these issues there!
I am so happy to hear from you. Of course in Siem Reap now, it is much easier to register as an NGO than anything else, I don’t understand why too. I think it is possible for good NGOs to report to the government to complain about any NGOs that don’t work well, but the problem is my government is still not putting NGOs as a priority for politics. The government seems to be waking up, but really slowly. Hopefully, we can do something to push them.
Again, I am so happy to hear from you Rick.
Thanks for sharing your story Silong.i really enjoyed reading it and your perspective. I hadnt realised this was an issue. I met you last November when you came out with us to Sna sang Kream i think it was. And we played the monk and the ghost game to try and help us work as a team. I loved my time in Cambodia, it was way too short though and i am hoping to come back soon and wanted to volunteer at a school so i will need to make sure i research first. Thanks again
Thanks for reading the article. It is my pleasure to share it as a local living here too. Yes i remember you. I had a lot of fun with you and everyone. Welcome back one day soon.
I so agree with your thinking! Im saying that as a former volunteer and soon to be qualified teacher!
It is my pleasure to share it as a local living here. Hope you will read part two of my article, which has just been published!
Nicely said my friend. I am an expat working already here for 11 years and saw a lot this that you mentions. Sad but true. Great to read from a local’s perspective. I have big hopes for Cambodia
Thanks sir for reading my article. It is my pleasure to share it as a local living here too. I don’t want to see someone come here with their good heart and have a bad experience that can jeopardize their future amazing work in any community in the world. I hope this offers some tips for good people to think before they get involved with anything.
Dear Silong, thank you for your valuable insights. As one who oversaw an International NGO here in Cambodia, I share your concerns and so appreciate your heart to inform and educate others and the approach you have take. Just wondering if I can contact you directly as I am based in PP and would be interested to learn more from your perspective on curriculum development.
Thanks for reading the article. yes of course i am really happy to share what i have learned and experienced so far in my community here in Siem Reap about education, especially curriculum development.
An excellent read Silong and interesting to hear it from a Khmer perspective.
I have volunteered in Siem Reap during my holidays for the past 10 years but I work with an NGO that shares your values and really does work on a correct and relevant curriculum. The staff are all very caring and really want to improve the kids lives. There are no big cars and no big salaries. It really is an honour to be associated with it.
Thank you for writing this and I look forward to reading the next one.
Thanks Marianne for reading the article. yes it is my pleasure to share it as a local living here. Good to hear that you had a good experience with a good place here. The second part is already online now, hope you like it!
As an elementary school teacher who has been traveling to Cambodia and volunteering in other areas -to actually teach and make an impact, one must be in the classroom for at least three months, and I don’t want to teach on my time off – I could not agree more. It is entirely too easy to open an NGO in Cambodia, particularly Siem Reap because of the tourism. As stated in the article, there are too many entities producing too little in the way of outcomes and impact
Thanks Leigh for your supportive ideas. Sadly now it is even easier to register a school or NGO here in Siem Reap. I don’t understand why too. Hopefully my article can give some tips to good people that want to make change through community work.
Excellently stated. I am an elementary school teacher who has been traveling to Cambodia since 2010. Since that time, I have seen much amazing work being done that benefits Cambodians. At the same time, I have been saddened to see “self promoting/self serving” entities claiming to be NGO’s. It is entirely too easy to establish an NGO in Cambodia. Due, in large part to the high number of tourists coming briefly through Siem Reap to visit the UNESCO temples, far too many entities who call themselves NGO’s are asking for too much money and delivering way too little – if any at all – tangible beneficial impact. Excellent Article, Dork!
It is my pleasure to share my perspective as a local living here. I would shut down the money hungry NGOs today if I could. The good ones can keep doing their amazing work. I still have a big hope that one day my government will do something about this.
Hi Silong, thank you for sharing this side of the story. I am from Singapore and we do have many initiatives that seem like they are helping the people in Cambodia. The donors and volunteers do want to do good and make a real difference. Most of the time, it’s just based on trust. Looks like the trust might have been misplaced. How then can we verify if a certain fundraising activity or a certain project is legit?
Hi June – Claire here from Learning Service. I am sure that Silong will also reply to you in time, but just to say from our side that we published a book that includes guidance on how to choose ethical organizations (see here: https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Service-essential-volunteering-abroad/dp/1912157063/) There is also another blog post on here where we share a tool for assessing organizations here: https://learningservice.info/new-tool-added-to-the-learning-service-library/
Thanks for bringing up this question of whether an organization or project is real or not real. As Claire mentioned about the learning service book, it is great. There are a lot of questions in there that you can think about before you get involved in any project, I highly recommend you to read it.
look like some of your local NGO are con artists..to con rich people money…rich people are so blind …they have money to set up their own foundation or trust to help people and hire people to run their foundation or trust…not need to set up NGO.
Anyway I still say thanks for reading my article. After the war my people really struggled to survive and fight for a better future. After that the UN came in and then a lot of NGOs also came in. They did great and a necessary job at this time. But now there are even more NGOs and they are growing like a mushroom. I don’t understand why???? When people don’t know what fundraising means or what the process is to do that. In the whole history of Cambodia we have never had to do fundraising. People from outside came and taught my people to do it and I am not sure what else they taught us. Maybe just to be so clever in taking advantage of of something and hiding behind it. Still say thanks for reading Law.
Dork Silong thank you so much for sharing this! You have written so well about this situation. I lived for 8 years in your beautiful country and have been honoured to work alongside some amazingly talented and passionate ate Khmer people. My ethos has always been what can I learn from the Khmer people and what can we do together. I am also a teacher and love giving my students the tools to excel in what they are talented in, to inspire them to reach higher and fulfill their potential. Please keep sharing this message it is not popular but so true.
Thanks R Saunders,
It is my pleasure to share my perspective as a local living here. Thanks for coming to my country. My second part is online now, please help to share it if you don’t mind.
Hi Silong, would love to connect to see what can be done. Love your heart for education.
Thanks for reading the article. Yes i am happy to connect with you too. Text me anytime you want.
Hi Silong, I have volunteered for an ngo that works in rural government primary schools in Battambang and Siem Reap. The program aims to mentor Khmer teachers , to give them the skills to improve their teaching practise and to share their skills then with the other teachers in their schools. They involve the community in improving the facilities in the school. I believe this is a good model as it is aiming to strengthen Cambodia through education and to render the NGO no longer necessary . They keep rigorous data to analysis ether strengths and weaknesses of the program.
Your program sounds really great to me, that it is helping to mentor Khmer teachers. Yes of course what I always suggest to my foreigner friends is to help with long term or sustainable projects. Thanks for your work here.
I’m from Malaysia and I also work with an NGO supporting education for Rohingya refugees. The article has super good points. I totally agree that whatever happens, the impact is what, at the end, matters to the beneficiaries: the children. Pretty sad to read the NGOs there are taking things for granted.
One question, I’m wondering. Why did you write different curriculum for different organizations? As they are all schools/education based, why didn’t you follow the standardized national curriculum?
thanks for reading my article.
For your question why I wrote different curricula for different NGOs and why I did not base it on the national one:
– The national one is really great, but every NGO has their own style and material that usually doesn’t look like an actual curriculum at all. Most of those schools are teaching English for free. When they get stuck because most students have failed the exam (sometimes because of that they even have no exams), or because the number of students decreases because the teacher is not qualified enough to pass on their knowledge, or the teacher has no motivation, or so on and so on – when they contact me to help, I have to be flexible around what they already have, like the series of books, the teachers and the number of students etc.
I am usually just the one called in to help to better their school program or curriculum. I can’t change anything. If I could make the changes I wanted, the students would have to change their books or start studying again from the beginning. Of course I also have to do a teacher training course to try to get the same standardized style of teaching and to help to guide the lesson plan and give teaching notes to them and also insert many other things to make their small program look like a real curriculum.
Most NGOs use different books and have a really mixture of teachers that have no teaching skills at all, but they usually have a good heart.
thank you for the beatifully write up article. And you really have a heart of gold! Im actually volunteering at a NGO in cambodia too, it would be great if we are able to get in touch to see what can be done better!
It is my pleasure to share it. Yes of course we can contact each other. Text me whenever you want. I would be happy for that.
This is brilliant, raw, and genuine. As the founder of the Golden Leaf Education Foundation (GLEF), a survivor of Cambodian genocide, and aCambodian-American, I share and agree with your sentiment, vision, and concerns. This is what is constantly on my mind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re brilliant!
I am so happy to share my perspective. We can always share our experience for the better future. Thanks for offering your supportive ideas.
This is a great post with an excellent firsthand view of voluntourism and the insidious nature of many (but not all) NGOs. Please keep this up, a lot of people need to look into whether their good intentions actually achieve to do any good and where that money goes!
Thanks for reading the article. I hope this article encourages volunteers to think first before they get involved with something.
great article! I worked in cambodia in 2006/2007 and felt in many ways the same as what you write here.
Thanks for reading the article. Sorry to hear that you felt in some way the same thing I mentioned in the post. That is the main reason why I shared my local perspective, for people to think first before they get involved with something.
Very descriptive events and thoughts provoking indeed.
I am an active donar for few years and this gave me another side of the story. Everything has two sides to it, and I still believe some kids out there will reap the benefits out of it.
Very well written Silong! Look forward to more articles from you
Thanks for reading the article. The second part is already online now, so you can read it and I will wait to hear from you again.
My friends and I are from Singapore and donating to a Siem Reap school. May I know the name of the school that you say get 100k from a singaporean actor as we want to check that it is not the same one that we have been helping. Thanks.
I wish I could tell you but I have to be careful and I have personal relationships to consider. I’m afraid I can only talk about it anonymously like this. I am really sorry. Text me if you want to talk more, I would be happy for that conversation.
I understand your concerns. May I know where can I text you privately please.
It’s insightful to hear from a local and your article is featured on mothership.sg too.
Hi Silong, I agree with you. I had same sentiment when I was in Cambodia last year. Are u talking about Sopheak who is sponsored by Singapore actor ?
He is dubious as I saw he owned huge office.
Hi Carmen – it’s Claire here from Learning Service. Just to say that we kept the blog post anonymous so as not to single out any person or organization, we just wanted to make the point that you need to do research and find out this kind of thing before you donate or volunteer. Hope you understand!
Thank you for writing this. This endless cycle of personal gratification and ground level corruption is something we have heard for years but not enough solid cases to latch on to. Stories like these and the Haiti Red Cross case are important to tell people that throwing money at poverty is not going to solve this. Keep doing what you are doing, and if you write a book I’ll buy it.
I wish I could tell you to give us more exposé about this fake NGO industry but I’m sure you would rather focus on your work instead. I hope some journalists can start working on this.
Great article on the dark side of scam NGO.
It so more harm then good.
Do contribute your core competency rather then looking good in your Instagram in fake volunteering.
The children future are harm in the process of these fake NGO.
Dear Silong, you voiced out something that has been bugging me for years! Some 12 years ago, I got to know someone who was then an undergraduate in one of our top local universities. He was involved in some Community Involvement Project in Cambodia, organised by the university and an NGO in Cambodia. He visited orphanage, built school etc. I thought it was very meaningful so I got the contacts of the NGO from him and went on a trip there with my family. After all, since the University worked with this NGO, it must be a trust-worthy one, I thought. We also brought along clothes, children’s toys etc for the poor village kids whom we would be meeting. The couple running the NGO met us. The wife is a local while the husband a Caucasian. They brought us around to visit the orphanage and even to a very poor village (which required us to cross a river) with houses infested by termites. While I got to do what I wanted (ie meeting the poor locals and gifting them), I was not feeling exactly very at peace. Reason being, the couple was well-heeled. They drove us around in their Lexus SUV. They lived in big house. According to them, running the NGO was their full-time job, yet I was wondering how they could be living such a well-endowed life, unless they were rich before, gave up their high-paying jobs to do this. I wasn’t sure, but was uncomfortable. I didn’t go on to find out if that NGO was one of those you mentioned, but the experience did in fact make me think twice about their real objectives.
Brilliant article! Thought-provoking and so well-written!
I had contributed towards a new school building that remains unfinished despite a donation of over USD 14,000 that was raised by a group of friends. I did wonder why.
I also volunteered to develop a curriculum and even go there to teach it and get feedback. The children are there, I have seen videos. But after your article I am wondering. Is there any way I could connect with you to learn more about what is going on in Siem Reap?
Silong, that was a brilliant read. It’s great to see someone value education, even against all odds. It’s not great where I’m at, but still I’m a firm believer of the importance of education.
I’m also a full-time writer, and that was perfectly written. Kudos!
Appreciate the alert. While subtle, there seems to be one school and one particular Singaporean Actor you are referring to. The article has gone viral in Singapore (including out in the media) and many donors have taken an active interest in the topic.
This is probably your intent and that of Learning Service since it is published on their site. Claire has also stamped her voice and the reputation of Learning Service in the many responses above. I reckon you have facts and evidences which can be called to verified if required. Otherwise, the implied allegation can be detrimental.
With particular interest to me is Carmen Wu’s question about Sopheak above as I am also a donor and would appreciate your clarification.
Please know that it wasn’t our intention to single out anyone – that’s why Silong cites many examples in his blog and cites them all anonymously. The message of the blog, which we hope is clear, is that you need to do research to verify that the places you donate to and volunteer at are legitimate. We wrote a whole book on this topic and also did not name specific individuals or organizations. If you have done due diligence on where you donations go and are satisfied that they are used effectively and responsibly, we encourage you to continue with your donations. Hope this helps,
Claire, Learning Service
I’d love to know what good volunteering looks like in Cambodia if I’m really looking to help. I love Cambodia and want to help and need an inside perspective like this to inform me what good I CAN do in Cambodia for the Khmer people, not myself. Thank you
Helpful info. Luckily I discovered your website by accident, and I’m grateful I did as I am interested in volunteering and need to research a bit more before I do. Thanks!