Gap year traveller Sam recently booked onto our popular Cambodia Experience. Continuously voted 10/10 by past customers, we wanted to get behind the REAL reason everyone is head over heels for our 21 day trip. Over to Sam…
I recently booked onto Real Gap Experience’s Cambodia Experience. I had never been to Cambodia before so it was the perfect length (21 days) to explore the country and tick Angkor Wat off the bucket list at last! I was also really looking forward to embracing Asian cultures again (it has been YEARS since I went to Thailand!) and chill on the beaches of Sihanoukville for a few days. However the trip also included four days of volunteering in Siem Reap. I hadn't ever volunteered before and to be completely honest I wasn't really sure what to expect. However, as soon as the guides explained that we were going to help build a house for a local family, the whole group (including myself!) were eager to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in.
The morning of the first day was spent visiting a school that has been set up to give free education to the children in the local villages. Children of all ages attend the school, where they learn both English and Khmer. We were shown around and then placed in an English class where we were able to help the students with their English spelling and pronunciation. I had never taught before, however the children were really eager to learn and play games!
After lunch, it was time to meet the family that we would be building a house for over the following days. Rann and his wife Savonn were living with their five year old son in a small house that was rapidly collapsing and wasn't keeping them dry and warm in the wet season. Although Rann works as a construction worker, he doesn't make much money and without the help of volunteers and the NGO who provide all of the building materials, they wouldn't be able to afford to build a new house.
Before we were able to get stuck in with building the new house, we needed to tear down the current one, so we picked up our hammers and started to rip the building apart. Messy, but SO much fun!
The following morning it was time to start the big build. The whole group were excited and super motivated to do a good job for the family. We were given bamboo to strip and make smooth, which later became the frames for the walls. It took a couple of days to get all of the walls ready, as we had to attach banana leaves to the bamboo strips and make sure that they were secure enough to not let any rain in. Luckily the in-country guides were there to teach us how to attach them correctly and we soon got the hang of it.
As soon as the walls were finished, they were attached to the wooden framework of the new house that local builders helped to build. The house was then ready and the family could move in.
We were all there when Rann, Savonn and their son saw the house for the first time. I can honestly say, it was at that moment I truly understood why people need to volunteer. The looks on their faces were priceless and the sense of achievement that we felt was unbelievable. They were so grateful of all of our hard work and beyond excited to move in and start enjoying their new family home.
The whole of the Cambodia Experience was incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to quite a few places around the world, however Cambodia stole my heart. The 21 day trip flew by, and included everything from temples and nightlife, to beaches and culture. Plus the in-country team were AMAZING throughout the trip and really showed us the best of Cambodia.
However for me, the volunteering was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and I'm already planning to head back to Cambodia to do some more. Even if you've never volunteered before, make sure you get stuck in and give it a go – you certainly won't regret it!
If you’re feeling inspired by Sam’s travels and want to follow in her footsteps on the Cambodia Experience, head over to the trip page for more information and up to date prices.