Siem Reap has been the most beautiful surprise of this trip. A surprise, because when we left the US, it wasn’t really on our radar. Beautiful, because of the temples, the town, and the amazing people who became friends during our visit.
One thing we’ve realized as we’ve traveled is that we want to do good. We’re having a great time bonding as a family but we also want to do something to make this great big beautiful world of ours a better place. Siem Reap, Cambodia was the perfect spot to do just that. About 20% of the population here lives below the poverty level and the repercussions of the Cambodian Civil War still linger.
If you plan to visit Siem Reap and want to help out, we’ve made a quick list of a few things you can do to benefit the wonderful people of Cambodia.
EAT FOR A CAUSE
There are some fantastic spots in Siem Reap that donate a portion of their proceeds to a good cause. In Kandal village, Vibe cafe serves up vegan smoothies, juices and food and donates vegan meals to Cambodian school kids. The Little Red Fox is a coffee house that serves wholesome food and is dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint (so rare in Asia)! Common Grounds is a gem with an American breakfast (hello cheesy omelet) and a commitment to help and train underprivileged residents to work towards a brighter future. Outside of Kandall Village, there’s Peace Cafe, a delicious vegetarian restaurant with a shop full of handmade crafts by Cambodian artisans. There’s also Marum restaurant, a training restaurant helping to empower locals. Each of these restaurants uses fresh, delicious ingredients, so you will feel good about what you’re putting in your body as well as the causes you’re supporting.
SUPPORT THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
All humans should have affordable access to health care. There is a severe lack of doctors and medical supplies across Cambodia, but you can help! Ben donated blood at the Angkor Children’s hospital one afternoon. Donating blood not your thing? A small financial donation here also goes a long way in helping children stay healthy.
DONATE YOUR TRAVEL GEAR
Donate to families in need. Liesel is growing like crazy so we’ve been refreshing her wardrobe bit by bit. We always donate the items she’s outgrown but we felt it was extra special to donate them here, where it went directly to our housekeeper’s family. We’ve also been carrying a spare camera for a couple months and were able to donate it to a local children’s program. The camera will be used by children who are exploring photography as a creative outlet! The goal is to one day let these children run photography tours of the temples around Siem Reap.
SEE A SHOW
The Phare Circus is a super fun way to support developing artists in the community. It’s kind of a Cambodian version of Cir Du Soliel, with local kids. Your ticket and concession purchases go directly to support free education and professional arts training for these children.
ONE TO AVOID
Volunteering at an orphanage sounds amazing but we’ve learned that they’re not always 100% legit. Many of the children who stay at orphanages are there because they were “recruited” away from their parents. The parents will go into debt to pay for their children to go to an orphanage (similar to a boarding school), but the orphanages have a pattern of violence, malnutrition and sexual abuse. The money paid goes to the owners and almost never to the kids or their education. If you have your heart set on volunteering, do your research, consider a local school, and make sure you ask a few trusted locals for their thoughts.
There are so many great opportunities to give back in Siem Reap! Where have you been lately that has a similar vibe? I’d love to know!