Sustainable Cambodia
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Sustainable Cambodia, Inc.
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About Volunteering

Table of Contents

Living On-Site
Outside Communications & ATMs
Money & Banking
Staff Contacts
~ Click to watch the VIDEO ~

"A Day in the Life of an International Volunteer"


If you are interested in volunteering on-site in Cambodia, and you can spend 4 to 5 months or more there, you can be an integral part of the Sustainable Cambodia program. You will find the people of Cambodia to generally be very sweet and helpful, and you will especially grow to love and respect the villagers with whom we work. They are hard working people, who have very little in material possessions, but they have great courage and resiliency, and they have a deep desire to improve the quality of their children's lives. And you will fall in love with the children. They are amazing!

We’ve found that the volunteer program works better the longer the volunteer can commit. This is in part because it really takes a while for someone to get settled into the rural Cambodian area where we work, and it’s partly because we emphasize putting our financial resources into direct programs like water, agriculture, education, etc., so we only have one assistant staff member who can work directly on helping orient and organize the volunteers.

Sometimes, if someone has a great deal of experience in a particular very-needed field, and especially if they have had previous experience in a developing country, they can fit in for a shorter period of time. But as a general rule we have begun limiting volunteers to those who can stay onsite for at least 4 months, and 5-6 months is preferable.

The "Volunteer Documents" page in the Volunteering section includes a downloadable document – the SC Volunteer Guide - that will give you a great deal of additional information about volunteering. We also recommend that you click on some of the Volunteer Profiles to read what current and past volunteers have to say about the experience. When you have studied this information, if you still wish to volunteer, please complete the online Volunteer Application. We will try to respond within a week or so (we are all volunteers, many of us with "day jobs", so sometimes we are a bit slow in following up).

If you are able to volunteer, you will never forget this amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience, helping people change their lives!


The Villages

The current center of Sustainable Cambodia's projects is Pursat, a small town about 3.5 hours north of Phnom Penh. Pursat has a population of approximately 60,000, with a central market and several blocks of businesses at its core (the infrastructure looks like that of a 5,000-people town). About 5 blocks south of the core of the town there is the 2-lane National Highway #5 that runs between Phnom Penh and Poipet (on the Thai border), passing through Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. Highway 5 has a number of businesses located along it in the 2 or 3 kilometers where it passes through Pursat, and as you drive along Highway 5, passing Pursat on the way to Battambang, our SC campus, including the central school and main Administration building, is located on the south (right side) of the Highway, on the outskirts just before you leave Pursat.

Most of the villages in which we work are within walking or easy biking distance of the central school and Administration building, with the most distant being 6-7 kilometers from the office. Most of the villages are located within 5 kilometers of the highway, separated from the highway by extensive rice paddies. The children walk along raised paths between the paddies to come to the school.

The largest of the villages surrounding the school is Stanhy. Just east of Stanhy is the medium sized village of Krang Popleak, which was actually the first village in which Sustainable Cambodia worked. Osdao is a tiny village a bit further west of Krang Popleak. We are also active in several other villages surrounding these, and continue to expand outward. The villages in which we are most active have wells, gardens, Village preschools and other programs underway.

The School

In late 2004 the Sylvia Lasky Memorial School (named in honor of Bruce Lasky's mother, who was the first child sponsor) relocated about 1/2 kilometer down the highway a much larger facility, where it now resides. The school is two stories, and the students range from 1st grade (6 or 7 years old) through seniors in high school.

The school currently operates from 7 am - 12 pm, with 2 hours off for lunch, and then from 2 pm - 7 pm, Monday through Saturday. Classes include English, mathematics, science, geography, culture, and computers. Government school runs in the morning for some students, and the afternoon for others, depending on the grade level, and the students take classes at both government school and our school. No matter what time you arrive, there will usually be a class you can visit and teachers to meet. 

Types of Jobs

We typically have at least one long-term volunteer onsite who will work with you to find a work program that will be fulfilling for you and helpful for the program. You will also meet the National Coordinator, the Village Development managers and the Education Manager during your get-acquainted time. Volunteering with the school is usually part of the volunteer experience, but it is unusual for a volunteer to conduct full-time classes as we maintain a full-time Cambodian teaching staff and the students are in a year-long course of study at the school. However, volunteers may assist teachers in classes and may run their own classes in English or another relevant subject of their choice, depending upon the needs of the teaching staff. If your experience includes formal teaching, library development or computers, your involvement with the school might be greater. The schedule for teaching depends on the number of existing volunteers on site, but this can be arranged prior to arrival. We also need a great deal of help coordinating student correspondence with sponsors, and this can take a good deal of time.

Sustainable Cambodia's goal is to help the villagers by providing them with education and resources which enable them to develop their communities themselves, in a way that is sustainable. Volunteers can generally help with the organization of the projects and with their monitoring and evaluation. Particularly if volunteers have experience in development work or in any of the project areas, they may be able to implement new ideas and have a greater involvement in the planning of projects. Volunteers may also provide education and training for the villages if they have a relevant skill. However, the Khmer people do most of the work within the communities, as this is consistent with the principles of Sustainable Cambodia. Therefore, any opportunities for volunteers to do hands-on work in the villages will be fairly rare, as this could disempower the village residents.

The projects that are currently running are:
- Well digging (providing resources to villagers to allow them to dig and maintain water-wells in their communities)
- Water distribution for irrigation (plans involve pump building & distribution)
- Providing biosand filters (so that drinking water is safe)
- Improving health care (through health education & help in providing nutritious food, a healthy environment & care for the sick)
- Microloans (to help families set up small business and generate income)
- Animal pass-on projects (passing on breeding animals among villages for food and income generation)
- Gardening and fish-pond projects (so that villagers can provide their own sources of food)
- Bees & Honey production(generating money though the sale of honey)
- Fair trade projects (selling clothing and crafts to local and oversees markets)

Volunteers communicate with the onsite staff and volunteers in Pursat to discuss how their skills can contribute to the work of the organisation, depending on the status and needs of the different projects. We also arrange a time with you to arrive on site that will be suitable for everyone.

Time Requirements

We are typically only able to engage volunteers who can commit to at least 3 full months on site, and the more months you can spend the better. The longer the stay, the more accustomed the volunteer becomes with the staff, the children and the village residents, and the more effective they can be. We do, on occasion, accept volunteers for shorter periods of time when there is some mitigating circumstance, such as a high skill level or connection with the program. Previous child sponsors are always welcome because we feel their knowledge of the circumstances and children allow them to adapt more quickly.

If you wish to come through for a brief visit rather than participate as one of the volunteer staff, you are very welcome. Simply contact us and let us know the expected dates of your arrival.

Living On-Site:

Village Tour

The villages of Krang Popleak, Stahny, Osdao and the other small villages surrounding the school have no running water or proper sanitation. However, despite the obvious poverty it has a certain charm and the people are incredibly warm & hospitable.

A tour of the village is often a good way to start your volunteer visit, as it puts all the work into perspective. You will want to go with a staff person or another volunteer who knows their way around. A tour of the villages typically takes half a day as you will have the chance to stop and meet people, take photos etc. It is an easy walk, though a sun hat, some water and avoidance of the hottest part of the day are advised, as there is little shade.

Staying Onsite & the Volunteer House

The Volunteer House is a concrete-block construction building that boasts six small bedrooms, an open aired living room and a kitchen. By Cambodian standards it is quite nice, and much nicer than the straw or hand-cut wood homes in the villages. There are open doors and windows and the house has its share of geckos who take up residence. During the hot afternoons you can also make use of the space outside the house by hanging a hammock and enjoying a peaceful nap.

The house has some cooking/eating utensils and bedclothes, and has good, if basic, furniture. All of the rooms have mosquito nets. It has running water, but it does not have hot water. Some rooms have air conditioning and a small refrigerator.

Neighbored by very welcoming and caring people, the house is far from inordinate threats of serious crime. Volunteers can either purchase a bicycle (around US$30-35) and bike the 10 minutes to the market, or can pay a moto-taxi for about $0.50 each way to the market.

It is very helpful to SC for volunteers to live on the campus, both because it helps us to offset the fixed cost of maintaining the guest rooms at the campus, and also because you will be right there in the middle of the SC life. However, if you wish, you can also choose to live off-site. There are a few options: A guesthouse ranges from $4-6 USD for a fan and $10-15 USD for air con, per day. Apartments can also be arranged for rent for around $15 USD per week plus electricity. If you would like an apartment, these can be arranged once you arrive in Pursat. Another option is a home-stay. If you would like to arrange for a home-stay, please let us know as soon as possible, as this is not always easy to arrange.

About Pursat

"Not a lot" is how one of our volunteers put it. Let's say it this way: You don't come here for the entertainment. Although it is the 'capital' of the Province, Pursat is really a small town. However, there are numerous small street stalls/stores where you can buy water, snacks, cigarettes, etc.

There is an old market and a bigger central market, which is about 10 minutes by bike from the volunteer house and school. You can purchase food, toiletries, material, clothes, & most odds & ends in the central market. Around the market are various stores selling bicycles & parts, electronics, bakery goods, watches, more clothes, blankets, etc. There are guest houses, restaurants, a hospital and a small museum in the town. Most NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) are located in large houses in the centre of town. You can walk around the whole town in a matter of minutes. Streets are mostly unpaved clay and limestone (and very dusty during the dry season) except for Highway 5, which is now (recently) nicely paved.

Local people are generally very friendly, and as you travel around town, you will usually find most people shout out Hello. If you are a girl on your own you will be a source of attention in town, but I believe that this is all harmless. Local girls tend to cover up, so if you have bare arms or legs you should expect more attention. You will probably find that you are hot & sticky, generally dirty from the dust and insects a lot of the time. It is just a case of adjusting, and most people get used to the differences fairly soon.


Pursat is probably as reasonably safe a place as most small to medium-sized towns elsewhere in the world. It is probably prudent to not venture out well after dark entirely on your own, but other than that, personal security is not a big issue. The school has 24-hour security to prevent property theft and to help ensure the safety of the children, staff and volunteers.

Medical Insurance

Past volunteers have spent around $300 for six months of travel medical insurance, which includes a guarantee of medical evacuation as necessary in the case of an emergency. The plans tend to center around medical evacuation and then vary in price based on deductible, maximum coverage and additional perks. There are a very large number of plans out there, many which can be purchased via the Internet.

The bottom line is that travel medical insurance protects you in the case of a serious medical emergency. Any other medical services will probably need to be paid out of pocket. Hospital services in Phnom Penh tend to be very inexpensive, generally less than $100 for full treatment, depending on the condition.

Monthly Expenses

All our volunteers, like our Board members and officers, are asked to pay their own expenses during their stay, including food, living accommodations and transportation (unless you are making the trip with our staff). The reason for this is that Sustainable Cambodia is supported through small contributions from individual donors around the U.S. and the world, and we allocate 100% of our funds to the school and helping the villagers develop their village. Many of our contributors sponsor a particular child, and some only have the means to give $20 or $30. We have an ethical obligation to stretch our financial resources as far as possible. Please know that your contributed services are valued very highly by us, and that we honor and respect your decision to come and help on your own expense. The Board of Directors and founders all do the same thing, paying for their own transportation to and from Cambodia, as well as transportation, food and accommodations while onsite.

As there are few tourists who visit Pursat, it is possible to live there cheaply as you mostly pay local prices for things. If Cambodian style living is not for you, you can stay in a guesthouse with Western facilities for about $4-6 per night. It is possible to rent a room in a local house for a low price but facilities are likely to be very basic. It is also possible to find very inexpensive apartment or full house accommodations in Pursat. Past volunteers have spent $10 to $45 per month for a basic apartment. Interested volunteers can get assistance from Sustainable Cambodia staff once they arrive in Pursat.

Budgeting for Pursat depends on your chosen lifestyle. With limited spending, one can cover a month’s worth of housing, meals, and basic expenses (ie. phone, snacks, etc) for about $100-150 USD. Keep in mind that weekend travels, optional weekly Khmer language lessons, or air-con housing add to this figure.


First & foremost: Clothing in Cambodia is very cheap, and you really don't need to bring a lot of things with you. It is a good idea to have a combination of everyday casual wear and slightly more dressy clothing (nicer shirts) for teaching or meetings as the Cambodians wear smart clothes to work (male teachers typically wear long-sleeved oxford-cloth style shirts with long pants and sandals, for example). Sandals and sneakers are a good idea, but bring a pair of shoes (or sandals) that slip off easily, as everyone removes footwear before entering a private building (including the school), and it is easiest if you can easily slip the shoes off. Local women cover their shoulders, arms neck and legs. Volunteers are asked to dress respectfully and although ankle length pants and skirts are not necessary, anything below the knee is appropriate. Back and shoulders should also be covered, which means no tank tops; a simple t-shirt will do. For teaching especially, volunteers should dress appropriately. Men can wear shorts when not in meetings, but again, for teaching, bring something more formal. Wear light-weight clothing. Temperatures are usually high. Shorts are ok (although the guide book will tell you otherwise), but you will find that virtually all native Cambodians wear long pants. Feminine hygiene items are a necessity, as they might be hard to find. Cotton socks are recommended for shoes but not worn with sandals. Bring at least one pair of nice slacks and a dress shirt for occasional dressier meetings. It can get cold at night, especially around December and January so it’s a good idea to bring a few warm clothes. You might want to bring one very lightweight jacket (windbreaker), and a baseball-style hat. Clothing can be purchased in the local market in Pursat, but sizes in Cambodia are smaller and it can be difficult to fit a larger person. Phnom Penn has a more extensive range of Western style clothing at cheap prices.


The main means of transportation are bicycle, moto (scooters), and walking. Moto taxis are available nearly everywhere up and down the main Highway 5, where the school is located, and along the central streets of Pursat. To catch a taxi, you simply walk to the side of the street and stand there looking like you need a ride. It typically takes under a minute for someone to notice you. There is a "taxi stand" about 100 meters away from the school on Highway 5, going toward the town. A short taxi ride is typically 500 to 1,000 riel ($0.125 -$0.25) in Pursat. In Phnom Penh, expect to pay between 2,000 and 4,000. A short taxi ride is typically 1,000 to 2,000 riel ($0.25 -$0.50) in Pursat. In Phnom Penh, expect to pay between 4,000 and 8,000.

Some of our volunteers who stay longer enjoy riding a bicycle to get around. This is typical transportation for many adults, and virtually all the children. You can purchase a nice refurbished bike in the market (ask one of our teachers for help) for under $30. When you leave you can always donate the bike to the project or to one of the children who needs it. The village is a 10 minute leisurely bike ride, or a 20 minute stroll, from the school. The school is no more than 5 minutes by bike, or 2 minutes by moto, from downtown Pursat. The streets are easily accessible, although you will be amazed at the heavy traffic and constant honking. Also, there are no street lights at night, and everyone seems to trust that the cars and trucks will miss you on the side of the roadway. Usually they do.

There are no real road rules, so far as we can tell… Although people officially drive on the right hand side, cars and motos usually drift over into the left lane well in advance of turning left. Traffic simply seems to flow in whatever way is needed to avoid hitting someone. People do not indicate when they pull out or turn, and the horn is generally used instead of the brake. You so get used to it quite quickly, but beware of the rough roads and potholes.


There are a number of restaurants in town, but only a few restaurants have menus in English. There are a few restaurants very close to the SC School which are surprisingly good. Cambodian food is simple, fresh, fairly plain (i.e. not very spicy) and usually stir-fried. It is not a coincidence that the words for 'eat dinner' & 'eat rice' are the same. You should expect to eat rice at least twice a day, but often three times. The diet usually includes some fish, chicken, beef or pork, although vegetarians can find things to eat. Some favorites are Vietnamese sour soup and green curry. Fresh fruits abound and traditional Cambodian cakes made of rice are a must!

Although drinking water can be boiled, bottled water is fairly plentiful and available everywhere. The school buys large kegs of drinking water, which you can use, too. Beer and other alcoholic beverages can be purchased in restaurants in town. The home brewed 'palm wine' is delicious! People do not usually drink alcohol as a rule. Tea is available everywhere, but surprisingly seldom is it green tea (usually just regular tea). Coffee is usually drunk black, but condensed milk can be added. Coffee drinkers beware: Starbucks has not come to Pursat, and as far as we can tell there is NO good coffee in town.  Bring your own. If you do order the coffee, it will likely be mediocre, and also be aware that fresh milk is virtually unknown in the restaurants. When you order milk or cream for your coffee you will be given sweetened condensed milk, although you can get non-condensed nestle canned milk in most places if you ask for it specifically. You can also buy tetra-brick packed milk at some stores.


Electricity is available at the SC campus, the school, the Volunteer guest house and in the hotels and many of the homes that are in the town of Pursat (although not in the rural villages where we work). Thus bringing electrical appliances shouldn't be a problem. Electricity is 240 volt AC, so be sure your appliances can run on this. Electricity is available in the Volunteer House.

Almost all laptop computers and electronics with a plug-in power supply can convert the current from 240 volt to 120. Many camera and cell phone chargers will also support 240 volts without trouble, but it is best to check. Simply look at the label on your device's power supply to be sure it says "120-240 volts" or something similar.

Most outlets at the school and in the volunteer house fit both Cambodian and American style electrical plugs. If you're unsure about a fit, you can purchase an adapter from any electronics store around the world that will assure your plugs will fit into the electrical receptacles in Cambodia. Adapters are also available from the market in Pursat. The native appliance receptacle is a two-prong plug with skinny round prongs.


At the hotels, western-style toilets are the norm. And the school has several bathrooms with western-style toilets. The school toilets don't always come with toilet paper, so you might want to pick some up at the market stores. 

Outside Communications:


While there are now a couple of Internet sites in Pursat, Sustainable Cambodia now has a flat-rate internet connection at the SC offices and in the school, making it much more convenient than the Internet cafes across town. You can bring your laptop if you wish, and bring a backup USB thumb drive if you already own one. Computer peripherals can be purchased in town.

In Phnom Penh and Battambang you can reliably access the internet for as little as $0.50 to $1.00 per hour, and it's both faster and more reliable than Pursat. In Battambang you can also access internet with rates generally varying between $0.75 and $1.50 per hour. But if you are at the SC campus, it is easier to use our wireless.

You can make local telephone calls from the street stalls, while international calls can be made through one of the Internet cafés, or the post office. (Calls to the UK are 2,000 riel a minute). The post office is located on the road parallel to the river, before you reach the hospital. Be aware that it shuts lunchtime, 1-2pm.

International Calls

Regular international calls in Cambodia are very expensive. Fortunately, you may make calls through the internet starting from as little as 400 Riel/minute (depending on the country). There is now a place in Pursat where you can buy calling cards to call to the U.S. or other countries, which is less expensive than calling on your cell. $10 USD will buy several hundred minutes.

Mobile Phones

You can buy a cell phone for under $60 USD, and fairly inexpensive minutes, which is a great way to know you will always be in touch with fellow volunteers and staff members. There are a few rotating cell phones that have been donated by former international volunteers. If you can afford to buy a phone and donate it when you leave, that is great. If not, there is a good chance you can at least share a phone with another volunteer.

Postal Services

Cambodian postal services have a well-deserved reputation for being unreliable. However, if you wish to receive mail you can hire a postbox in Pursat (or elsewhere) for as little as $15 per year. You can also get your mail sent to Sustainable Cambodia directly, which seems to be more reliable now than a year ago.

The post office in Pursat is located on the road parallel to the river, before you reach the hospital. Be aware that it shuts lunchtime, 1-2pm. It costs an average of 3,500 Riel to post a letter abroad, and 1,000 to Phnom Penh.


The most reliable source for newspapers in Pursat is the NGO "SME," which has a number of Cambodian Newspapers, including the Cambodia Daily in English. Sustainable Cambodia also subscribes to the Camdodia Daily every day, although it is not always delivered.


What to Bring

- Any prescription medicine you are currently taking
- Contact lens solution (if required)
- Anti-diarrheals, light pain killers, allergy medicine, antacid (Tums), small first-aid kit
- Feminine hygiene products (tampons are available in Phnom Penh, but not so much in Pursat)
- Sunblock (and hat)
- Camera, spare batteries & film
- USB flash drive (especially if not bringing a laptop)
- Sandals/Flip flops
- Insect repellent (this can be bought here)
- Raincoat
- Bathing suit (although in Pursat people swim in their clothes)
- Flash light
- Alarm clock
- Books
- Photos from home to show people
- Light cotton clothes that dry quickly
- A smile! Everyone smiles at you all the time!
- Toiletries
- Skin care (Desenex, Lamisil antifungals, baby powder)
- Handi-wipes with disinfectant
- Medicines, first aid kit, vitamins

You can buy most books about Cambodia including lonely planet for 1/10 of the price here. There are many second-hand bookstores in Battambang & Phnom Penh but none In Pursat. It may not pay to carry lots of books with you, when you can get them here cheaper, but the selection here isn't great. You can also exchange books in Phnom Penh. You can also buy many, many DVD movies in Phnom Penh at $3 each if you wish, or bring better copies with you from home. Movies are a good thing, and you can use the school DVD player to watch movies at night.

If you are here in December, bring a jumper/sweater as the evenings and early mornings are cold. If you are here in the rainy season, bring an umbrella and a long waterproof raincoat, as it gets very wet! Your back-packs will serve you fine as travel gear in any city-country you are in. In your day packs, pack toiletries, reading books, and other things for a long flight.

It may be useful, particularly if you are planning to work on the development projects, to bring a laptop with you. There are computers in school but they may not always be available to use, so this will give you more flexibility. Also a USB flash drive is a good idea for all volunteers, in order to save any work and write emails from school. These can be bought cheaply in Phnom Penh.

Medicine &Vaccinations

It is useful to have a small kit of personal medicines. There have not been any cases of Malaria around Pursat so if you wish to use Malaria prevention medication it is really up to you. Most health departments will probably recommend vaccinations against at least Hepatitis A and B, but follow the recommendations of your doctor or heathcare provider. You might also want to bring vitamins and mineral supplements to support your daily diet. The advice from Cambodians on malaria prevention medications is to not use them, because the chance is very slim of contracting it and if you are taking pills and you get sick, then the medicine for curing it is less effective. They will tell you that if you do not take pills and get sick, you can get better very soon without much hassle. But discuss this with your healthcare provider and make your own decision. The best protection is a mosquito net, which can be bought in Cambodia for around $3.00.


Most airlines will allow two checked bags up to 70 pounds each on international flights, but it is recommended that you check with your particular carrier to validate this before leaving. If you can bring two bags, this gives you ample room to bring many things (books, etc) for the program, if you wish. If you don't have luggage for this, you can generally get big inexpensive duffle bags at discount and surplus stores. If you are visiting other cities on the way to Cambodia, you can leave these bags at the Left Luggage Counter in any airport for between $5 and $10 a day.


Our staff will assist you in obtaining visas. Most of our volunteers are long-term volunteers who will be staying four to twelve months onsite. Anyone volunteering with us for more than 60 days will want to have an NGO visa, as business visas are very expensive and tourist visas can only last a maximum of two months with extension. If you are arriving into Phnom Penh airport as a long-term volunteer, we will arrange in advance to have an NGO visa waiting for you, which you will pick up at the airport. To obtain an NGO visa on arrival, you must email us a copy of your passport and an extra passport-style (head-and-shoulders) digital photo, from two months to 6 months prior to arrival. An NGO visa costs under $50 and can last for the duration of your time volunteering.

One complication is that, while NGO visas are easy to arrange if you are flying into Phnom Penh, they are much more difficult if you are entering Cambodia over land at the border. If you plan to travel over land, we may be able to obtain your NGO visa in advance and then, rather than arranging for it to be available at the airport, send you a scanned version of the NGO visa in advance. If all goes well, you can then print it and show it to the immigration police at the border crossing. The challenge is that we do not have staff at the border crossing to assist you. So if for any reason you have difficulties at the border crossing with the scanned NGO visa, you might have to obtain a one-month Business visa ($35). It is difficult to exchange this for the NGO visa in Phnom Penh, but that is a possibility. The worst-case would be that you might have to leave the country again in the following 30-60 days and re-enter through the airport on the NGO visa. But hopefully you will be able to get the border crossing officials to honor the NGO visa. A Tourist visa (about $30 for the one month) can be renewed only once for an additional $42, giving a maximum total of 60 days. But if you enter with a tourist visa, you cannot change to an NGO visa without first leaving the country and re-entering through the airport on an NGO visa. We recommend that if you are flying into Phnom Penh, you contact us to arrange your NGO visa as soon as possible.


On the trip to Cambodia, when you go through customs in any of the cities you land in, follow the guidelines on what to declare. If you have nothing to declare, check the appropriate box and you should proceed through customs smoothly. Don't worry if you are bringing clothing or gifts to give away once here. These don't need to be declared, as you aren't going to be selling them. Don't bring anything that would get you in trouble.


If you are arriving in Phnom Penh at the airport, you will pick up your NGO visa after you deplane. You will leave the plane with all the visitors and passengers, traversing the entrance ramps to the visa/passport area. You (and everyone else) will approach an immigration desk. At the desk, tell the officers that you are volunteering with an NGO named Sustainable Cambodia, and ask them about your NGO visa. They should have a blue form waiting for you with your name on it. If you bring two passport-style photos with you (they can be printed digital photos), it will speed everything up. Otherwise they will charge you an extra $1-2 to make copies of your passport photo.

After they give you the NGO visa form, you will go through the Immigrations desks. The officer there will process your visa and passport. You then exit into the luggage pick-up area, and then go through Customs. Typically you will simply walk through the "Nothing to Declare" line in Customs. Then you will exit the air-conditioned portion of the airport and it will look like Cambodia... You will see many people standing and waiting for passengers. Somebody will be there in the crowd with your name on a card. This person will most likely be our Volunteer Coordinator in Phnom Penh, or if they are unable to be there it will be someone working or volunteering with us. From that point you will be in the helpful and watchful hands of our staff and volunteers. They can answer questions for you and will get you to a guest-house in Phnom Penh, show you around some of the city and later help you get a bus or taxi up to Pursat.

Getting to Pursat

If you are traveling to Pursat from Phnom Penh, we can help you coordinate transportation. The bus to Pursat from Phnom Penh takes about 3 and a half hours and costs around $5. The buses are generally pretty good now, but are sometimes a bit slow and packed. If you would rather take a taxi it will cost between $35 and $40 to hire the entire taxi for yourself. For a shared taxi, with two people in the front seat and 4 in the back of a small (Toyota) car, you pay between $6 and $8 for the Phnom Penh-Pursat trip. Hold on, as they drive quite fast.

The bus is not a bad alternative, and can be comfortable and cheap, with the added spice of karaoke. Capitol, GST, Phnom Penh City Transportation Company and others run a fast and reliable service between Phnom Penh and Battambang, passing through Pursat. You have more space than the taxi, and the prices are set.

Accommodations (in Phnom Penh)

Our staff will assist you in advance in arranging accommodations in Phnom Penh. There are numerous hotels and guest houses in nearly any price range. Simply let us know what level of accommodations you prefer (Quaint guest-house? Plush western-style hotels? hot water? Modern or rustic?) and approximate range you would like to spend per night, and we will give you several options.

Accommodations (in Pursat)

Volunteers who are only going to be on-site for a short period of time can stay in any of several guest houses or hotels in the town of Pursat, all within easy biking distance (or "moto" taxi distance - see Transportation). Hotels in Pursat range around $6/$8 a night for a fan-only room, and $15/night for air conditioning and hot water. They all have private bathrooms. Guest houses may be a little less. The town does not usually see many visitors, and so booking in advance is not necessary unless you are in a large group.

For longer-term volunteers, you might wish to stay in the Volunteer House maintained by Sustainable Cambodia for this purpose. It is also possible to find very inexpensive apartment or full house accommodations in Pursat. Past volunteers have spent $10 to $45 per month for a basic apartment. Interested volunteers can get assistance from Sustainable Cambodia staff once they arrive in Pursat.

Money & Banking:

About Money

Phnom Penh and Battambang have cash machines, and Pursat now has one too! But don't get too excited... It only seems to work when you don't really need the money. So certainly bring some money with you. Any vendor in Pursat will accept US dollars and give dollars of Cambodian riel as change. Note denominations of $20 or under are easy. $50 or $100 will take a bit more hunting, or a bigger purchase, to get change. You can spend both dollars and riel anywhere in Cambodia, although have small denominations of dollars ($10 and under) when shopping in the market or at street stalls.

Beware of bringing (or receiving) "Broken Money": Cambodians, including those at the banks, are convinced that a $20 to $100 bill with ANY small tear, even the tiniest little hint of a tear on an edge, is "broken" and the WILL NOT accept it under any circumstances. If you bring "broken money," you will not be able to spend it!

Virtually everything is a bargain! $1 = 4000 Riel (the Cambodian currency). 2000 Riel or less covers a moto taxi. 2000 or 3000 Riel usually buys a lunch-time meal. $3 buys a DVD.

How much money to bring totally depends on your consuming behavior. If you're Spartan and lucky, you might be able to get by on as little as $40(US) a month for accommodations and $60 for food, or even less. On the other hand, if you choose a room with AC and hot water, be ready to spend at least $250-$300 a month.

Travelers Checks

Pursat currently has no exchange for travelers checks. In Phnom Penh and Battambang, however, you can exchange Travelers checks for a minimum of 2% commission. Battambang is a 1½ hour ride from Pursat. The cheapest place for exchanging travelers checks is probably the "Foreign Trade Bank" on Norodom Blvd in Phnom Penh, which charges only 1% commission on travelers checks in US dollars.

Money Transfers

Western Union operates in Pursat at the ACLEDA. In the rest of Cambodia, both "Moneygram" and Western Union offer international money transfers, but the cheapest is probably the Foreign Trade Bank in Phnom Penh that only charges $5 US per transfer.

Credit Cards & ATMs

Pursat has a cash machine now! If you have a debit card or a credit card with a Visa logo on it, you will be able to get American money out of the ATM in Pursat (several blocks down the street on national highway 5 from the SC school). The merchants and restaurants in Pursat are accustomed to receiving US Dollars, and will gladly provide change to you in Cambodian Riel (the “standard” conversion is $1 = 4,000 CR (also written KHR)). You really can't use credit cards per-se in Pursat, but it would be a good idea to bring one (and maybe keep it in the school safe) in case you need something for an emergency in Phnom Penh. In Phnom Penh they work quite well. ATMs are also available in major tourist centers, including Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. You can also get cash advances on credit cards in these cities, sometimes without a local surcharge.

Money Exchange

Currently the only bank in Pursat (ACLEDA) will only change dollars to Riels and vice versa, though they are planning to introduce the euro in 2005. On the streets, however, you can change most major currencies (such as USD, euro, Thai Baht, Chinese Yuan) at varying rates. Exchange rates are very bad for any currency other than the dollar and baht in Pursat, so if you bring euros or Pounds do the changing in Phnom Penh. In the rest of Cambodia, most major currencies charge a 2% commission.


General Policy

Our volunteers are all expected to conduct their daily lives to the highest ethical standards, and to abide by our General Policy.

Volunteers with SC are not permitted to have intimate personal or romantic relationships with any Cambodian person under the age of 21, and volunteers who wish to engage in a personal relationship, dating or similar activity, with a non-student Cambodian over 21 must first discuss this with one of SC’s Coordinators AND must disclose the discussion in writing to the Board, in order to prevent any cultural misunderstandings. There are serious misunderstandings that can happen, which can be heartbreaking and lifechanging, simply because there is a major difference in what two cultures considers proper behavior.

Please visit our Volunteer Documents section on the website and download SC’s Policy documents. You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement before your arrive.

Ethics & Conduct

Our organization has certain principles which our staff uses in their daily conduct. Please visit our Volunteer Documents section on the website and download SC’s Code of Ethics & Conduct Policy.

Sustainable Cambodia has NO paid staff or administrative personnel other than native Cambodians working at our project sites. This gives tremendous leverage to our financial resources, because we can have far more people on-site than we could otherwise afford if we were paying non-Cambodians. Additionally, our founders and special contributors pay ALL off-site administrative costs. This allows 100% of financial contributions and sponsorships to go directly to the village and school projects. However, it also means we have less administrative assistance than other programs might have.

We will give you a contact name and phone number in advance of your departure, for one of our Phnom Penh staff or volunteers, and will give you a list of other staff members and contact numbers when you arrive.


Sustainable Cambodia currently discourages volunteers from bringing gifts for the students or staff on arrival, as it can conflict with our focus on empowerment and sustainable development. Past volunteers have brought gifts that, due to concerns of equity and the perception of hand-outs, were unable to be distributed. Once in Pursat, volunteers are welcome to give personal gifts to the friends and colleagues that they will inevitably become close to throughout their stay.

Other Q&A:

Q: Will there be any formal teaching of Khmer?
A: Current volunteers are paying $25 per month for 4 hours per week of group lessons in Khmer, taking place Monday through Thursday in the volunteer house. Individual lessons are also available and can be arranged for roughly the same price.

Q: Will I be able to do trips/travel around Cambodia?
A: You may take extended weekends for travels and trips. Cambodia is renowned for its many holidays (literally more than 30 a year, but Sustainable Cambodia only has 18 official holidays, though in certain holidays such as Chinese New Year (not an official holiday) students won't be around for a week or so, If you are a volunteer teacher, you may take a break from Pursat. The whole country is friendly and welcoming, and there are some westerners traveling around everywhere, although fewer by far in Pursat than in Phnom Penh.

Q: What can I do in my spare time?
A: SC has a nice library as well as a TV and DVD player. If you have time to shop at the Russian Market or the Soryia Market (close to the bus station) in Phnom Penh before you come, you can buy just about any DVD for $3. 

Q: Are all the students from Sylvia Lasky School from Krang Popleak or Stahny Villages?
A: No, we also have some students from other surrounding villages.

Q: How much money might I need each month?
A: This totally depends on your consuming behavior. If you're Spartan and lucky, you should be able to get by on as little as $40(US) a month for accommodations and $60 for food. On the other hand, if you choose a room with AC and hot water, be ready to spend at least $250-$300 a month.