Volunteer Cambodia Indigenous Hill Tribe
The Volunteer Bunong Community project is located in the remote mountain town of Sen Monorom in Mondulkiri province, the Eastern highland region of Cambodia which shares a border with Vietnam.
Mondulkiri province is traditionally one of the most inaccessible and isolated regions of Cambodia. It is the largest but also least populated region of Cambodia. Owing to its seclusion, a semi-nomadic hill tribe people known as the Bunong remain the dominant ethnic group of the region.
Globalteer is a UK registered charity providing volunteer placements working with children in Cambodia.
The project focuses on supporting the Bunong people through education and income generation also providing healthcare, decent living conditions and additional recreational activities such as sports, arts and field trips.
Duration: 1 to 12 weeks
Hours: Mon to Fri, 3-5hrs per day plus weekend activities
Activities: Assisting or teaching the English programme to young adults, sports and arts, assisting with village tours, teaching computers, field trips, manual labour
Accommodation: Private room, Guesthouse
Requirements: Aged 18+
Donation: From UK£420 / US$630
Volunteers will divide their time between the following initiatives:
The Bunong Community Centre
High school students from outside Mondulkiri’s provincial capital of Sen Monorom often have to travel for prolonged periods to go to the regions only high school.
Those who are fortunate enough to be selected from the hill tribes to complete school often have little option but to stay in the schools dormitory.
126 students from isolated, mainly Bunong towns and villages stay in the eight rooms of the boarding school. The Community Centre creates opportunities for the training, education and recreation of these young adults. Volunteers will be requested to support supplementary English lessons of classes no larger than twenty.
Volunteers will liaise with the local English teacher to improve pronunciation, develop educational resources and materials and provide tutorial lessons.
Due to heavy demands on the students these classes are often informal and conversational so that the students may practice what has been learned that day.
Computer skills, recreational activities, civic and social classes are held in the community centre and volunteers with an interest in these areas may be of assistance.
Volunteers, particularly in the summer months (July and August), may also be called on to organise field trips and days out to local tourist sites such as waterfalls, Bunong villages and scenic points for students to enjoy during the break in their studies.
The Bunong PlaceThe project also operates a shop in the town centre called Bunong Place. The shop operates as an income generating social enterprise to create jobs and support traditional crafts.
Bunong Place serves as a crucial outlet for quality local crafts, generating both encouragement and significant supplementary income for villagers struggling to keep traditional skills alive.
The venture is also a contact point for tourists to arrange visits to Bunong villages and the many waterfalls in the locality. The staff, artisans and guides of the Bunong Place are recruited from among the Bunong community and are dependent on the growing tourism industry for their livelihood.
Volunteers are encouraged to teach daily English classes with the staff of the initiative. In addition, volunteers are sought to accompany Bunong guides on the tours and work on streamlining the excursion to a Western audience.
The Bunong Resource Centre
A growing amount of Bunong villagers are finding themselves dispossessed of their traditional land as development comes at an unfortunate cost to these indigenous people.
Volunteers may be called on to record testimony from dispossessed Bunong which may then be made available to advocacy and human rights organisations active in Cambodian indigenous affairs.
It is expected that Bunong society will be assimilated into the greater Khmer culture within a generation. Therefore, efforts are underway at the Bunong Centre to document the Bunong way of life to preserve its rich cultural heritage. Interested volunteers are required for gathering and digitizing material, web design and mapping.
Volunteers with a background in photography, video-recording or multi-media may be interested in special projects and/or creative workshops with village children. Graphic designers, designers and artists may also contribute to the produce of the shop. Anthropology or sociology students are eagerly required to perform investigations and research into the effects of globalization on the Bunong. This may take the form of university research and suitable candidates should contact Globalteer.
The Bunong of Cambodia
In recent years the Bunong have found their way of life increasingly under threat. Bunong language, culture and traditions face an uncertain future as Mondulkiri becomes more easily accessible to the outside world.
Deforestation, land-grabbing and the introduction of a cash-based economy have undermined the Bunong livelihood. Without urgent action to defend the basic rights of these indigenous people, their way of life will soon disappear.
The Bunong people are also often regarded as an uncivilized and ignorant people by the rest of Khmer society and are subject to frequent discrimination, intolerance and neglect. Due to inadequate infrastructure the school completion rates among the Bunong are the lowest in the country.
The 61,000 residents of Mondulkiri province have access to only one upper secondary school. The Bunong Centre promotes the education, training and employment of the children and young adults of this region.
A Bunong Chief visited the children studying in Sen Monorom to give them this shocking advice - "Take your studies seriously children... you will not be coming home". The Chief had realised that the Bunong would no longer have their traditional lands and the children's only option for their future was through education.
Why we need volunteers
The Bunong language is founded on oral tradition and until recently had no written form. Bunong students working within the Cambodian education system found they were at an even greater disadvantage to native Cambodians in first having to learn and gain literacy in a second language.
Mondulkiri has the lowest rate of upper secondary school enrolment in Cambodia standing at a mere five percent of males and three percent of females.
Heroic efforts are needed to defend Bunong rights from the threats associated with the contemporary world. Bunong students are eager to be at the forefront of protecting their way of life. Bunong students at Sen Monorom high school frequently aspire to become lawyers to represent their people and work with NGO's to defend their constitutional rights.
Volunteers are essential in educating students and motivating Bunong youth by displaying an interest in their traditional way of life and providing recreational opportunities to students who study up to twelve hours a day. To complement this, your volunteer donation will be used to support the students' study.
Funds are used to:Your donation will fund the Community Centre as well as support programmes operated by the project and will buy medical care, hygiene supplies, food for Bunong atrisans and recreational expenses.
Subject to a sustained volunteer interest in the Bunong Centre it may be feasible to extend volunteer donations to a scholarship fund so that Bunong students finishing their high school education may get the opportunity to enter further education.
The LocationThe Bunong Centre is located in Sen Monorom, the provincial capital of Mondulkiri province, Cambodia. The topography is high grasslands that feature a more temperate climate when compared to the rest of Cambodia. Sen Monorom is a small town that was only connected to the electricity grid as recently as November 2008.
Due to its inaccessibility, the town does not have many of the comforts of the western world, however, limited western food, mobile phone connections, internet, cable TV, laundry and other facilities are now available.
Those looking for fast food chains or a developed nightlife will be left wanting. Volunteers with a sense of adventure, eager to meet new people, comfortable experiencing a different culture or those keen to escape the ‘rat-race’ will enjoy the experience of Sen Monorom.
Volunteers will stay in a clean and comfortable bungalows a short walk from the centre of the provincial capital of Sen Monorom. Rooms are single occupancy and have hot showers and a private toilet.
The rooms have fans but can be upgraded to air conditioning for an additional charge. Cable TV is available in all rooms with some channels in English. There is no restaurant on site however the town is quite small and local services are only a short walk away.
Daily ScheduleVolunteers will be collected in Phnom Penh on your chosen Saturday and taken to Sen Monorom on Sunday morning. Volunteers will begin assisting with the Bunong project from the Monday after arrival.
In the mornings you will have free time. It may be spent preparing for lessons, accompanying a guide on their tour or simply enjoying the tranquillity of Sen Monorom. Bunong woman and children sell their hand made crafts at the fair trade Bunong Place, after possibly walking for many hours they are served a free breakfast by staff and volunteers.
Volunteers will assist in an English lesson at the boarding school during the students lunch hour. The lesson will be mostly helping to improve conversational English.
In the afternoon volunteers will spend a couple of hours assisting with English classes, for both Bunong and Khmer students, at the Bunong Place craft shop. This will be conversational English as well as some recreational activities and computer training. If the volunteer has any specific interests or skills they would like to teach, then this can be discussed and taught at this time.
In the evenings there will be one more English class taught at the Bunong boarding school.
This is a very varied and dynamic project and volunteers skills will be used to the best of their abilities to support the project. Sometimes the dormitory may need a lick of paint or it may be time to plant the students' vegetable garden so please ensure you complete your application fully for us to be able to utilise your skills to the maximum.
Weekends can be spent with the students playing sports, on visits or relaxing in the town. Due to unpredictable nature of the weather, the seasonal tourism industry and school holidays volunteers may find their timetable subject to change without much notice.
This is an unavoidable reality in the remote provinces. Around half of the Bunong students stay in Sen Monorom during the school holidays in July and August. At this time there are more opportunities for additional education and recreation but the rain can put a damper on things! Those who are flexible and able to adapt to a rapidly changing work environment will be a great asset to the Bunong centre.
During Khmer new year for two weeks in April there can be a lot of down time as many students go back to their family for a couple of weeks. Please bear this in mind as their will be limited teaching opportunity, and more assisting at the Bunong Place and general social time.
Modulkiri is renowned for its village visits and some of the largest waterfalls in Cambodia. Volunteers are welcome to participate in tours organised by the Bunong Place.
Trekking forms the backbone of tourist activities in Sen Menorom.
Volunteers who play soccer, volleyball, guitar or have kickboxing experience will have many offers of games with the students in the evenings and during the summer months. There are also a number of restaurants and bars where tourists and the small but growing ex-pat community hang out for those looking to make new friends.
The Bunong Project also support some elderly Bunong people, so free time can be spent helping take care of them by delivering food, clothes and medicine.
The required donation to the project is stated in UK £pounds and US $dollars.
Your donation covers the following:
- Pick up at Phnom Penh Airport
- One night's pre-transfer stay at guest house in Phnom Penh
- Return transfers from Phnom Penh to the project in Mondulkiri
- Ensuite accommodation in Sen Monorom for the duration of your placement
- Daily transfers to the project
- A Bunong lunch is available daily
- Local English-speaking support staff at the project
Longer term volunteers (those greater than one month) should be advised that Sen Monoron is a quiet location and the working day often no more than 6hrs.
Family groups are welcome and returning volunteers are subject to a reduced donation. Please indicate this on your application form. Extensions to booked placements can at times be arranged at the project but are subject to availability.
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Application process & requirements
The minimum age for volunteering is 18 years old at the time of commencement of the placement. Families are welcome at this project. No previous experience or qualifications are necessary as we have placements for all skills.
Please complete your application as fully as possible to ensure we utilise your skills in the most effective way. Volunteers are required to be respectful and open minded to the cultural differences they will encounter in Cambodia.
- Click on the link below to fill out an application form.
- Add "@globalteer.org" to your E-mail safe list to ensure that you receive a response.
- Your application will be reviewed and if accepted you will be notified via E-mail within one week.
- Pay your deposit to secure your placement within one week of acceptance.
- Undergo your background check for the safety of the children.
- Research your destination, book your flight, inoculations and ask us any questions you may have.
- Full amount is to be paid 10 weeks before the start of your project.
- A comprehensive information pack will be sent to you with useful information including a packing list, Cambodian cultural differences, Buddhist Monk etiquette, useful Khmer language phrases, project rules, useful phone contacts and full project information.