Make it count: Teach English as a volunteer in Phnom Penh

Tuesday 2nd January 2018

Make it count: Teach English as a volunteer in Phnom Penh

Cambodia was once a rich and beautiful country, but the fabric of that country was literally destroyed by genocide and war and the impact has been felt generation after generation…

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Cambodia was once a rich and beautiful country, but the fabric of that country was literally destroyed by genocide and war and the impact has been felt generation after generation, explains Bun-Thari Seng of VIC (Volunteer in Cambodia) and CWF (Conversations with Foreigners). With infrastructures obliterated, outside help has been needed over a sustained period of time to assist a rebuild. In 2006 VIC was created with the support of the Australian government’s AusAid VIDA programme. The objective was to teach English as a tool for communication and interaction with the rest of the world for those in a position to pay for lesson, while at the same time using the money paid for lessons for projects to improve the lives of others with pressing basic needs.

““This is what makes us unique. We generate profits through our language classes for our beneficiaries’ core funding. It is a great mechanism that allows transfer of funds from the city – where money is concentrated – back to the developing provinces – where money or investments are scarce. Since our inception, we have raised over $153K USD for our NGO partners, hosted more than 500 volunteers and we now teach up to 500 students a day. We’re dedicated to improving Cambodian skills and opportunities, and increasing our cultural perspective while dedicated to the mission of our partners.” Bun-Thari Seng.


Here’s an example of how the money is spent: 60% of profits from the school’s help fund goes to projects for local partner NGO’s working in rural areas of Cambodia. A recent example is 1001fountaines, which is one of CWF’s newest beneficiaries. 1001fountaines aims to provide clean drinking water to poor rural families through their water kiosks. In 2017, CWF will support 5,000 schoolchildren through 1001fountaines and that contribution from CWF will secure their access to clean and safe drinking water for an entire school year. This is only one example of many. See more about their work here:


About the Volunteer Programme

Training, cultural support and orientation

The school is placed in an area of Phnom Penh where students can afford to pay for classes, though at a very affordable rate. Here’s how volunteering with VIC works:

VIC offers a 3-month ESL teaching placement with teacher training orientation, teaching workshops, class sit-ins, feedback sessions, drop-in support, etc. facilitated by our Education Services Manager.

Orientation about living in Phnom Penh and the Khmer culture is also provided, enriching the volunteers’ experience.

Find out if teaching English is for you or test your new CELTA English teaching skills

The VIC programme is a great way to test the ESL waters and gain valuable ESL classroom experience in an informal, yet professional environment. Those who haven’t got formal English language teacher training, support and orientation is provided. As a result, you may find your vocation and choose to take your TEFL career further with CELTA training!


English teachers with qualifications such as the CELTA, are greatly appreciated for the professional skills they bring and share with the community.


If you don’t have a CELTA yet, take a look at our CELTA calendar to find a suitable course date and location.

To be clear and avoid confusion, we run a volunteer program which means that our teachers contribute their time and skills to teach our students in Phnom Penh.

We run 4 terms per year, every three months. As an example, a term starts end of May, and then another at the end of August, then the end of November. Every three months basically. You can choose which term suits you best and when you want to start, but you will need to commit for the duration of the whole program which lasts 3 months.

Teaching what’s relevant. Teaching local.

We do a range of things in a very unique way. The first is that we teach localised English. English is not being used as a way to spread British, Australian or American culture but instead the aim is to enable local students to be able to talk about themselves and the world that immediately concerns them to others

This means no Halloween or 4th of July celebrations, but in its place, we learn to talk about Ancestors’ Day or January 7th which are two important days in Cambodian culture and history – the former being religious and the latter marking the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. No strawberries or blueberries are eaten, instead we consume tropical fruit such as snake fruit or jack-fruit. This is the fruit our students can buy and eat here.

Debate topics we have are those that students can relate to in their daily life, such as, the benefits of road dividers to regulate Phnom Penh traffic. Another example is workplace related matters, like the benefits of reducing the number of Cambodian bank holidays. In other words, it is highly localized and is a great way to delve into Cambodian culture through teaching English. Our teachers engage in conversations with our students about Cambodia, their daily lives and strives. Prepare to learn a lot of interesting facts!


Who are the students?


Students come from a variety of backgrounds and have different needs and motivations for learning English. Your class could consist of a variation of students from high school and university students to entrepreneurs, to tuk tuk drivers working with tourists, to monks who want to be able to talk about their temples and spiritual life with visitors.

This sustainable model of driving development and funding rural development projects through English language learning, relies heavily on committed and enthusiastic individuals! If you want to find out more about volunteering, please contact:

Bun-Thari Seng
Recruitment and Marketing Manager
Volunteer in Cambodia (VIC)
Conversations with Foreigners (CWF)
+855 (0) 78561 560