Frequently Asked Questions About GSC &  Service-Learning Programs In Cambodia

 

 

What type of pre-trip orientation is provided?
After applicants have completed their application they will receive an orientation manual with information on the country and program, along with a reading list, packing list and other health and travel tips. After arrival to the program site, an in-country orientation is conducted by the GSC staff. This includes preparing the participant for their service in the field as well as cultural orientation.

 

What are the accommodations like?
During the orientation, participants will be housed in a local hotel/guesthouse in Phnom Penh. After orientation, you will either stay in a guesthouse or in your placement’s on-site accommodations. 

 

Will there be internet access?
Access is readily available at Internet cafes in Phnom Penh and  and at some of our partner sites. You should minimize the use of your electronic devices during the hours you’re on the job so you remain focused on the community you are there to serve.

 

What is the food like?
Participants will be introduced to traditional Khmer cuisine which will be provided throughout the program. Khmer cuisine includes meat and vegetable stir fries, coconut curries, and rice and noodle dishes. It is less spicy than Thai cuisine and often includes a fish paste that is used as flavoring. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, international cuisine is also readily available.

 

Is being a vegetarian or vegan a problem?

No, many past participants have been vegetarians/vegans. Being a vegetarian/vegan is a foreign concept to Cambodians but the Cambodian diet is full of vegetarian dishes that are healthy and delicious. (If you supplement your diet with vitamins, remember to bring them with you.) If you have dietary restrictions, please notify GSC when applying.

 

Will I get sick when I’m there? 

In Asia, your body will be exposed to diseases that we do not have to worry about at home. GSC highly suggests that you confer with your health care provider about the vaccinations recommended by the CDC in order to protect yourself while in Cambodia. In addition, you will need to take two basic precautions: prevent mosquito bites and avoid contaminated water. While this may sound impossible, it is actually quite easy with just a little bit of effort and planning. Still, the change in diet can cause an occasional upset stomach. But with the proper precautions, this minor discomfort is the only illness you should have to endure. As with travel anywhere, awareness and common sense are your best tools for preventing illness.
 

Participants should take the time to inform themselves about relevant disease risks through the CDC travel and World Health Organization websites in order to make appropriate travel decisions. For disease outbreaks in the region, Global Service Corps follows U.S. Department of State alerts and travel warnings found on its website. In addition, in the case that you do become ill enough to require medical attention, there are reputable clinics in Cambodia we can recommend.

 

Is it safe to be in Cambodia, particularly as a woman? 

The combination of spreading poverty and the presence of comparatively wealthy travelers have led to increased theft in the big cities. However, Phnom Penh is a relatively safe town and theft can be avoided with a little common sense. Those who do fall victim to crime most often find that they have only been relieved of some possessions, but have suffered no significant physical harm. The areas where our participants are placed are generally as safe, if not safer, than what you experience at home. For obvious reasons, women do have to be more cautious. Cambodians have a different sense of personal space. As a result, you may at times feel uncomfortable with the amount and type of attention you are getting. Coping with this type of discomfort will certainly be one of the challenges of your intercultural experience. However, in the vast majority of such cases, there is no threat to your person or possessions. If you take appropriate caution, it is unlikely that you will ever be in a situation that is unsafe. In addition, you will be briefed as to suggested safety precautions during orientation. 

 

How can I be contacted in case of an emergency? 

You can be reached in case of an emergency through our US Headquarters office or our in-country Cambodia Volunteer Coordinator or other staff. E-mail is readily available in Phnom Penh, and regular contact with your friends and family can also take place through cell phones and postal mail. In addition, Phnom Penh has adequate medical care to address most illnesses that you might face while you are in Cambodia. Emergency evacuation insurance is required of all GSC participants. This covers the cost of transportation should it be medically necessary to move you to a medical facility in Cambodia or back home and is essential in the very unlikely case of a dire emergency. 

 

Are there ATM machines available?
ATM machines are available in Phnom Penh and surrounding areas, as well as Siem Reap. Most accept international ATM cards, although service fees may be high. Volunteers are cautioned to secure their cash carefully. Be sure that your US Dollars are new, clean, and in good condition.

 

How much spending money is appropriate?
All basic expenses including meals, accommodations, and transportation are covered during official trips and project work; however, extra funds should be budgeted for additional traveling and shopping if desired.  In most locales, guest houses (similar to a small hotel) can be found for $20 or less per night and inexpensive bus transportation is available throughout the country. $10 per day covers basic food needs. Overall, for a short term program of three to eight weeks, $300-$500 should be sufficient for all “extras” of your choosing. Volunteers will have the chance to do some shopping and sightseeing during the orientation in Phnom Penh, the weekend trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, and during evening and weekend free time.  Be sure that your US Dollars are new, clean, and in good condition.

 

Does GSC have any religious or government affiliation?

GSC does not have any religious or government affiliations. 


How do volunteer participants get around?
Transportation from/to the airport and to/from the placement site at the start and end of the program will be provided. Rermorks (tuk-tuks) are the preferred mode of travel in the cities. Volunteers are expected to not ride motorcycle taxis due to high accident rates.

 

Will I need a phone while I’m here? How will I communicate with GSC staff in country?
Our in-country staff can be reached by mobile phone and through regular check-ins during the program. GSC participants are expected to be in easy contact with our In-Country Coordinator and therefore must have a mobile phone while in Cambodia. As long as you have an unlocked cell phone that has a sim card in it you’ll be able to use that phone. If you don’t have this type of phone you can purchase one in Cambodia for approximately $20 - $30. Our In-Country Coordinator will help you.

 

How can I contact home?
Cambodian cell phones operate using SIM cards. Your US phone will work as long as it has a SIM card. Once in-country, you can purchase an inexpensive SIM card, which allows you to make and receive international calls. Alternatively you can purchase an inexpensive mobile phone in Cambodia for approximately $20- $30. Of course, you will also have the option of keeping in touch with family and friends via email. You should minimize use of your electronic devices during the hours you’re on the job so you remain focused on the community you are there to serve.

When and where is the weekend excursion?
All participants on programs of four weeks or longer are provided a weekend trip to Siem Reap to enjoy the beautiful architecture and explore nearby Angkor Wat. All meals, transportation, and accommodations are covered by participant program fees. Participants may also wish to take advantage of weekends or holidays by visiting other sites close to Phnom Penh. Participants are expected to discuss holiday and weekend travel plans with the In-Country Coordinator and with your home hosts in advance so your where-abouts is known and so you can be reached in case of an emergency.

 

Will I be able to join the program with a friend or family member?
Yes. We encourage participants to come with a friend or spouse. In fact, if a participant refers a friend or family member, he or she will receive a discount of 10% of the second participant's fees. Discount applies for each additional referral, so the more friends you bring, the greater savings you realize! (Participants referred must start projects on the same date for the discount to apply, but may work on different projects.) Please contact us for large group discounts (8 or more people).

 

What kinds of gifts should I bring?
You may wish to bring supplies to share with the partner organization with which you are placed. For example, if working with children, non-toxic art and school supplies and used (clean) children’s clothing are appreciated and should be provided to the director for distribution, rather than given to the children directly. Children should never be given candy.

 

Can I fundraise for my trip and can GSC help me with that? Is the trip tax deductible?
Yes, you can certainly fund raise! GSC is a registered U.S. non-profit and you can use this fact when fundraising – it has proven helpful for many past participants. All program contributions (including airfare) may be tax deductible in the U.S. for U.S. citizens to the full extent of the IRS regulations. This means family members, friends and other supporters can make contributions to GSC, which can be directly applied to your program fees, and may be entirely tax-deductible. Contributions toward both the participant fee and international airfare may be claimed as tax deductions for US taxpayers; other countries vary in tax laws.  Please consult your tax advisor for full details. 

Let us know if you would like to receive a fundraising packet and we will email you further information. This packet outlines a full fundraising program. Fundraising can often be a daunting task but with effort and dedication, you can be a successful fundraiser. We can also put you in touch with past participants that have been successful at raising most, if not all, of their program costs!

 

After the short-term or other volunteer abroad program, can I extend my service if I decide I would like to stay longer? 
Many overseas volunteers feel that they are just getting into the swing of things as their short-term project is ending and wish that they had signed up to stay a longer period of time than originally intended. It is possible to extend a short-term or other program for extra days or weeks. Longer trips are usually more rewarding for the participant and we at GSC feel that the more time you are able to devote to your program, the greater impact you will have on the local community. We welcome you to participate for as long as you are able!

If you decide to extend your program after you have arrived in the country you will be charged a per day fee for time added onto a trip. If you wish to extend discuss this with the in-country staff and if your extension can be accommodated they will confer with the GSC-U.S. office. GSC-U.S. Headquarters will work out your extended stay invoice.  You will be required to submit the additional funds to the U.S. headquarters by cashier’s check or money order before your extended stay begins. It is not guaranteed that GSC will be able to accommodate your extension so it is best to decide before leaving your country how long you would like to stay. 

 

If participating in the long-term volunteer abroad program, will I have time to travel? 
Your weekends will be free so that you will have time to tour the region. Participants are expected to discuss holiday and weekend travel plans with the In-Country Coordinator and with your home hosts so your where-abouts is known and so you can be reached in case of an emergency. Participants on the GSC program for four weeks or longer will also go on the GSC arranged weekend to the United Nations Heritage Site Angkor Wat in Siem Reap! If you wish to do extensive traveling longer than weekend trips, please plan on doing so before or after your program. 

 

What is covered by my program fees?
Program Fees Include: Airport pick-up and project transportation, hostel and homestay accommodations, all meals, language and cultural orientation and project preparation  guidance, project administration, donations to partner organizations, and the weekend trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. This only applies to volunteer participants who stay on a GSC Program for 4 weeks or longer. 

Program Fees *do not Include: Airfare ($1,000-$2,500), travel insurance ($150-$350), background checks (required for all participants) ($15) and visas ($30-$100 depending on length of stay).

*These costs are estimates. Actual prices will depend on program length, your chosen vendors, visiting country's governmental regulations, and other factors beyond GSC's control.  

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