Discovering the Tireless Work of Siem Reap’s NGOs
Beyond the tours to Angkor Wat and other popular sightseeing attractions in Cambodia’s Siem Reap, there’s another side to the town that most visitors don’t get to see. It involves the many NGOs based in Siem Reap, who work tirelessly dealing with a broad variety of issues to help raise the living standards of the province’s rural poor and keep them safe from harm.
Khiri Travel Cambodia’s special tour gives visitor a unique opportunity to look into this network of social enterprises and learn about the inspiring and fascinating work that some of these non-profits do. Slowly but surely, they are improving the lives and bringing new skills to the people of Siem Reap – a bustling and ever-expanding tourist destination.
The tour begins early in the morning at your hotel, where you will meet with your guide, before visiting the bicycle shop to choose your bike for the tour. We then ride along the riverside, biking downing a variety of town roads and village lanes to Siem Reap’s local center for Mine Detection Rats! Nicknamed the ‘HeroRats’ these creatures are trained to detect landmines and other explosives using their highly developed sense of smell.
The rats can search a 200 square meter minefield in 20 minutes, a job that would normally take a trained technician with a metal detector between one to four days. Cambodia is the second most mine-affected country in the world after Afghanistan, with over a million tons of bombs dropped on the country by the United States, during the Vietnam War. The rats are therefore helping to save lives by using their super senses to sniff out the past and help create safer rural areas for villagers.
After learning about their interesting work, we return to the bikes and continue riding through the picturesque rural countryside, arriving at the showroom of Rehash Trash, a social enterprise run by a group of local mothers that turns plastic roadside garbage – using learned crochet skills – into an imaginative variety of artistic products.
The program was set up by its parent organization Green Gecko, which works with former street children and their families. Rehash Trash is now helping to empower the local mothers of Siem Reap, and in May last year, the mums involved started working full-time in their very own showroom where they can see their products being sold to the public. They also teach their crochet skills in their customer workshop – and if there’s time, you will have the chance to weave your own take-home plastic bag treasure!
After this inspiring tour, we head for some locally brewed refreshments, and there’s no better place than the workshop and shop of Sombai, a local producer of liqueur, available in a range of eight different flavors. Using Cambodia’s tradition of distilling rice wine, Sombai liqueur is an infusion of local fruits and spices that comes in a hand-painted bottle, making it a unique and original souvenir of Siem Reap. The workshop and shop have been set up in a charming traditional Khmer house with a homey tasting lounge where guests can relax and discuss the flavors. After the tasting, you can quietly choose your bottles, whether hand-painted or with a label – unique souvenirs of your visit to the town.
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