Insider Tip: Participant Tourism in Building Futures for Young Khmer People
Cambodia has a young population and educational resources are struggling with schooling demands. One of Cambodia’s most engaging NGO efforts is in the field of education and youth development. Nick Packham, Khiri Cambodia’s Operations Manager, discusses how particpant tourism can contribute to this effort.
With 45 percent of young people unable to finish school in Cambodia as well as the country having one of the highest percentages of persons under age 18 in the world, education is very much a hot topic in Cambodia. With this young generation being the face of an ever-changing Cambodia, education is pivotal to the future prosperity of this developing country.
Cambodia’s young population is mostly a result of the recent history of atrocities by the Khmer Rouge. Now that the trouble is over, families are producing large numbers of offspring. In the important agricultural sector, more family members means more labor to do farm work and produce crops.
This large youthful population is accelerating at a rapid rate. Educational institutions are struggling to keep up. Although the government does provide free public education, it is not accessible to everyone. Sometimes the funding falls below the benchmark needed to provide and sustain a high level of education during the course of the budget year.
This is why one of Cambodia’s most engaging NGO efforts has been in the field of education and youth health and development. These projects are trying to bridge the gap between the high number of young people needing an education and the amount of educational resources provided by the state. There are a large number of NGO’s, both national and international, providing educational support and resources in areas where state schools either cannot cope with the demand for education or cannot reach children in remote areas.
The idea of participant tourism in Cambodia is therefore very important. This participation can take the form of expertise, material resources or funding. Involvement of tourists in NGO educational projects also connects Cambodia’s students on a personal level with others from different cultures. This opens them up to a wider sense of the world outside their village. Participant tourism is a chance to share cultural lessons. It not only benefits the local organization, but it can provide a great experience for outsiders to learn more about Cambodia. Connecting with young people enables travelers to gain insight into one of the last authentic, traditional cultures in Southeast Asia.
However, in order to be truly successful, participant tourism has to be managed in the right way. Khiri Travel Cambodia partners with local organizations – such as Cambodian Organization for Living and Training (COLT) – that have excellent policies on child protection. Khiri also understands the risks involved if child protection is not the top priority. Khiri Travel Cambodia also works alongside ChildSafe, a program of Friends International NGO. The ChildSafe program helps organizations focus on sustainable and ethical principals for protecting young people.
Participant tourism through student service learning is also a great way for high schools and colleges in the western world to provide its pupils with memorable life experiences, team building, and group activity. Participant tourism and service learning trips are a growing market, one that Cambodia and Khiri are embracing hand in hand.
Product & Operations Manager
Khiri Travel Cambodia