Wherever you venture to in this vast world, you want to make sure any sort of volunteering you do is through a reputable organization, which is why we wrote this post. We want to give you everything you need to know about the best orphanage to Volunteer at in Battambang, Cambodia.
Volunteering at an Orphanage in Cambodia was such an amazing and eye opening experience and a experience we want to share with everyone.
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Where Is The Best Orphanage in Cambodia To Volunteer At?
When we were in Cambodia, we found ourselves in a town we had no intention of visiting. Battambang is a city often overlooked by the tourist / backpacker group. However, this so happens to be the city where we volunteered at the best orphanage ever run by the sweetest Cambodian family.
What’s that orphanage name you ask? BOVA. BOVA stands for Battambang Orphanage Village Assistance.
About BOVA – Battambang Orphanage Village Assistance
BOVA – Battambang Orphanage Village Assistance is run by Sophorn and his family. It’s a small school/house establishment located in the village of Samraong Khnong, a 20 minute drive from Battambang city.
The focus of BOVA is to “provide care, education and vocational training to Cambodian orphans and the needy children of rural Cambodia and at the same time to build a network of support for impoverished children and families.”
Outside of that wonderful Mission Statement, Sophorn started BOVA to help the people that can’t help themselves. He saw the suffering in how own backyard and decided to do something about it. He wanted to help the community he lives in.
BOVA provides FREE education the youth of rural Cambodia as well as medical care and food at no cost to the individual or family. Amazing, RIGHT?!
Sophorn, his family and the NGO he created want to provide the tools these kids need now in order to succeed in life. From english lessons to training them to become self-efficient, BOVA is a cycle of good in the city of Battambang.
About BOVA’s Owner
Sophorn was born in 1973 into poverty as an only child to his parents. If you know your history, you know that 1973 was a few years before the Khmer Rouge took over and began the mass genodice in the country of Cambodia.
His father was murdered by the Khmer Rouge and Sophorn and his mother survived and did what they could to make ends meet.
Once tourism came to Cambodia, Sophorn became a tuk-tuk driver to support his mother, wife and 2 daughters.
As he was working as a tuk-tuk driver, one of the passengers of his tuk-tuk gave him an English Dictionary (because his English was so bad).
Sophorn did not take this small gift for granted. After a long day’s work, every night he would study English until, by his own will, became fluent.
A few years later, an Australian couple took a tour with Sophorn and noticed the same things we did, a kind, genuine, sincere, hard-working man that wanted something better for himself and his family.
They offered to pay for him to go to the University and be his sponsor.
Sophorn started at the University and before he knew it, he graduated with a degree in Finance. Realizing what the kindness of strangers, education and learning English did for him, he wanted to pass on the same kindness and opportunity given to him.
This is when he started the NGO called BOVA – Battambang Orphanage Village Assistance.
About Our Volunteer Day at BOVA
Sophorn picked us up and before going to the school, we asked, “is there anything we could we donate?” Sophorn told us that the biggest problem they are faced with is school supplies to teach the children English. Right, school supplies, we’re on it.
We headed out and got packs of notebooks and pens. We wish we could show you the look on Sophorn’s face. His smile was running out of room on his face.
Onto the next, question, “what else can we do?” Food. While the children are in school Sophorn and his family are tasked with feeding the kids. Food, we’re all over this.
We buy 50 Kilo bags of rice, drinks and cookies (because let’s be honest, cookies transcended barriers and are welcome by all).
With supplies and food in hand, we load up his tuk-tuk and off we go. We drive 20 minutes or so and end up driving down a street and pulling up to a home. A home? We realized at that moment, Sophorn runs BOVA right out of his home twice a day, every day (except Sunday).
We hop out and are greeted by his family, wife, two daughters and mother. Obviously, they were expecting us and with such gratitude they bowed repeatedly, grabbed our hands and thanked us for our kindness.
It felt weird. I (Lauren) am not one for attention and in my opinion, we really hadn’t done anything substantial. But I guess what I consider substantial and what they consider substantial is different and honestly, rightfully so.
When we arrived to BOVA we were thinking we’d just be dropping off the donations, saying hello to the kids and be on our way. Honestly, that’s all we wanted. The opportunity to provide help where we could. We needed nothing and we mean absolutely nothing in return.
However, Sophorn had a different plan for us! We were going to be the teachers for the morning!
For 3 magical hours, we taught a room of 30 smiley faced Khmer children. From singing songs, to teaching them how to say colors and drawing stick figures on the board to show them how to say body parts in English, we did our best to put our scholar hats on for the day.
Weirdly enough, this was the first time I had seen Jesse “teach”. Not going to beat around the bush but I think he may have a hidden skill set that we might start utilizing.
As cute as Jesse was up there in front of the class, the big highlight and truly humbling thing about this whole day were the kids. These kids by their own will, want to be here. They want to learn. They want to make their life better.
Back home, we hated school. Thought of it as a chore versus a privilege. Basically, an education is something we took for granted when we were younger.
We believe in fate and we are 100% convinced Sophorn was meant to be our tuk-tuk driver this day. He fell into our lap and thank god he did. Sophorn is literally the embodiment of ” when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
He took every opportunity he got to better himself and the community he grew up and lives in. He is the real hero in this story.
How Can You Volunteer and Help?
Now, the idea of donating money and ensuring it goes to the right place is a scary thing. Especially when dealing with organizations in developing countries.
We for one firmly believe in Sophorn and his organization, BOVA. We also spent time researching and vetting his organization. When we got home from our trip, we put together a GoFundMe page and raise almost $3,000 USD for him. That $3,000 USD went to healthcare, food and supplies for the kids.
He even sent us a video of the kids thanking us and using the supplies our money went too.
If you are looking to donate to contribute while in Cambodia or from home? Well, BOVA is it! If you’re hesitant on donating money, but are in Battambang, reach out to Sophorn and you can donate your time, food and supplies instead of cash.
Or, if you simply want to learn more about BOVA, message us directly, leave us a note in the comment section or visit their Facebook page.
We had such a great and honest experience that we wanted to share with our readers and future readers. Like we said, if you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out.
For The Budget Conscious: Located in the heart of Battambang, The Place is the vibe you are looking for. From it’s rooftop terrace to in-house bar, The Place is just the place for you.
For The Luxury Inclined: Bric-a-Brac is nestled in the colonial heart of Battambang. Providing 5-star service in a restored historical building, Bric-a-Brac is a Cambodian accommodation you won’t soon forget.
For Something In Between: Delux Villa is clean and comfortable and a great break from the Cambodia heat. With it’s beautiful pool and gardens, Delux Villa is the quiet you are looking for after a long day of exploring.
For more places to stay in Battambang, you can check out the latest places and prices here.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)