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Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Program Description

Students will travel to Cambodia to volunteer with Kids Play International. While there, they will help KPI promote gender equity through sports by breaking down harmful gender, social and cultural barriers that limit the ability of girls to reach their full potential.

The core design of KPI's programs is for boys and girls to “try on” new behaviors, actions and ideas in a safe space and when they are ready take what they are learning inside our program and share and apply it outside our program; at school, in their homes and in the community. In addition to volunteering with KPI, students will learn about the rich history and culture of Cambodia.

Location Description

Phase 1: Phnom Penh

Prior to heading to Siem Reap, students will visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center in Phnom Penh. The two chilling sites are essential for understanding the story of the Khmer Rouge and visiting each destination with a local guide means you will learn about the historical, political and social context of the bleak period of Khmer history which followed the fall of Phnom Penh in April 1975.

We will start at the Choeung Ek Memorial, one of the infamous Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge executed around 17,000 of the estimated 2 million Cambodians who perished under the Pol Pot regime. After “lunching for a cause” at one of the restaurants training local street youth to work in the hospitality industry, we continue by taking a sobering walk through Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21). Here there are stark and moving reminders of Cambodia’s recent tragic past.

We will end the day on a lighter note by exploring “the hidden pearl of Asia” with a guided tour of the city stopping at sites of interest or colorful markets along the way, including the spectacular Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda (Emerald Buddha), the pagoda at Wat Phnom, the Independence Monument and the recently unveiled statue commemorating the late King Father (Sihanouk).

Phase 2: Service-Learning in Siem Reap

In Siem Reap, students will travel to nearby villages to volunteer with Kids Play International to participate in and help coach Youth Let’s Play Fair programs. Let’s Play Fair (LPF) is Kids Play’s core, mixed-gender program for Youth, ages 7-18 that uses sport to help girls and boys find deeper ways to work, play and live together in a manner that is respectful, equitable, fair and just. The LPF after-school program is based on 6, 7-week seasons annually; each season’s curriculum includes 1 less familiar sport (Frisbee, Baseball, Volleyball, Flag Football, Track/Field, Lacrosse) and 1 of our 5 PlayFair skills (Community, Contribution, Respect, Opportunity, Moral Courage) to shift attitudes, behaviors and social norms and build more equitable relationships, while also sharing coping tools to help promote mental wellness. It is vital to KPI that we not only empower girls, but educate boys, as they must also play a meaningful role in the process of gender equity, allowing both genders to understand how each contributes to a healthy community.

Kids Play’s ongoing coach capacity and professional development training helps their coaches/teachers gain the skills they need to overcome poverty and gender barriers and serve as models of positive, adult female empowerment for the players and the entire community.

Phase 2B: Cultural-Learning in Siem Reap

On one of the first days, Kids Play Staff will take JMU students on a walking tour of Siem Reap so they can get their bearings and explore Siem Reap’s markets, local temples, and the river side.  In addition, following each day of meaningful play and immersion with local children, JMU students will have the evenings to explore local culture together by visiting Street 60 as a group.  At Street 60, students can enjoy local street food, Cambodian style. Buzzing every single night, Street 60 is a long road lined with mats for hire, street food sellers and a small fun fair.  It’s an evening picnic and barbecue haven – the perfect place to relax without all the western tourists.

While in Siem Reap, JMU students will also have the opportunity to visit and engage with a variety of opportunities for cultural exchange.  One of these includes a tour of the APOPO Museum to learn how Cambodia is contaminated with hidden landmines and other explosive remnants of war, that cause tragic accidents and hamper communities from developing their productive land.  In addition to covering how they became one of the most landmine affected countries in the world, the museum explains how they are now using rats in the mine clearance process.

On another day in Siem Reap, JMU students will visit the Phare Circus with KPI youth and coaches.  More than just a circus, Phare performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern. The young circus artists will astonish you with their energy, emotion, enthusiasm and talent. Phare artists are students and graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak’s vocational training center in Battambang. The association was formed in 1994 by 9 young men coming home from a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the alternative schools. Phare The Cambodian Circus offers these students and graduates somewhere to hone their skills and a place to earn a decent wage. Money that will take them out of poverty and give them self-respect and freedom.

On the last two days in Cambodia, JMU students will visit the Tonle Sap Floating Village and Lake and the Kulen Elephant Forest.  Situated on the flood plains of the Tonle Sap lake is the small village of Kampong Phhluk. A place that undergoes a phenomenal change between the seasons. In the dry season, homes tower on their tall spindly stilts. Fishermen repair boats and nets, children make clay balls to use with their slingshots and enjoy the freedom of being able to run around. In the wet season the water laps at the floorboards, travel is limited to boats and in some instances buckets. Children paddle to and from school and life revolves around fishing. At Kompong Phhluk the village sits on the edge of a flooded forest where trees and land become submerged for months at a time.  At the Kulen Elephant Forest, JMU students will walk with the elephants into the forest and witness how they choose to spend their time enjoying their natural surroundings.


Stephanie West | | Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management

Guy deBrun | | Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management


Students and faculty will be in the same hotel but in different rooms than students, with two students sharing a room, each with a separate bed.

Once on-site, all meals will be provided as part of the program.

Additional Items to Consider

• Visa - Volunteers can get a Tourist Visa on arrival or apply for an eVisa before arrival.
• Immunizations - this is up to each student/volunteer- we will provide them the CDC guidelines.
• WhatsApp is widely used in Cambodia
• Wifi is in all hotels and most restaurants
• US dollars are the main currency used
• Suggested to get an International phone plan or use data only when you have wifi.

COVID-19 Location Information:

Each country has different requirements upon entry with regard to COVID-19. Please check this website for the most up-to-date information on what is required for the country (or countries) that are part of this program. Please note that this changes often, so we encourage you to check back frequently.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

No language requirement

No program prerequisites

Open to Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors, Graduate Students in all majors

Students from the Hart School who have taken SRM 241 will be given priority on this trip.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short Essay 
  • Resume
  • Academic References
  • Interview with Program Director may be required

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


SRM 298: The Role of Sports in Gender Equity within Cambodia (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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