This is the third of a three-part post about what I learned about social media, NGOs, and Social Change in Cambodia during my “homecoming trip.” Part 1 was about NGOs in Cambodia, focusing on the work of the Sharing Foundation. Part 2 was about the Cambodian social media community. This post is about It’s about responsible tourism in an age of social media.
No trip to Cambodia would not be complete with a visit to the sacred temples, including Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap, a tourism center in Cambodia. But to get the most out of the experience, you need to hire a guide. Via Twitter, Daniela Papi, who co-founded a NGO called Pepy that supports children in Siem Reap area, introduced me to Yut who was “the best guide in Siem Reap.” The NGO also runs a social enterprise called “Pepy Tours” that provides “responsible tourism” where tourists are encouraged to live, give, and travel with a social mission. The enterprise also helps bring in revenue for the sister nonprofit that focuses on education.
Yut spoke fluent English, was a geek, and had in-depth knowledge of the Temples and other places visit in the area that matched our interests. He put together a customized tour so we could visit the Temples, local NGOs, take a boat ride on the Tonle Sap, visit a wild life refuge, a hike, and we hit the sites when the light for photography was best. His combination of wit and buddhist wisdom (“If you have one foot in the future and one foot in the past, you pee on the present.”) combined with expert knowledge made this a fantastic experience. He was engaging and also connected really well with our children. He is also a social media geek and presented at the TedX Phnom Penh.
You can review Yut’s presentation on responsible tourism, but as a guide he was constantly educating us on these issues as we learned about the wonders of Angkor Wat.
With more travelers visiting Cambodia and the extreme poverty that puts many children on the streets, child abuse is a problem. More and more moto taxi and taxi drivers, hotels and guesthouses, restaurants and internet café owners are collaborating with our ChildSafe network in all tourist areas to learn how to recognize this and report – and prevent the problem.
We had many teachable moments – particularly about giving money to children who were begging. This young girl only spoke a few words of English – and they were $1 dollar for a photo. This upset me. Yut told me that it is better to give the NGOs that support the children versus giving money to children which encourages them. Rather than give her a dollar, I purchased a bunch of bananas from floating store and gave it to her. This way I knew how how the money was being used. Later I made a small donation to Pepy which works with children in the Siem Reap area.
If ever visit Siem Reap and are looking for a guide, I highly recommend Yut.
Have you heard the term “responsible tourism.?” What are some ways you see nonprofits and the tourism industry collaborating on initiatives for social change in your community?