Phare Ponleu Selpak

Born in the crucible of a refugee camp, Phare Ponleu Selpak, or ‘The brightness of the arts,’ has always been more than just an organization. It’s an evolving tapestry of dreams, painted in the vibrant hues of young artists who once used drawing as a form of escape from the traumas of war.

The founders, a handful of youth who first took drawing workshops within the camp, had an epiphany. What if art could be a vehicle for social change, a palette of hope in the canvas of life?

arts and teaaching volunteering in cambodia
Volunteering in Cambodia with Phare means helping disadvantaged students grow through new opportunities in the arts.

They brought this ethos to Battambang, a place still reeling from the aftershocks of conflict. Over the years, PPS has expanded from an ambitious aspiration into an impactful association, focused on holistic community development. Now it operates as one of the most prominent social enterprises in Cambodia.

Through its network of schools, PPS provides a plethora of educational and social support opportunities that place the arts at the core. From public schools and kindergartens to professional training in visual arts and applied arts, PPS stands as a beacon of educational innovation.

Moreover, PPS houses a Performing Arts wing, offering rigorous training in dance, music, and yes, circus arts. Their social contributions extend further into the community with a specialized Child Protection Unit, ensuring the well-being of the young ones they serve.

The Role of Volunteers at Phare

phare runs a circus show that brings the most attention
The circus skills learned by the youth is just one aspect of the work that Phare does with the youth of Cambodia.

What adds another layer of depth to this extraordinary organization is its thoughtful approach to volunteer engagement. If you’re considering lending your skills to Phare Ponleu Selpak, know that they’re not just looking for warm bodies; they’re seeking individuals with specific expertise that aligns with their current needs.

These can span a multitude of fields—from communications, IT, and fundraising to specialized roles in lighting and sound design or English teaching.

Their criteria, however, extend beyond mere qualifications. The soul of a volunteer here is expected to resonate with PPS’s mission—someone who can approach the multifaceted activities and local culture with an open mind and a positive spirit.

Each volunteer application undergoes a meticulous assessment by their Human Resources Department. While they are open to a range of skill sets, a proposal outlining how your specific talents can foster the artistic and social growth of their students can significantly bolster your case.

Another essential consideration is the duration of your commitment. A preference is given to volunteers willing to commit for three months or more, though exceptions could be made for highly specialized tasks with an immediate need. Importantly, to protect the emotional and psychological well-being of the children, short-term volunteering roles involving direct interaction with them are strongly discouraged.

Should You Volunteer at Phare?

By volunteering at Phare Ponleu Selpak, you don’t just contribute to their long-term philanthropic objectives. You submerge yourself in the pulsating heart of Cambodian arts and culture, gain a rich understanding of the challenges facing vulnerable communities, and challenge yourself in ways that enrich both your life and the lives you touch. It’s not just about offering your skills; it’s about receiving an education in empathy, an apprenticeship in the art of being human.

PPS provides education in the form of:

  • A public school and Kindergarten
  • Professional training in visual arts and applied arts
  • Performing arts training including dance, music, and circus skills.

PPS welcomes volunteers who have skills that could contribute to any of their areas of education and is on a case by case basis; for example PPS may accept a volunteer who has a particular artistic skill that would be useful for the students to learn.

Phare ask for a minimum commitment of three months or longer, however this may be negotiable for certain circumstances. You can contact them directly with an outline of your ideas and experience.
There are no fees associated with volunteering with Phare Ponleu Selpak, however you will be required to cover living costs in Cambodia. The organization will help you sort out long-term accommodation near the campus.
Other Ways You Can Help
Phare: The Cambodian Circus is an offshoot of Phare Ponleu Selpak. There are nightly performances in Siem Reap and regular performances in Battambang as well as international performances.

For more information about volunteering with Phare Ponleu Selpak, visit them online: