This past academic year, Phare Ponleu Selpak received two student volunteers from the United States. They have spent around 7 months at Phare and will be leaving soon to start their first year of university. As a farewell, we asked a few questions about their volunteering experience here.  

Last week, we spoke with Eliot WITHERSPOON. This week, we interviewed Soree KIM, a communications and marketing assistant who also helped with special projects. Watch (or read) her interview below!

Can you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Soree! I am from Georgia in the United States. I am 19 years old.

I recently graduated high school and am currently taking a gap year in Cambodia before starting my freshman year in university. I love traveling and meeting new people. I also enjoy trying out new foods with friends.  

Soree Kim, Communications Intern at Phare Ponleu Selpak

Did you come as an intern on your own or through a volunteering organization? Give us some details.

My university has a gap year program for newly admitted students called Novogratz Bridge Year. The program allows students to experience nine months of community-engaged learning and volunteering.

My cohort and I studied Khmer at the local university, lived with homestay families in Battambang, and volunteered at different NGOs around Battambang, Phare being one of them.  

Volunteer Soree Kim at the Sangker River Marathon organized by Phare Ponleu Selpak

What made you want to volunteer as part of the Phare family?

Our cohort visited each NGO partner before choosing which one we would like to volunteer at. During our tour at Phare, I was amazed by how passionate everyone was about the arts.

I could see that the students were genuinely happy and excited about being on campus – whether that was for circus, dance, music, or visual arts. That made me attracted to volunteering at Phare. 

Olivia AUDO with 2 other volunteers from Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, Cambodia

Photo credit: CHAN Rattanakoudom

What was your role while volunteering at Phare Ponleu Selpak?

I was part of the communications team with a focus on events and special projects. I helped organize Phare’s inaugural Sangker River Run, helping with project management across multiple teams. I also created web pages and blogs for the website.  

Learn more about volunteer internships at Phare Ponleu Selpak in this interview with Soree Kim

Photo credit: CHAN Rattanakoudom

What did you like most about doing an internship at Phare Ponleu Selpak?

My favorite part of volunteering at Phare is meeting new people and making new friends.

My internship at Phare often involved talking and working with staff from different departments. Through these meetings, I have met so many amazing people across the education and the visual and performing arts teams. 

The Phare Communications Team at the Sangker River Run

In your opinion, what makes Phare special or unique?  

Phare is incredibly special. I have never experienced this type of environment before back in the U.S. Phare welcomes everybody no matter what background. Even with the language barrier, I felt like a member of the Phare family on the first day.  

Furthermore, I am inspired every day by not only the teachers and students, but also the rest of the staff. Everyone is passionate about their jobs and about preserving Khmer art and culture, and it is awesome to experience a campus that is constantly energetic.  

Soree Kim's volunteering experience in Battambang, Cambodia

What advice would you give to someone else who is thinking about volunteering or interning at Phare?

I highly recommend volunteering at Phare Ponleu Selpak, especially for a longer time than a month or two. Volunteering here for seven months, I felt that in the first two months, I was able to acclimate myself to the new environment and learn how I can contribute. I could fully enjoy Phare after that.  

Phare is always something that I look forward to in my schedule. I enjoyed volunteering at Phare. If you are coming from a different province in Cambodia or from abroad and are unsure about joining a new place, I would not worry. Phare is so inclusive and welcoming. I felt part of the community on the first day. Everyone is so friendly and wants to help you.  


Looking for volunteer opportunities in Southeast Asia? Apply to volunteer at Phare Ponleu Selpak and use your professional skills to make a meaningful impact in Cambodia and beyond.


Eliot Witherspoon, communications intern at Phare Ponleu Selpak
Eliot Witherspoon
Eliot Witherspoon works as a communications intern at Phare Ponleu Selpak. He is currently spending nine months on a gap year in Cambodia before starting at Princeton University next year. He is looking to learn about the Khmer language and culture while gaining skills in writing, graphic design, and videography. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, listening to music, and being outdoors.