Community-led tourism and educational travel in Trei Nhoar, Cambodia

The Power of Educational Travel: An Update on Trei Nhoar, Cambodia

April 18, 2023

Last year we introduced you to our Discova Educational Travel (DET) community development project in Trei Nhoar, Cambodia. Set in the quiet rural countryside just beyond Siem Reap, Trei Nhoar is a fragile community composed of 10 villages. The villages collectively struggle with access to quality healthcare, sanitation and clean water, and education.

We were alerted to the plight of the community here thanks to a team member of Grasshopper Adventures, a leading Asian cycling tour company we acquired in early 2022. With the crucial support of visiting student groups, our DET team has been able to complete one healthcare-related project, and will begin construction on two others in May. Whether through fundraising or direct hands-on help, your student groups can build a better future for Trei Nhoar.

Discova Educational Travel team with local farmers in Trei Nhoar, Cambodia
Our DET Operations Executive, Sopheak Chheang, with one of Trei Nhoar's local farmers
What’s been done and what is needed for the future?

A major obstacle facing Trei Nhoar’s one and only healthcare centre has been sanitation. The underfunded centre has struggled to cope with the waste produced by caring for the entire community’s ill and injured. Together with the centre’s leaders, our DET team determined that the best way to alleviate the problem would be to build a new, higher-functioning waste incinerator. The incinerator was built with the support of a visiting student group from an international school from Mauritius during their annual abroad educational trip, and was completed in October 2022.  


The next crucial projects we established with the community leaders are: 

  • The construction of two toilet blocks: one for the healthcare centre and one for the community hall (with four toilet units each). 
  • A water filtration system: access to clean water has been a particularly big issue for Trei Nhoar, especially during Cambodia’s dry season. 
Sustainable local business in Cambodia
Trei Nhoar resident Kong Sim welcomes visitors to join her in her day-today routine, weaving recycled plastic into intricate, colourful mats to sell locally.

The design and plan for these projects has already been initiated, and building will commence in May, again with the support of visiting educational groups. Students will be spending time here getting to know the local community, completing service learning objectives, and helping with the build.  

The incinerator and these future projects have only been made possible thanks to the fundraising efforts of students from various schools and universities. Discova, as well as communities like Trei Nhoar, are incredibly grateful that we can continue to develop greater wellbeing and economic strength for vulnerable destinations and people.  

What can visitors to Trei Nhoar expect in terms of activities and accommodation?  

Up until now, we have only had educational groups from schools and universities visit Trei Nhoar, but we also aim to offer experiences here to leisure travellers interested in culturally immersive travel.

For visiting student groups, Discova has worked with the local community to offer 12 homestays for accommodation. In total, these can accommodate up to 30 students at a time. Our DET team has spent time training the homestay owners on how to best prepare bedding and other facilities, and to meet cleanliness standards expected of foreign visitors.

Homestay with local family in Trei Nhoar, Cambodia
One of the 12 local homestays visiting student groups can stay in during their time in Trei Nhoar

In terms of activities, students (and future leisure travellers) can enjoy direct interaction with local villagers and learn about their livelihoods and traditions. These include weaving classes, sticky rice making lessons, and cooking classes.

Local farming experience in Trei Nhoar, Cambodia
This local farmer will guide visitors through her small vegetable plantation, explaining the methods and techniques involved through various seasons

These experiences have not been curated purely for visitors, but are part of the natural daily goings-on in the villages. The villagers lead these classes and have been trained on how to teach these skills to inexperienced guests.

We also hired a chef from Siem Reap to train local cooks on how to accommodate a broader range of flavour preferences and tastes, and refine their cooking skills. This retains the authenticity of local Khmer dishes but ensures adaptability for visitors who may have certain dietary requirements.

The learning outcomes for students

As with all of our DET tours, the ultimate goal is for students to learn invaluable insight. Student groups to Trei Nhoar can expect:

  • Cultural exposure and exchange with local villagers (including local high school students) that teach them unique perspectives and a broader worldview.
  • A humbling experience, learning of the disparities of the world and the struggles of people they would be unlikely to meet in their day-to-day academic lives.

Book your students a (last-minute) 5-day/4-night program in Trei Nhoar!

Local community-led tourism in Trei Nhoar
Local Trei Nhoar villagers spent their day chopping cassava, a much-loved ingredient for many local dishes in the community.
Positive impact for the long-run

Our DET Operations Executive, Sopheak Chheang, has been at the forefront of communication with the community and leading the development process here. When asked how the Trei Nhoar community, who previously had little to no contact with tourism, felt about the developments here with Discova, he beamed:

Because Trei Nhoar is composed of more villages than Knapor, a nearby community where we have been similarly involved for a decade, our efforts may take a little longer. We typically aim to work with a community for 5-10 years until they have gained sufficient independence to lead their continued development themselves. 

Basket weaving in Trei Nhoar, Cambodia. Local business
This business owner weaves her own baskets and sells them on the local market. Guests can enjoy a class with her and learn some of the delicate techniques involved in creating these items.

In Trei Nhoar, our long-term focus is to: 

  • Foster economic enterprise and business entrepreneurship for talented individuals. 
  • Continue to improve the sanitation and quality of healthcare in the community. 
  • Raise the quality and capacity of education: currently there is only one high school to serve the educational needs of all 10 villages. In the future, we hope to support construction of a new school building, containing 4-5 classrooms. 
How you can help

Development is no one-man show, and that’s why we owe so much of what we do to our clients and visiting student groups.

With fundraising and both the economic and construction support provided by every new student group, communities like Trei Nhoar slowly begin to grow into independent, successful places that are elevated by tourism.

On the one hand, your student groups gain unforgettable service learning experiences, and on the other, they become a part of a long-term, sustainable tourism story.

Let’s talk

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