Helping an NGO in Cambodia: the greatest experience of my life

TRAVEL around the world, LEARN everything I can from other cultures, and GROW as a human being: that’s my dream, which I’ve been living to the fullest for the past 5 months now.



A regular Brazilian, following the dream of travelling the world! :) Just experienced my 4th '...

Aug 09, 2018


Hi! I’m Gustavo Goulart, 31 years old, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I’m going to tell you about me living my dream, which started in May of 2016. No… actually, it really all started in mid 2015, and I’ll tell you why.

I say really because I was planning this journey long before boarding my first plane, by taking all these steps:

1. Dream a lot about the whole thing;
2. Make the final decision to do it and convince myself of its importance;
3. For over a year, prepare my loved ones to get used to the idea of me being gone for a long time;
4. Plan and hand in my resignation from the awesome company where I worked for more than 8 years, and the other commitments I had;
5. Sell my apartment, car, and other belongings;

All of that took me over a year, and by the time it was done I felt completely ready to start my journey. But then, I looked at my budget and realized I still didn’t have all the money needed to travel to all the countries I wanted. It is a huge world, you know!

I looked online to see if there was a way for me to work while abroad, and the results I got were even better: you can volunteer to exchange your time and work for things like accommodation, food, and more!!

That was exactly what I was looking for, because for me it wasn’t only about traveling, but also important to feel a part of the culture and learn the most I could from each place.

I came across Worldpackers back then and became a verified member in order to use it for a whole year. I thought the design was very intuitive and easy to use, but hadn’t used it at that point yet.

So, I got on a plane to Japan (such an amazing country), and my journey had begun! I stayed at hostels at first, because I was initially afraid of using Worldpackers for some reason... But after talking to people in Kyoto, I had a really great experience volunteering at a hostel through Worldpackers. That made me a lot more comfortable using the platform.

After Japan I went to Taiwan (also amazing), and I found another Worldpacker experience: volunteering at a hostel in Tainan, the ancient capital of Taiwan. I did such easy things for them, such as making beds and doing laundry, in exchange for accommodation and breakfast/lunch! The staff was very kind and patient, so I have to thank them for the experience!

My next destination was Thailand and right after that, Cambodia, where I am now. Since I had such a nice experience with Worldpackers, I wanted to try it again. So I signed up to volunteer with an NGO to teach English to poor children in a very small village (Kampong Prieng), 25 km away from Battambang, which is small city but is the third biggest in Cambodia.


First of all, the host Juan is a very nice and fun Spanish guy, who I could relate right away after his cool welcome. He’s the Project Manager of the VIP Fellowship Programme, which is a Malaysian project to set up sustainable programs around Asia in order to help with humanitarian development.

On the VIP team there were more amazing people, mostly expats who were there working on the project, which was started to help create and develop the HDLF NGO initiative, amongst other initiatives, in Kampong Prieng (a village in Battambang/Cambodia). Also, they teach older students how to get jobs and be successful as an adult.

Human Resource Development & Language Foundation (HDLF), is a NGO founded in 2015 by a very kind-hearted Cambodian teacher and his family. He’s known as the “Kind Man” there. The NGO’s focus is to build English schools, and help then to be self-sufficient and sustainable after they’re done.

Before continuing to read this, please take some time to learn about Cambodian history if you don’t know it already… it’s very tough. Focus on Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and you’ll understand more.

My experience is with the second school they are building, which has more than 130 students now. The staff of that school is great and so sweet, really incredible people and very hard workers!

The food and accommodation in the school is very basic and simple (no western toilet or shower), which gave me a whole new perspective on life… I built walls, taught English, cooked, participated in rice farming, gardened, and whatever else they needed me to do. In fact, I even decided to stay 1 week longer than I was planning to.

This has been the best experience of my life on so many levels… helping the poor kids of Cambodia to learn something that may change their lives, like helping them to build their character, is something that I can’t be thankful enough for.

I learned that you don’t need much to be happy (not even a western shower or toilet), and to make another person happy also doesn’t take much.

I learned many different skills than I did in my school/university/job/previous life… They’re not better or worse skills, but complementary. I will definitely come out of this experience a much more complete human being than I was before. And yet I have so much more to learn to reach 100% of my potential. If I ever do.

And all of it was possible through Worldpackers, so I really thank the HDLF team and students, VIP team, and WorldPackers with all of my heart: ‘ARKOUN’!!

I would definitely recommend the site to my friends and family. I can say for a fact that this was the platform that was the best for me.

Cheers everyone!

Gustavo Goulart

Instagram: @gavosantos



A regular Brazilian, following the dream of travelling the world! :) Just experienced my 4th '...

Aug 09, 2018

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