by Gillian White

Volunteers often ask us, what should we bring(?), wanting to know if they can get various writing materials and art supplies in Cambodia.

PLF realizes that for many volunteers, this may be their first time in Cambodia, maybe even their first time in a ‘developing’ country. And thus, we understand that these questions are not always intuitive.

We would like to let you know that you can buy mostly everything in Cambodia, from pencils and paper, to paint, USBs and computers, clothes and toys, sports equipment and medicine. Most of these supplies are often a lot cheaper here than in your own countries and buying products here is significantly more convenient than lugging supplies over and paying overweight fees. We can provide you with a list of stores that sell various supplies in town.

Our Amazon wishlist is filled with products that cannot be easily bought in Cambodia, so please feel free to bring these items over. We will also occasionally list other items that we cannot find and that need to be brought over. But, there really aren’t that many products that are difficult to find here.

Though PLF greatly appreciates all kinds of donations, flooding Cambodia (or any developing economy) with free stuff has a detrimental effect on local business. PLF would like volunteers and donors to save the space in their luggage and buy things here, at local businesses, that are struggling against the foreign products that the plethora of NGOs bring into the country.

We would also like to mention that though PLF students are poor, they deserve to use the same products that the rest of the world uses. Please don’t donate dirty clothes or broken toys, etc. If you wouldn’t give the supplies to your own children, please don’t give them to somebody else’s. With regards to donating books, please keep in mind that these students, even the ones in high school have a very basic grasp of English. Chapter books are useless here because the kids cannot read them. Books with pictures are great for all ages, but the ideal books are written in both English and Khmer. These can be bought locally for about $1 a book.

PLF believes in a holistic approach to development. Educating students becomes futile if businesses are struggling against floods of development aid and donations from abroad and cannot provide decent paying jobs. If the economy suffers, the poor suffer.

Buying locally in Cambodia is a win-win situation.