From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development

An Advanced Seminar About Making a Difference

Welcome to the Real World

As the disparity between wealth and poverty in the world grows greater every year, there is no question that your generation will play a crucial role in closing that gap. Life for most of the world's six billion people is a struggle, with many unable to access clean water, sufficient food, and protection from the elements.

The problems of the world are great, and it would be impossible to fix them overnight. However, we at Rustic Pathways have reason to believe that you can make a difference. For decades now, we have been running community service programs in some of the world's more remote and underprivileged areas. Year after year, we have learned through the villagers that we've worked with and the students who have joined us that above all else, there is still hope. Despite the hardships that people face around the world, change for the better is happening and it is easier to accomplish than most people realise.

From the Ground Up

Rustic Pathways is proud to introduce 'From the Ground Up' for students interested in learning the inner workings of real aid projects. Unlike our other service programs, this one is decidedly academic. You will design a group project for an underprivileged community in Cambodia and work with local people to see it come to fruition. This entails cultivating a service project from its inception and turning it into a reality. Those who join this team must be willing to do the groundwork necessary to achieve the program goals. You will learn from professionals in the field how projects operate from start to finish - from drafting a project proposal and grant request to working on the ground and finally assessing the project's impact on the community.

Delve Into Contemporary Cambodia

From the Ground Up will introduce you to Cambodia's complex history and help you understand the influences that shape the country today. You will be responsible for completing the program reading list and submitting an essay prior to departure. This program will be touching on a number of very real and sensitive issues, so you should be prepared to deal with mature subject matter.

Success through Research

Throughout this program, you will be challenged to check their preconceived notions at the door and learn from the local people. From the outside, it's often easy to think that you know what is best for everyone else. During this program you will listen to local opinions and suggestions above all others, and your projects will be based around the feedback that you get from your Cambodian friends. You will generate a number of project proposals, and the group will choose the most beneficial based on research done in the field. Collaboration and teamwork is a must, as one proposal and grant request will be fulfilled per trip. Other project proposals will be considered as future pilot projects for the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

The Way Forward

If you're looking for an intensive service program with a real-world academic element to it, From the Ground Up is the program for you. Whether you're aspiring to start your own grassroots service project, want to learn about contemporary issues in Southeast Asia, or wish to challenge yourself to be a part of positive change in action, Rustic Pathways cordially invites you to join us in Cambodia for this exciting new program.

* Admission is by application only - students must submit a 500- to 700-word essay to be accepted into this program. Essays should state why From the Ground Up interests you and how this experience would apply to your life. Submit your essay by email with a brief introduction and a subject of From the Ground Up to

* Pre-program reading list required, and pre-program assignment from Trip Leader will be sent prior to departure. This reading list will be an interesting variety of topics in the field.

Questions? For more information about From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development, e-mail us at

Day-by-day Itinerary

From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development

DAY 1 Welcome to Phnom Penh!

As you exit airport customs, your Rustic Pathways trip leaders will be waiting just outside the door. Climb into a private van to the hotel, enjoying your first glimpse of Cambodia's capital. Nestled on the banks of three great Southeast Asian rivers - the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac rivers - the frenetic streets of Phnom Penh provide a fascinating window into Cambodian Culture. According to legend, this vibrant city was founded by a nun, Lady Penh, in the 14th century, and became the country's capital some 100 years later. From its power as a prominent market hub for European traders, to eventual French colonization, to Khmer independence, to domination by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, Phnom Penh has seen its fair share of turbulence and unrest. As you ride through the motorcycle-choked streets and catch glimpses of busy marketplaces, know that you are witnessing a new era of growth and change for this beautiful and special country.

Freshen up before heading over to the bustling riverside for your welcome dinner. Meet your trip leaders and they will talk about the exciting things in store for the week.


Rise and shine for your first full day in Phnom Penh. Not only is this city the political and economic hub of the country, it also has one of the largest concentrations of NGOs and international aid in the world.

After breakfast, dive into an introduction to Cambodia's past and present, giving you a firm foundation with which to understand your surroundings. A ride through the buzzing traffic of Phnom Penh will give you a close look at street life and the neighbourhoods that make up this city. Your first visit will be to the notorious Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum where local guides will share with you personal stories of terror and triumph, followed by a tour of the Killing Fields. Knowledge of this dark chapter of Cambodian history is key to understanding the way the country functions today.

DAY 3 - 5

Visit some successful NGO projects that have made a difference in Phnom Penh. Participate in meetings with various consultants who will answer questions on what it takes to start your own projects.

These field experts will focus their discussions with you on their projects, the plan of action, and the basics of grant writing. This will include various types of humanitarian work ranging from helping street kids; women's vocational training such as weaving, textiles and crafts; environmental concerns such as wildlife preservation or solar power in rural villages; and more straight-forward projects like food donation and medical care to those who need it most. Meet with your staff at the end of each day to compare notes, reference the reading material and reflect on the power of these projects.

DAY 6 - 7

Today head to your project village, which will have been selected by Rustic Pathways' Cambodian Service Team. For the next segment of your trip, live with the residents of this village and experience daily life in a rural vilage. Collect data by speaking to village elders, residents, and even children, while keeping in mind all of the advice from the previous three days. You may find yourself helping out in a garden while listening to translated stories or participating in some popular non-verbal communication… volleyball! This time is really about taking in your surroundings and getting to know the people who live here and how we can help them the most.


Now that you have seen several examples of projects in action, met with international aid consultants, and embedded yourself in your service village listening to the needs and suggestions of the community, the next step is to come up with a plan. Submit a project proposal of your own for consideration to the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

DAY 9 - 13

Once the group project and budget have been approved, it's time to buy materials and get crackin'! The next five days are spent in the field: building, planting, teaching, creating or whatever it may be, your idea will come to fruition. Sustainable improvements have been set into place and you will have played a crucial role in every step.

On Tuesday morning hop in the vans and make the drive to Siem Reap. You'll have time in the afternoon to relax, get a massage, and do a little shopping at the night market!

DAY 14

Spend this morning visiting the world-famous temples around Angkor Wat. Be prepared to feel like Indiana Jones as you climb over the amazing crumbling ruins overtaken by jungle that make this place one of the most seen destinations of the world. Tonight we will be treated to traditional Khmer dancing with a delicious Khmer dinner and spend some time browsing the night market. Be sure to make a shopping list for all of your souvenirs, as this is your last chance to buy gifts for all of your loved ones back home!

Reflect on your time spent in the village and the goals you accomplished. What has this experience meant to you and what does it mean in a global sense in terms of instituting grassroots change?

DAY 15

Community service is a lifelong journey; one that we never tire of here at Rustic Pathways, and we hope you won't either. You now have the necessary tools to start your own organization or simply find an area in need and step in to lend a helping hand. Take what you have learned and branch out on your own. Be safe and best of luck! As you now know, small numbers can equal big change.

After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to Cambodia.

Students depart Siem Reap International Airport, or go on to connect with other Rustic Cambodia programs.

An Important Note about Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity. The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

Questions? For more information about From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development, e-mail us at

Packing List

From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development

A quick note: Many students over-pack and sometimes have to pay for overweight bags on domestic flights. The weight limit is 15 kilograms. You'll have frequent access to laundry on this program, so you won't need that many clothes. We won't tell on you if you wear the same t-shirt twice!

Carry-on Luggage: A small backpack works best

  • Passport and Wallet
  • A photocopy of your passport
  • Sunglasses
  • A durable camera, smaller is better for this program
  • Journal
  • A good book
  • A pen

Checked Luggage:

A duffle bag, suitcase, or large backpack. Wheeled suitcases are fun, but may not roll so well in rice paddies. All items listed with “Plastic Bag” should be packed inside a plastic bag in case bottles leak or break.

  • 2 Photocopies of your passport
  • Long pants - one lightweight pair and one heavier pair
  • Pants that have zip-off legs to convert to shorts are great
  • Shorts - two or three pairs
  • Swimsuit
  • Underwear - 5 pairs
  • Socks - 5 pairs lightweight fast drying synthetic athletic socks are best
  • Shirts - t's, tank tops, and athletic shirts
  • A collared shirt for visiting the schools
  • One long sleeve shirt
  • Materials such as polypropylene dry fast and help you stay cool
  • Sweatshirt or jacket - lightweight and breathable
  • Rain jacket - lightweight, vented is nice
  • One casual, but nice-looking outfit for going out to dinner and visiting temples. If you're thoughtful, you can accomplish this without packing any clothing in addition to what's listed above
  • Sneakers - light, breathable, fast-drying
  • Thongs are the old standby for Thai footwear. Sandals that strap to your heel work great and are adequate for many of our activities
  • Water bottle
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Several band aids of assorted sizes
  • Double antibiotic ointment
  • Medical Tape
  • Preferred mild pain reliever
  • Sterile bandages - 4-6
  • Ace bandage
  • Antiseptic wipes 10
  • Sunscreen - PLASTIC BAG
  • Insect repellent with DEET, one small bottle - PLASTIC BAG
  • Hand sanitiser - 2 small bottles - PLASTIC BAG
  • Watch
  • Medications - don't forget to let the staff know which meds you take
  • Travel toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Travel soap container and soap
  • Contact lens care supplies if needed

Optional Items:

  • Pictures of home, family to share with the Khmer people you'll meet
  • A Deck of Cards
  • Khmer / English phrasebook
  • Travel pillow
  • A bag for dirty clothes - this can be a mesh bag, a pillowcase or even a rubbish bag


$150-$300 The Lotus Market in central Battambang has an amazing variety of crafts, clothing, and unbelievable miscellaneous trinkets and shopping there is a real treat, so budget more if you're a big time shopper and less if you're a go light, less is more, bring home only the memories kind of traveller.

Questions? For more information about From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development, e-mail us at

Frequently Asked Questions

From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development

Is Cambodia dangerous? Should I be worried about land mines?

Granted, Cambodia has had a rough past but the country is experiencing a booming recovery thanks in large part to tourism. Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are incredibly tourist friendly. As far as the danger due to land mines, the areas where we will be have been thoroughly cleared and very safe. That being said, we always take further precautions like walking only on well-travelled paths to ensure our safety.

Will I be able to talk to my child?

All our staff members in Cambodia have cell phones and are in constant contact with the main Rustic Pathways office. In the case of an emergency, we will be notified by our main office and pass any necessary information on to your child. Our students, however, are not permitted to have cell phones because these tend to interfere with group dynamics. Our staff members will notify you by email within 24 hours of your child's safe arrival in Cambodia. Almost every area we will be visiting has access to Internet and on some evenings students will have time to use Internet cafes.

Should I be taking Malaria medication in Cambodia?

This decision is best made by you, your child, and your family physician. For up to date information to help your decision please visit the World Health Organisation website ( and consult your physician.

Do I need a mosquito net?

We provide mosquito nets when necessary so no need to bring your own!

What should I bring?

Check out the packing list but please pack lightly! Remember that you are in charge of carrying your bag so the lighter your bag the easier on your shoulders! It is very easy to purchase additional clothing or items that were forgotten at home.

Questions? For more information about From the Ground Up: A Seminar in International Development, e-mail us at

Rustic Pathways