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The Trailblazer Foundation | Siem Reap, Cambodia


More photos from this internship can be found here.

Be a part of a sustainable development organization working in northwestern Cambodia. The Trailblazer Foundation works to improve health, food security, education, and economic development in rural Cambodia in ways that are self-sustaining by the individuals and communities served. The organization works on projects related to clean water, agriculture, and provides technical training to villages around the town of Siem Reap. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about grassroots, non-profit program management. Interns will have an opportunity to support extraordinary community-based projects while experiencing Cambodia’s rich culture and complex history. Located about 15 miles from Angkor Wat, interns will be well-placed to explore the ruins of one of the greatest human creations in history. In the role as intern you will assist The Trailblazer Foundation in its mission to build local capacity to alleviate the poverty and hardship that remains from the devastation of the Khmer Rouge Regime.

There are four internship positions available, each requiring different skill sets: General Program Assistant, Agricultural Assistant, Data Analyst, and Finance Assistant. It is possible for four interns to be placed at The Trailblazer Foundation concurrently.

IE3 Global – Austin King from IE3 Global on Vimeo.

Hear U.S. Army veteran Austin King describe his experience as an IE3 Global Intern at the Trailblazer Foundation in Cambodia.

Duration of Internship:

  • 10-24 weeks. Minimum of 12 weeks preferred

The Trailblazer Foundation was incorporated as a 501(c)3 in April 2004. Since then, the foundation has run highly successful programs in villages, guided by their mission to improve health, food security, education, and economic development in rural Cambodia in ways that are self-sustaining by the individuals and communities served. They focus on water projects, school construction, and community development in order to foster healthy families, sufficient food, and sustainable incomes.

Trailblazer staff works with village, commune, and district level officials on community development plans to address growth and meet the on-going needs of villagers. Trailblazer strives to preserve the cultural integrity of the villages they work in by using a participatory model and bottom-up approach of community-based development. This allows the villagers to identify their needs and empowers them to work in partnership with Trailblazer to find sustainable solutions to their most pressing needs. This ensures they are invested in the successful outcome of the project. Trailblazer emphasizes the need for sustainability in order to reduce the need for ongoing international aid and to ensure that during the monsoon season when villagers are most isolated, they are able to be self-sufficient.

Many of the rural villages in Siem Reap Province had little to no access to international aid prior to Trailblazer Foundation’s arrival. The result was residents of these villages suffered a high rate of disease, illiteracy, and other devastating effects caused by of lack of water, sanitation, and food. Being the first to go into villages where there were no other Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), is a true definition of “trailblazing”. However, the foundation’s definition of trailblazing goes much deeper. Upon arrival in a village, Trailblazer works within the context of the Cambodian and village culture, establishing trust, fostering relationships, and supporting the village infrastructure.

In the last ten years, Trailblazer’s work in Siem Reap Province has resulted in: access to clean water to over 100,000 people through the installation of at least 650 wells and over 4,000 bio-sand water filters; the construction of six elementary schools and two school libraries; agriculture training opportunities for rural farmers; establishment of micro-businesses; and village-run self-sustaining bank funds. Learn more about Trailblazer’s work at http://www.thetrailblazerfoundation.org/.

Four positions are available: General Program Assistant, Agricultural Assistant, Data Analyst, and Finance Assistant.

General Program Assistant

The General Program Assistant intern will work alongside Khmer staff on a variety of tasks to support current projects and staff needs. The intern will provide broad support for daily activities within the office and should be a true go-getter and extremely flexible. Past interns have assisted with the development, distribution, and compilation of field surveys and other data. Interns may also be asked to assist with training initiatives, data entry, report writing, communication, and website maintenance. This role is ideal for students interested in gaining an overview of non-profit program management and who would like to try their hand at a variety of tasks.

Agricultural Assistant

The Agricultural Assistant intern will work alongside Khmer staff in assisting rural villagers to establish new vegetable gardens and improve existing gardens in the countryside surrounding Siem Reap. Possible duties include assisting in the training of drip irrigation use/installation, developing sustainable use of bio-fertilizers and organic pesticides, assisting in marketing of crops, testing crop growth at Trailblazer Test Garden, and conducting formal monitoring reports.

Data Analyst

The Data Analyst intern will work with Khmer staff to conduct field surveys pertaining to one of Trailblazer’s current village-based projects. In addition to logging data for general records, the intern will also write a formal monitoring report on one or more of these projects. This report would highlight project strengths and weaknesses and offer practical suggestions for improvement. Possible subjects for monitoring include water sanitation, well-drilling, agriculture, animal husbandry, microfinance, and small business development. Interns may also be asked to assist in GPS data recording and geographical mapping.

Finance Assistant

The Finance intern will work with Khmer staff to set-up and enter Trailblazer’s financial database of transactions for all program operations, projects, and activities to ensure proper accounting of funds, and for use in reporting. Interns will also be asked to help create simple accounting reports within the QuickBooks system and train local staff on how to backup data and share data with the US office. The intern may also be asked to assist the Managing Director with the data entry and reporting of grants. The QuickBooks system needs to be set—up to manage the transactions of Trailblazer separate from funds received from other sources.

Academic Background

Candidates are encouraged to apply from a variety of academic backgrounds. Students should have an interest in non-profit program management, community-based development, and working in rural communities.

  • For the Agricultural Assistant position: ideal candidate will be working towards or have a degree in agriculture and be familiar with methods for successfully growing most crops on a small but sustainable scale. Interns should be familiar with various fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation methods and be able to teach others about these. Knowledge of statistical analysis and data collection preferred, in order to help develop a formal monitoring report.
  • For the Data Analyst position: intern should have completed courses in statistics and/or calculus. Ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of data analysis and should be able to think critically. Experience in working with SPSS statistical software strongly preferred.
  • For the Finance Assistant position: candidate must be highly skilled in QuickBooks. Ideal candidate will have completed courses in accounting and/or finance, and should have an interest in bookkeeping or accounting.


  • Interns must be flexible, patient, motivated, self-directed, and culturally sensitive. Interns should be familiar with the events of Cambodia’s turbulent past, and must be capable of overcoming setbacks and frustrations typical of working in a developing country and be able to work well in both field and office environments. Both undergraduate and graduate candidates are encouraged to apply.

Language Requirements

  • Fluency in English. Knowledge of Khmer language preferred and encouraged. Trailblazer can help interns find affordably language teachers locally for those interested.

Other Requirements

Interns should keep in mind that they are there to assist Trailblazer in its mission. Interns must be prepared to prioritize Trailblazer’s needs over personal interests.

  • For the Agricultural Assistant position: intern should be knowledgeable about practical agricultural matters and be able to offer helpful ideas and suggestions to Khmer staff. Interns should be familiar with tropical (monsoon) climate and be able to manipulate conditions to the advantage of the project.
  • For the Data Analyst position: intern must be able to fully understand a project, develop an appropriately conducive monitoring survey, properly analyst data, and translate findings to practical solutions for improvement.
  • For the Finance Assistant position: Interns must have a good understanding of and experience working with QuickBooks software (Trailblazer currently uses the 2014 Premier Nonprofit Edition of QuickBooks).

Estimated One-Time Expenses

  • IE3 Global Program Fee: $3,450
  • International Travel: $1,800
  • Visa Fees: $150
  • Recommended Immunizations: $600

Estimated Monthly Expenses

  • Housing: $300
  • Food: $400
  • Local Transportation: $100
  • Recreation: $150
  • Personal Expenses: $75

Additional Expense Information

  • Housing, transportation for work, and a cell phone may be available at reduced rates, depending on availability and funding from donors. Preference is given to longer-term interns.

Trailblazer will assist with putting the intern in touch with suitable housing arrangements. There are many recommended guest houses and apartments available. Interns are responsible for all expenses related to housing.

“My experience in Siem Reap, Cambodia and with the Trailblazer Foundation has had its ups and downs but the majority was very rewarding and beneficial in both professional and personal ways. Adjusting to work in a foreign country, especially one like Cambodia was rather difficult at first because their work ethics are quite different in the sense that they are much more relaxed. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my internship but after a few weeks, I started to get to know my coworkers and they started trusting me, which then resulted in more responsibilities. I also took it upon myself to contribute to the organization by suggesting help with social media and marketing aspects, of which they were fully supportive. My goals for my career after graduation are to continue international sustainability and development work so my experience here was a huge step in making that happen. Perhaps the scariest part of leaving was the fact that I was traveling alone but it ended up making it easier because you are forced to put yourself out there. This has given me more confidence and independence which are both extremely beneficial traits to learn as a young adult. All in all, taking the leap to go abroad is something I would recommend to everyone because the people you meet and experiences you have will be life changing in the best ways possible.”

-Sharlee, Portland State University

“I was lucky enough to intern this summer with The Trailblazer Foundation to help with data analytics on the projects they were working on at the time. The main three projects that were active or ongoing when I arrived were well drilling, water filter installation, latrines, and agriculture. These projects have data collected before and after project completion to effectively quantify the benefits of the work being done along with the possibility of identifying trends in local communities. My project was to revamp and update the data collection process to better align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

-Reid, Oregon State University

Read Reid’s research paper: Sustainable Project Baseline Data Form Restructuring

“I interned with Trailblazer over the summer of 2016. I got to see, first-hand, the incredible work they are doing, as they continue to bring new opportunities to families all over Siem Reap province. I worked with Trailblazer’s staff and local farmers, as they collaborative on a project to increase the farmer's income and local economy through a farmer co-op. I saw passion and drive coming from both the farmers and Trailblazer's staff. This was not only inspiring to me, it reminded me of the wonderful work being done at the grass-roots level of development. Thanks to Trailblazer, these farmers have opportunities they might not otherwise have.”

-Nicolette, University of Oregon

“The Trailblazer Foundation is hardly a place to fear inexperience. They train new volunteers regularly; therefore, teaching procedures are routine. My first week on the job was dedicated strictly to producing and installing bio-sand water filters. I was introduced to each and every pertinent operation that goes into the making of these water filters, through doing them hands-on. I later assisted the water-filter team in delivering 14 water filters to rural villagers. It was through the delivery and installation of these water filters that the logistics behind their fundamental operations and usages became clear. This internship has reinforced my decision to be an environmental journalist. I have been exposed first hand to some of the environmental threats that are hiding underneath every aspect of modern day life, and I now understand the dire need for honest, educated, and seriously concerned journalists.”

-Hannah, University of Oregon

“The most important professional benefit of my internship had to do with being in rich environment of development and nonprofit discussion. I was set in a foreign environment where I could closely look at specific problems that international work entails. I had to consider foundational methods and attitudes towards aid projects, participation with the local government system, and how to relate impact, which can look very different depending on perspective. Some of these questions I never considered before, and I am very glad they were set before me in Cambodia. I was surrounded by others who were also interested in development work – giving me the opportunity to discuss my ideas with these professional and non-professional relations. This helped me to build up an applicable vocabulary and become familiar with many more projects around the world.

-Amy, University of Oregon

“It was a daily struggle to give back to the organization and contribute in a meaningful way so as to not be deadweight, which was my worst fear going into the internship. With the help of the staff at Trailblazer and with the guidance and encouragement of my IE3 program advisor and professor back home, I was able to take it one day at a time, setbacks and all. The greatest reward was the removal of any uncertainty I may have felt about working such a job in a developing country with so many challenges to progress. I learned that not only is making an impact possible, but it is happening every day, a little at a time. The Trailblazer Foundation, and thousands of other organizations are sending little ripples of hope and progress all around the world, and the results are a clear, measureable momentum upward. This internship was an incredibly valuable experience, one that cannot be replicated in the classroom.”

-Austin, Portland State University,

“I am here as a data analyst so I expanded upon the survey they had for village farmers to include data on their burgeoning mushroom program, consumption, and production of all other goods, and interconnectedness between other programs such as microfinance or bio-filters. The overall goal is to produce some sort of economic indicators of increased growth of the recent graduates of the mushroom program but that hardly occupies 100% of my time. So I have been able to make mushrooms, construct and deliver bio-filters, and I am going to go out with the well drilling team soon to see what they do in the village. The hands on experience lines up with the goals I had for learning the inner workings of the organization.”

-Dane, Oregon State University,

Read Dane’s research paper – The Benefits of Synchronization: A Preliminary study of sustainable agriculture in Siem Reap Province

“Usually I spend my time doing background research, organizing the survey I’m working on, and learning how to use SPSS. I also go in the field once a week helping out with one of the projects. It’s important to get that context [from supporting the projects]. In the end I’m going to have a paper looking at how sanitation effects a household’s upward mobility. Sras, the village I surveyed, is the perfect case study because Trailblazer has been working there longest. I found my work really satisfying, and crave more opportunities so I can examine things even closer. The greatest challenge was coming up with a study from scratch and figuring out how to make it happen. Everything from learning SPSS, to formatting, and research was completely different from the classroom.”

-Jenna, Portland State University

Read Jenna’s research paper – Case Study in Sras with Bio-Sand Filters


Application Deadline

Summer: January 25
Fall: April 15
Winter: September 1
Spring: November 15

Basic Requirements

- Interest in community-based development and non-profit program management
- Prior experience in agriculture, accounting, and/or data analysis preferred
- Flexible opportunities for those without specific background experience