Volunteering Went Wrong With Coast23-M’Pai Bay

I carried the same expectations on this particular host, Coast23-M’Pai Bay on Koh Rong Sanloem before arrival as I had amazing hosts from previous workaway experiences. On 16th June, I’ve arrived at the island from Sihanoukville. Upon arriving at the hostel, they put me to work right away. This never happened to me before as my previous hosts often allowed me to start off the next day of arrival so that I could rest and settle down from the commute hassle. On the arrival day, I met the manager, Ayat. She, too is a volunteer, for 3-4 months to-date.

I asked her if I have any off days, she said no. I have to work 1 shift per day, either 8am-2pm or 2pm- bar close. The work consists of reception, taking breakfast orders and preparing breakfast orders, cleaning the hostel, housekeeping tasks, laundry by hands for the bedsheets, towels and blankets, and lastly, bar tasks.

After 5 days of volunteering there, I felt like I’ve been exploited for free labour as they do not have any permanent staff to manage the hostel, they’ve been using volunteers to do all these work since their opening around Feb/March 2017. I do not mind the shift and work but I do mind about not getting any day offs. I am just travelling, I wanted to explore the island and do things. Hence, I confronted the Khmer owner, Em.I asked if he was aware of the workaway guidelines and he was supposed to give day offs. He was high on marijuana or probably some other drugs and avoiding the conversation about the issue.

On the 6th day, Ayat came back from Sihanoukville and I’ve confronted her about it. She disagreed about giving me 2 day offs per week with 5 working days. Their rule was 10 working days per day off. I told her that I could only do 6 working days per week, then, she mentioned that they will not change the rule just because of me, however, they would give me a day off after 7-8 working days.

I’ve also confronted them that they need at least one permanent staff to manage the hostel, they can not just exploit volunteers for this. Ayat kept saying that the hostel is still new, which is why they are doing this and I have no rights to tell them what to do.

After a long consideration, I’ve decided to leave the place. I told both of them that I’ve decided to leave, she replied “perfect”. On the next day, when I was about to check out, I realised that my Benro tripod went missing in the dorm for staff/volunteers. She kept saying that maybe it was with Joel (my partner). It was impossible because, on the 1st day, I knew where exactly I’ve placed it nearby my bed and I never once used it on the island. They tried searching it with me for just a short while then Em disappeared elsewhere as always and Ayat was just sitting at the reception. I left and came back after a couple of hours, asked if they’ve found it. Ayat was so rude to me about this and denying that it wasn’t theirs or the hostel’s fault, however, they did not realised the fact that I lost it in the compound.

There were so many issues with this place. Unethical management, horrible hospitality and exploitation. The owner always did not want to face any issues, each time something happened, he just went disappeared. There was a bed bugs issue in the hostel and instead of talking to the guest or compensating to them, he wanted no part of it. He wanted them to pay for the stay and he wanted me or the other volunteer to handle the confrontation with the guests.

They have a hired Khmer staff that did almost nothing every day and yet, getting the same benefits as the volunteers. The staff is hired to work for the hostel and volunteers are just supposed to help out the staff to lessen their tasks or assist with English-speaking guests. They are only providing dorm accommodation (5 USD), 1 toastie/1 instant noodle for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, just like any other hosts.

So, in this case, the owner earns all the money without hiring or paying people to manage the hostel for him. This is exploitation. If you are intending to volunteer there, be prepared to work hard with no off days.

Their workaway profile is https://www.workaway.info/918151632825-en.html

The positive side of this story, I still love the island because of the sea, stars and bioluminescent planktons.

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