YOUNG people are learning to make ethical decisions about how they volunteer during a journey that for many is their first outside of Australia.
A group of 25 Warrnambool College students in years nine to eleven flew to Cambodia on Tuesday to meet teenagers at a community centre in the developing country's north.
Their teacher, Rebecca Burchell, co-founded the site called the Taksenkangbloung Community Centre, which offers transport, meals, fresh clothing and extra tuition during a young person's school day while importantly supporting them to live at home.
Volunteering in Cambodia can be a vexed pursuit, Ms Burchell said, with the United Nations Children's Fund stating in 2015 that only one-in-five children who lived in Cambodian orphanages were actually orphans.
Ms Burchell said the trip would build the Warrnambool students' confidence to make informed ethical decisions about volunteering.
"The demand for orphanages for tourists and volunteers was viewed as a business opportunity for many unscrupulous operators," she said.
"Hopefully it teaches them how to do their research first, how to make some decisions about where they travel, how they travel and why."
The school has taught students about Cambodian history, problems surrounding orphanage tourism, and how to behave while volunteering.
"The kids in the centre aren't a tourist attraction, so their privacy needs to be protected. We have social media and social media guidelines, also around how to dress and act," Ms Burchell said.
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She said the trip would be an opportunity for the Cambodian young people and Warrnambool students to "just be teenagers together".
"I think the kids have plans to do cooking and art together, just basically what they would do in their normal school day here, but with the kids at the community centre and hopefully forge lifelong friendships," Ms Burchell said.
She said students had already taken away that research and preparation were key to their future volunteering.
"You need to scratch below the surface, have a look at an organisation's mission, what its aims are, what it does. And ask questions - make sure they have a strong child protection policy in place, strong volunteering guidelines," Ms Burchell said.
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