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Community Cambodia: Youth shake up the NGO model

120523_06

Community service volunteers teach children in Kampot province. Photograph: Joseph Pocs/Phnom Penh Post

When we look back over the past decade, the brunt of community service and social action was carried out by NGOs and government initiatives.

But within the past few years, young Cambodians are turning to community service on their own, in an increasing trend, forming groups that look to develop remote areas, teach underprivileged children, and improve the environment.

“Nowadays, Cambodian youth are learning a lot about social work – they’re beginning to do social work and spend their own time, money and energy on it,” said Pou Sovachana, a lecturer at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.

“Youth are becoming role models for the rest of society, setting an example of good spirit and kindness for the next generation,” he added. “In the past, it was difficult for youth to involve themselves in community action, but now they love the work and are doing it out of the goodness of their own hearts.”

Eang Sathy, a 22-year-old student at University of Management and Economics in Battambang, said, “I began doing social work in the first place because my friends were doing it.

“Now, I’ve found out that I’m setting a good example for others and I know how much value there is [in community service], so I plan to continue it,” Eang Sathy continued.

Now, some ministries and other institutions are quick to encourage youth to keep up their involvement in community service.

Seat Lykheang, president of Youth Experience Sharing (YES), said, “Social work does not only give benefits to society, but it also leads young people to develop themselves in terms of gaining knowledge, leadership skills, experiences, connections and a lot of opportunities for both study and work.”

Tauch Choeun, the General Director of Youth at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport noticed that the number of young Cambodians involved in community service is still increasing.

“Cambodian youth, now, are involved in many social work groups – there is the Red Cross Youth Group, Scout Volunteering Group and some volunteer groups in universities, high schools, institutions and organisations,” he said.

“The Ministry is working with other ministries and some local and international organisations to encourage young people to keep doing this work,” he added.

Tauch Choeun encouraged all youth to keep up their involvement in community service.

“The government has a policy to give certificates, admiration letters or rewards for any youth who has work hard in social work to help the community and society,” he said. “We also have another policy that awards certificates in the form of study credit to apply a job, for their hard work in social development.”

Khoy Sovanny, a 49-year-old vendor, said, “Young people in this generation are smart – they do not only focus on their studies, but they also spend their free time giving back to society.”

“I’m extremely happy to see this,” she said. “If young people model themselves like this and stay away from drugs, alcohol and gangs, society will develop fast.”

Some companies and organisations are providing job opportunities recently for young Cambodians looking to develop a career in community service and social action.

Yun Sophat, Chief Technical Officer at Sola Agriculture Co, Ltd, said that he always has employment opportunities for those who are patient, hardworking and have clear goals.

He said that every year, his company will allow five or six students to work five days per week and study on the weekends, to develop themselves both as employees and students.

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