Students from the pagoda say they want to rid the country of its pervasive litter problem
Students sweep the steps of Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh Thursday.
ARMED with brooms and the motto "Spotless pagoda, clean environment, wholesome heart, clear conscience", 200 students, teachers, monks and friends from the Buddhism Education for Peace Centre (BEPC) spent Thursday afternoon picking up rubbish and sweeping the grounds of Wat Ounalom in the capital.
Organiser and BEPC teacher Pou Sovachana said the project was initiated by the centre's students ahead of Khmer New Year, but is part of a broader effort to rid Cambodia of litter.
"Everyone can see that pollution is a major problem in Cambodia," he said. "We don't take care of our environment and there's garbage everywhere. The kids wanted to help change this."
BEPC is a volunteer-based centre set up in 2003 on the pagoda's grounds. It teaches Buddhist tradition and morality to 400 vulnerable children for whom the cleanup is a way of giving back to the pagoda.
"By cleaning up, we are doing something for our school and making the pagoda a nice place for monks and visitors," said Chin Deth Sreyroth,
14. Fellow student Lour Meng Huy, 12, agreed: "We are making a healthy environment for everyone here and sending a good message. And it's fun."
Next stop is Kandal province, where BEPC will visit Kampong Ghko and Moaha Reach during Khmer New Year.
"Unalom was a tremendous success. The students learned so much about how garbage in our streets and sacred places affects our health," said Pou Sovachana, adding that more awareness was needed. "We hope that the interest and volition created by our actions will inspire many more students, monks and laypeople."