The Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP)—a Japanese program that dates back to 1974—brings together youths from within the ASEAN community and Japan during a two month voyage. The aim of the program is to form a mutual understanding of the region’s community and the neighboring countries.
Chhuong Yiv Chhoy, 29, who is currently a staff member of PNN TV, is one of thousands of youths who have gained first-hand regional experience through SSEAYP.
He recalled how the program helped him become a more open-minded individual.
“It was the best opportunity for me, as well as other youths, to open their eyes clearly in order to seek out the traditions in the [other] nations of our region,” he said, adding that before the program, he had been unaware of the depth of the different cultures around him.
For almost two months, the 547-foot ship sailed throughout Southeast Asia, eventually reaching Japan. During that time he created a strong bond between the youths from the different countries aboard. Inevitably, he formed lasting friendships.
“We got experience, and at the same time, we learned from each other through presentations and performances from members from 11 countries. What was wonderful was that SSEAYP made each of us proud of ourselves and our nations, more so than before, as well as gave us the true friendships with [people from] countries in the region.”
For Chhuong, the journey throughout Southeast Asia and Japan allowed him to learn the customs, habits and cultures of each country.
Chhuong, who participated in the program in 2013, reminisced about his time in Japan.
“I still remember the time when I stayed with Japanese families in Kochi. It was an unforgettable time,” he said, adding that although he didn’t speak Japanese, “not even one word”, nor did the host family speak English, they used body language to communicate with each other, which allowed him to feel the warmth of the family.
“There, I just knew that Japanese people were friendly, patient, helpful and thorough and careful in their work. They always thought beforehand for all the work they did, resulting in smooth and correct work. These are the best customs and habits that the Japanese taught me,” he said.
Pech Bolene, CEO of Westline Education Group Co., Ltd and the senior member of JCI Cambodia, has participated in educational seminars in Japan, explained the value of a cultural exchange.
“The most noticeable thing to me, that we should follow, are three important things: Japanese people have the custom of respect and adherence to duty; they work in a friendly, fast and respectable manner; and they have great customer service,” he said.
Chhuong said that since Cambodia began participating in the mission of the SSEAYP in 2000, more than 400 Cambodian youths have joined the program.
“Every year, this program provides the opportunity for 28 youths from each ASEAN country to participate,” he said, adding that it was an unforgettable experience.