At 23-years-old, Dim Socheata is finishing her studies in finance and banking at Cambodia Mekong University. But Socheata’s major is misleading: she’s poised to turn the capital into a regional example of how individual citizens can save the environment.
“In spite of the fact that we can’t change the whole world by ourselves, we can start from small points,” she says. “And then everything will start to change.”
Cheata’s been working to save Cambodia’s environment since she began university, when she joined Mekong University Students for the Community, a volunteer group. Cheata and her peers took special interest in helping the environment.
Back in 2009, Cheata remembers that she and the group went around the city and planted trees – Cheata personally distributing over 200 cards that read “Healthy Environment, Happy Family” to people along the road to help raise environmental awareness.
Every year since, Cheata and her team have successfully procured grants from various companies in Phnom Penh to produce the “We Concert” at her university. The purpose of the charity concert is to raise funds for environmental awareness – and also aid projects that help the disabled and orphaned.
Cheata says that if you’re going to teach environmental awareness, it needs to be fun and interesting.
“If we just explain what’s wrong with the way we treat the environment, that teaching won’t be effective. But if the issue is presented in a fun way, like with the concerts, we’ll have great success.”
Cheata adds that aside from the annual concerts, she and the team sponsors video and photo slideshows that address the damage of loose rubbish and show new and interesting ways that the ordinary person can get involved in helping the environment.
Cheata’s work didn’t go unnoticed: she was sponsored by organisers in Singapore to attend an environmental workshop there with two others. During her time there, she visited dumping sites and learnt of the dangers of how much rubbish a city can produce, and what we can do to develop sustainably.
Not too long after she returned from Singapore, Cheata was awarded with a scholarship from the USA to join a program for young global leaders. The program focused specifically on leadership in the context of global environmental issues.
In America, Cheata was inspired by a family that was especially driven to save their natural environment.
“If we don’t all start to better our environment now, then we can’t get anything going,” Cheata explains.
After she came back to Cambodia from America, Cheata joined with other program alumni and conceived a project called the No Plastic Bag Campaign to stamp out the harm caused by discarding plastic bags into our natural environment.
Cheata’s No Plastic Bag Campaign was publically celebrated at Soriya Mall, City Mall, and Sovanna Supermarket in Phnom Penh. The establishments shared leaflets, gave presentations on the advantages of using reusable bags, and had viewings of environmental documentaries.
Although Cheata may be set to be one of the city’s top power brokers at the stock exchange, she says she’ll never stop fighting for the environment.
“I want to see this through,” she says. “I want everyone to participate in saving our environment, and for it to come from their hearts.”