IN order to get a job, graduate students are required to have at least one year of work experience. Many of them devote most of that time to study. Instead of volunteering with non-government organisations (NGOs), however, one group of young people have got together to do social work.
Chhum Savorn, 24, a business analyst at the Business Development Company and a leader of Youth Experience Sharing (YES), says the group was formed in 2009 with 20 members, a mixture of students and employees from varied backgrounds.
“The primary aim of the group was to provide a consultancy in studying, teaching English and sharing experiences with high-school students in rural areas,” she says, adding that, as more students in the provinces have expressed their interest in this program, her group has continued it.
Chhum Savorn says that by working in rural areas, members of the group can learn the process of making proposals, leading the group and facilitating the activities. “I have learned a lot from this work. I know the places, the lives of people in the community and, by sharing my experiences with them, I have learned from them and from members of the group,” she says.
Another group of students at the University of Cambodia are raising funds to help the children at Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE).
Ngoun Wathana, 21,who is majoring in finance and banking and is one of six people in the group, says she joined the project so she could put her knowledge of project management into practice and help the poor people in the city.
“Through this project, I can work to help the people of Cambodia while building the network for my future job,” she says, adding that now she knows her weaknesses and strengths, she can build her confidence and improve herself in the next project.
Although her first project has not been entirely successful, Ngoun Wathana is very happy that she got it rolling. Her group is planning to do another project that relates
There are some challenges ahead, however. “We don’t have any experience. It was the first time we had attemp-ted anything like that, and most of our members are students, so finding the
time to settle in the project was very difficult,” Ngoun Wathana says.
Kol Preap, a founder of YESWECAN and an ambassador for peace, understands the difficulties. “One of the chall-enges I can think of immediately is time,” he says, adding that most young people are busy with their studies.
But he believes that spending some time doing comm-unity service is a very good investment. ”Based on my experience, I’ve never regretted doing it,” he says.
According to Sun Chan Sen, director of the Khmer Youth Association (KYS), around 20 per cent of young Cambod-ians are engaged in volunteer activities, but 12 per cent of them are thinking about their future jobs and only seven or eight per cent are willing to perform social work that helps the people.
“Although the number of young volunteers is increasing, their ability is limited,” Sun Chan Sen says, adding that it is a good opportunity for young people to have a public voice.
She is planning a project that will recruit more than 50 volunteers to raise awareness of next year’s commune council elections.
Chhum Savorn and Ngoun Wathana agree that they prefer working in a group to volunteering with NGOs.
“Working with my own group has given them more freedom and independence in doing my project,” Chhum Savorn says, adding that community work is not only for smart people, but for any young people who want to help one another develop and help develop their country.