Volunteer Development Childre's Association
Youth For Peace
As Cambodian youth look to improve themselves and their country, they often search for an organisation that fits their skills and interests. But they don’t usually think about another option – starting a project on their own. Since we know our own abilities and the needs of our country, we can create the change that we want to make!
Besides helping your country, starting up your own organisation or service project will give you invaluable experience in generating ideas and putting them into action. While the process of starting your own organisation can be rewarding, it’s not an easy thing to do.
Main Togh was a Buddhist monk volunteering his time teaching Cambodian children English when he came up with the idea to start Volunteer Development Children’s Association (VDCA), which provides free instruction in Khmer, English, Japanese and the arts to over 600 children and teenagers in Siem Reap. “In September 2007, we had only a small room under my house to teach them, but now we can accept hundreds of students to study here,” Main Togh said.
Main Togh told Lift that while studying dharma he began having discussions with his friends in the monastery and foreigners who would visit about how he could help the poor children around him who didn’t have opportunities. “Before the foreigners went back to their country, they left some money to buy chairs and tables for our teaching,” Main Togh said about the source of the seed money he used to start his organisation.
Non Ya, a 19-year-old who participates with VDCA, said that he now has the goal of starting an organisation himself after being inspired by Main Togh. “I would like to create the chance for children in our poor community as well,” he said. “We will call it ‘Lotus Youths’, which means they have their origin in mud but when they grow up from the water, they will be beautiful and provide many advantages for the society.”
Long Khet, a director of Youth For Peace (YFP), told Lift that he wanted to found an organisation that promoted morality among young Cambodian people and maintained peace in the country after he witnessed decades of civil war.
In order to reach his goal he stayed involved in social work during his education at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. He joined peace movements, peace walks and peace discussions, which offered him an opportunity to make good friends and learn about social justice and peace.
Through his involvement he met three like-minded students from different universities who would often come together under the trees in a local wat to talk about starting an NGO to facilitate youth engagement around social issues. In 1999 the four members formed YFP.
“The four of us founded YFP using our own money. But, with a clear goal of carrying out peace in Cambodia, we also drew the attention of donors to support our work,” he said. Since 2001, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) have been their core supporters.
“Our organisation has helped youth by teaching them not to discriminate, form innovative ideas and communicate well,” he said.
Rem Chandara, the 21-year-old founder and leader of YESSO (Youth Engagement Sustainable Society Organisation) and a third-year student of Royal University of Agriculture, said that he hopes to facilitate interactions between university and high school students.
“We want high school students and university students to share their experiences, especially how to choose the right subject to study at university,” he said. “We want to help them find employment when they finish university to reduce the rate of poverty in Cambodian society.”
Rem Chandara said he and his friends “brainstormed many good ideas to form our club, like set objectives and rules for our club, writing proposals and creating a blog and Facebook page in order to get more friends to engage in our club”.
Neang Sovathana, 23, is a third-year student of international relations at Pannasastra University and the president of the Initiative of Change Association (ICA).
Originally she just wanted to help build human resources, and had no plans of starting her own organisation. But after receiving help from the Cambodian Youth Association, which offered a hall to hold meetings and lawyers who explained how she could get an organisation licensed, she created the ICA.
“I appeal for donations to support my project through the radio station 106.5 FM, as I work as a radio presenter there and also send letters to NGOs and institutes,” she explained.
Every month, her association prepares around 100 packs of food to share with children and the elderly living on the street. The association also makes meals to share with people living with HIV or tuberculosis at the public hospitals.
“Do not always complain or criticize governments, but do nothing,” Neang Sovathana said. “Ask yourself what have you done so far to help our society?”