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Lay Rattana, a 20-year-old student in her second year at the Department of Media and Communications at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, already has over a decade of experience doing volunteer work. She began working with the Vulnerable Children Assistance Organisation in Takeo province in 1998, and she has been an active part of the national effort to improve the lives of poor children ever since. The organisation selected her to be a leader of a peer group and assigned her to teach children living in provincial communities.
She is currently a radio presenter for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on a program pertaining to issues related to women, and she is the leader of the child support team for the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), an NGO founded in 1994 and that works on promoting the rights of children in Cambodia. CRC has so far cooperated with 49 partner organisations with the goal of building the capacity of children to be leaders in their communities.
Lay Rattana is constantly working to gain more work experience and due to her efforts working with children’s rights organisations, she has been asked to join a number of related forums in foreign countries.
On these trips she says she plays the role of a messenger; taking information on children’s issues from these international conferences and delivering solutions to Cambodia.“I am very happy because I can help a lot of Cambodian children when I join the child forums in foreign countries,” she said. “I want to keep helping the children in Cambodia.”
While she has been very successful in her efforts thus far, Lay Rattana has also faced plenty of difficulties along the way. Some children did not respect her because they thought she was too young to teach them. “I felt nervous at the first time when I teach them, but I didn’t want my students to look down on me, so I tried to be confident and read books before teaching,” she said.
Lay Rattanna has not only gained the respect of her students but also her elders. “She is a person who likes sharing experiences with children in communities. She is able and capable of working; therefore, the organisation chose her to join child forums around the world,” said Meas Samnang, the general secretary of CRC.
“I am very happy when my work goes properly and successfully, and I want to show everyone that women are strong enough to work,” said Lay Rattana.