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Creal Cambodia founder Chhai Ngorn talks about building youth movement

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Creal Cambodia team doing rubbish clean-up drive in front of the Royal Palace. CREAL CAMBODIA

Creal Cambodia founder Chhai Ngorn talks about building youth movement

Creal Cambodia is an environmental organisation formed from a desire to clean up Cambodia’s environment by reducing the use of plastics in the Kingdom. They’ve been active in cleaning up Cambodia in a number of campaigns recently and they now have 1,550 members – most of the residing in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Siem Reap and Battambang.

The Post interviewed Hour Chhai Ngorn, the young environmentalist who founded Creal Cambodia, to learn more about his organisation’s goals and plans for the coming year.

What are Creal Cambodia’s goals and what benefits would achieving them bring?

Creal Cambodia is a youth environmentalist group formed on October 10, 2018, with the aim of promoting love for the environment and participation in caring for the environment. A cleaner environment helps to promote tourism, create model cities, improve standards of living through better sanitation and hygiene and just generally clean up the environment by galvanising support for a reduction in plastic use and its resultant plastic waste.

Does Creal Cambodia have a philosophy that it follows?

Our perspective is that we should all be living in a society with a clean environment where each citizen begins to take responsibility for their waste and takes good care of their rubbish in terms of its disposal. To achieve that we have pursued several major initiatives like spreading educational messages about environmental protection through youths, children and the general public; organising various competitions with an environmental theme such as writing short stories, producing educational videos, painting contests, recycling rubbish into usable items or ornaments and all of it is intended to instil the spirit of our movement in others, which can be summed with the motto “wherever there’s me, no rubbish can be”.

How are the Cambodian people doing with rubbish disposal overall at present?

Compared to previous years, I have noticed that things have improved. However, the situation is still not good and the practice of dumping rubbish in public areas remains a problem and a concern that needs to be addressed quickly.Apparently, some people just don’t care or feel concerned about taking responsibility for the disposal of their rubbish. That’s why there is still a lot of rubbish in public areas and along the riverbanks or in the river itself.

What could be done to change people’s behaviours, especially while they are children or youths, to turn their attention to the problem of littering and the degradation of the environment?

Education is a key factor for every possible solution because it is human beings who are creating the problem and it won’t be solved until enough of us stop actively making things worse. To that end, it is important to develop a practical strategy to attract and motivate people to participate both by adopting the movement’s ideas and taking part in clean-up activities with the hope that they then take it home with them and practice it in their daily lives.

The idea behind the creation of this strategy is that it’s necessary to inspire people and to encourage them to both admire environmentalist heroes as role models whose footsteps they can imagine following in while also getting them to view themselves as one of those heroes when they follow-through and hopefully their conduct then attracts additional supporters to this cause. Doing the right thing when it’s not the easiest way can be difficult and if they are contributing to cleaning up the environment they can be proud that at least in some small area of their life their actions are, in a sense, heroic.

Currently, there are many environmental educators who are focused on different jobs, but there aren’t any role models widely known or accepted by the public in this field, especially among our targeted youth demographic. Therefore, what we’d like to do is just turn everyone into environmentalist heroes themselves in order to build a spirit of mutual support and unity in the movement.

Why are you interested in doing this work with youths rather than with older people?

Obviously, young people are an important resource and excellently suited to the performance of environmental clean-up work. They are also an important driver for participation and a very influential group in society. They set the trends and define what’s new and cool. They can grow together as a team and they have enough time and a willingness to work. And they are also the future leaders and educators in environmental work and every other aspect of society when their time comes. It’s much easier to teach a new outlook or philosophy to someone young than it is to change the minds or habits of those who are old and set in their ways.

What other strategies does Creal Cambodia anticipate using in the future to make more youths turn their attention to the environment and the problems with plastic waste and rubbish?

Organising them into a network of environmentalist youth volunteers is one key to mobilising them to carry out meaningful environmental work. One of Creal Cambodia’s founding ideas is essentially the creation of a huge youth movement that can declare its support for companies and businesses that will protect and preserve the environment and reduce their plastic use and also to boycott the businesses who neglect their responsibilities. Such a network would make it easier and more effective for young people when they contribute their voices to environmental work.

Creating a movement for youth environmental educators to give them the opportunity to express their ideas in practice is a good strategy and it should enable more Cambodian youths to turn their attention to environmental issues and consumer waste.

What’s the idea behind the event that Creal Cambodia has organised for Febuary 14, 2022 – Valentine’s Day?

The purpose of the event is to connect people to each other through their love for the environment and to create happy memories for everyone involved. The overall result we’re hoping for is that the kids who show up have a good time and make new friends who are also interested in environmentalism. This will then motivate and encourage them to continue caring about the environment and stay active with our organisation or with the environmental movement in general by taking part in other events and activities and speaking out to their peers on these topics.

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