“When I was a child, I was very poor. I had no parents, living with my grandmother. Since then, my dream has been to support poor children like me because I do not want other children experience the same situation. I believe that by doing volunteering, I will be able to achieve my dream someday.”

This statement came from Mr. Sochea Chuang, one of the project team leaders for the Community Action Challenge 2017 (CAC). He is passionate about volunteering and helping others and has been teaching English and Khmer at a primary school for the last year as a Youth Star volunteer. From his volunteering experience, he noticed an issue in the community and  wanted to do something about it.

Sochea applied to the Community Action Challenge (CAC), an initiative launched by the Cambodia Volunteering Network (VolCam) aiming to encourage young people in Cambodia to identify a problem in their community, design a solution and take action to solve the issue. Vol Cam provided financial support and capacity building training to the selected seven youth teams so that they could sustainably run the projects.

One of Sochea’s main goals is to raise awareness about the importance of a clean environment through education. With support from the CAC, he designed and ran his project “Clean Environment Starts from YOU.” In the project, he taught 34 primary school students at the Lek Cheah primary school in Kompong Thom province how to create trash boxes from used plastic bottles. The students have successfully recycled 100 percent of plastic bottles thrown away at school and created 7 trash boxes. The total number of bottles they recycled was 480 bottles. By showing the students that trash can be useful, he is also educating them that by being creative we can make something of no apparent value valuable.

In addition, the team performed a short education story about environment titled “The Bottle” at the Katen ceremony where more than 150 people joined. Sochea conducted a training on the environment for 37 villagers and made a presentation to 250 primary school students. More than 370 people got educated by Sochea about the environment.

In Lek Cheah primary school, teachers are also trying to educate students about waste management. “We encourage students to pick up at least one piece of garbage every day before the start of the class” said school teacher Ms. Morn Tola. This type of every day voluntary action from students, and non-formal education from primary school, has the potential to lead to significant changes in attitudes towards creating a clean environment in the country. The CAC project has contributed to further the environmental education at the school and actively engage with students and the community.

With a view on sustainability, Sochea has thought carefully about how to ensure the students will keep recycling after the CAC project ends He has therefore taught 25 students in the child friendly club how to recycle used plastic bottles so the students themselves will be able to continue the project.

“I believe that small actions will lead to a big change.”

Sochea’s passion and volunteering spirit are limitless. Continuing his volunteer work in the community, he has already started to run a project named “100 Riels share the love.” He asked all students to share 100 Riels every day to buy books for the school library.

“When I was a child I loved reading, but I didn’t have enough money to buy them. I was so sad. That is why I want children to learn sharing their small part of money to help others who are poor.”

Through his actions, and volunteer work, Sochea is an inspirational role model. He shows those around him, including the primary school students,  the importance of cooperation, volunteering spirit and taking action to improve your community. Sochea also has big plans for the future to continue to make positive contributions to the development of Cambodia.

“My dream is to be a politician because I want to make this country better.”

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