“At my university, it is hard for students to find opportunities to volunteer,” notes Ms. Socheata Tao, a graduate of the Department of Tourism at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). “That is why I wanted to create such opportunities that would be available to university students.”
According to her, there are limited volunteer opportunities for students at her alma mater. She wanted to take meaningful action to promote volunteerism at RUPP but lacked the resources to do so. When she learned of the Community Action Challenge (CAC), she knew she had to apply.
An initiative launched by the Cambodia Volunteering Network (VolCam), the CAC aims to encourage young people in Cambodia to identify a problem in their community, design a solution and take action to solve the issue. In 2017, VolCam provided financial support and capacity-building training to seven selected youth teams so that they could sustainably run their projects.
Ms. Tao applied to the CAC with a team of six RUPP students who were looking for volunteer opportunities. Their selected project, “We Students for Students”, brought together these university students with primary school students for an activity about issues impacting the environment. At Prek Kachov Primary School in Kandal province, the volunteers taught students how to create flowers from used plastic bottles and paper, which they then used to decorate the school. Around 130 students participated in the activity and became more environmentally conscious as a result. This served as a first step to show the children that they can use their creativity to solve everyday sustainability issues.
Throughout the project’s implementation, the university volunteers themselves learned useful skills and insights that can only be refined outside the classroom, including teaching, project management, time management, communication and teamwork. To extend the reach of the project, the team even shared their volunteer experience with around 30 RUPP students during an information session, thereby promoting the spirit of volunteerism at their school.
The success of the project illustrates the importance and value of volunteerism, an act that contributes not only to the community but also to volunteers’ skills development.