Today, volunteers are playing an important role contributing to the improvement of Cambodian society. By engaging in volunteer activities, youth can strengthen their skills and support the country’s development. Through the examples of the Community Action Challenge initiative, this article illustrates how beneficial volunteering is for both the community and the volunteers themselves.
The Community Action Challenge (CAC) is an initiative launched by the Cambodia Volunteering Network (VolCam) aiming to encourage young people in Cambodia to take action to solve issues in their community. In 2017, VolCam provided different types of support – including seed funding, capacity-building training, one-to-one mentoring and promotion – for seven selected youth teams so that they could sustainably run their projects. As a result, the CAC has made a significant impact in terms of community development and youth skills development in Cambodia. Taking lessons from the CAC, this article illustrates potential benefits you could gain when you decide to be a volunteer:
- Gain new skills and learn through experience
One of the biggest differences between the CAC and other volunteer initiatives is volunteers’ independence. There are no guidelines for volunteers; they need to create their projects themselves. They must identify a problem in their community, analyze its cause, design a solution, turn it into real action, and learn from the trials – all on their own. Action is taken by the volunteers themselves, with VolCam only providing some tips and support to guide them appropriately. After VolCam provided training on project management and financial management, the volunteers were in charge of managing their own projects. Throughout project implementation, volunteers developed various kinds of their skills – we found that 7 out of the 8 volunteers developed soft skills and hard skills, such as project management, leadership and problem-solving.
- Increase your career confidence
Through a follow-up evaluation for eight project leaders, CAC volunteers reported that the skills they gained from the CAC will help their career development. One of the CAC volunteers, Ms. Monalisa Khun, is a university student studying and working at the same time. She notes, “The skills I learned from the CAC are very important for my current work. I have learned from the CAC how to analyze problems and design effective approaches. In addition, since I managed to deal with unexpected problems during the CAC, I learned to be able to deal with similar situations at my workplace more effectively. Last but not least, I learned how to communicate with other volunteers to avoid misunderstandings and to encourage better teamwork.” As she mentioned, a majority of CAC volunteers became more confident in their capability to get a better job.
- Be recognized for your contributions
During project implementation, VolCam promoted each project by publishing a series of articles and a promotional video on its website and social media. After the CAC, volunteers were invited to present their achievements at the 7th National Forum on Volunteerism. In recognition of their volunteer contributions, they each received a certificate from H.E. Tauch Choeun, Director General of the General Department of Youth at the MoEYS. Such public recognition of their achievements motivated the volunteers to continue their work.
- Lead the way to sustainable solutions in your community
Throughout its mentoring, monitoring and evaluation, and feedback, VolCam emphasized the importance of sustainability. As a result, 5 out of the 7 teams are going to continue their projects even after the support from VolCam ends. By empowering community youth with the ability to take action to solve problems independently, the CAC served as an important first step to introduce community development driven by youth volunteers.
- Be an inspiration to others
On International Volunteer Day, a panel discussion was conducted with three CAC leaders who shared their experiences and achievements. They talked about their target community issues, how they overcame challenges they faced, and how they are planning to sustain their projects in the future. Most importantly, they encouraged the young audience to start their own projects. They serve as role models, inspiring other youth to start taking action as volunteers.
The CAC volunteers are proof that anyone, including youth, can make a difference. By volunteering, you can benefit both yourself and your community. Even small actions can bring significant change. Will you join the movement today?