Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!

by Youth Star Cambodia
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Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Sponsor Cambodian graduates, help their community!
Ms Veasna Sophea teaching Kampong Thnal children
Ms Veasna Sophea teaching Kampong Thnal children

In February this year I posted a report which discussed the commencement of Youth Star placements in 2014, including the placement of Ms Veasna Sophea in Kampong Thnal village. As Veasna has now been working in Kampong Thnal for over 10 months I thought it would be interesting to provide an update on her progress.

Veasna has been very busy! Each weekday Veasna teaches 40 ‘at risk’ children—children who may be struggling to keep up with their schoolwork and therefore at risk of dropping out of school. As one of the main objectives of Youth Star is to encourage and promote the benefits of education in rural Cambodia, we do our best to facilitate a productive learning environment for all the village children where our volunteers are placed.

Veasna has also been undertaking additional educational activities, including providing extra classes to 25 local youth club members, some English language tuition and operating a local library two times per week. She has also taught basic bodily hygiene practices to local children.

Youth Star aims to develop a community self-help culture in rural villages. To further this aim, Veasna has introduced a community vegetable garden maintained by the village children and organised village ‘cleanup’ activities, such as cleaning up all the waste plastic in the village environment.

Besides helping rural communities, the Youth Star model is equally focused on developing future Cambodian civic leaders. To be successful in their placements volunteers must actively engage with all levels of their local community, which Veasna has done admirably. She has gained strong support from village leaders, which has been demonstrated through obtaining donations of furniture to assist her teaching activities and funds from the local community for the erection of a village flagpole. She also arranged for the village chief to open the local kindergarten.

In order to facilitate and run the diverse range of educational and other activities Veasna has also been required to develop considerable organizational and planning skills, which will be of great use to her in her future career.

Youth Star encourages local youth to take on responsibility and organise their own activities. One of the local community partners, Mrs. Hout Thoeun, has reported to Youth Star that the work of Veasna has made significant changes to the lives of the local youth population. Some local youth leaders now provide tuition in the Khmer and English languages and in mathematics. Local youths have also organised the recycling of waste products to fertilise and compost the local youth vegetable garden.

Through the forming of a local youth club—organised by Veasna—the local youth are developing a more defined role and range of activities in the community, which has been welcomed by Mrs Thoeun and other community members.

We congratulate Veasna for the great success of her work in the community and the commitment and drive she has demonstrated to make this possible.

Providing classes for local children
Providing classes for local children
Organizing activities for kindergarten children
Organizing activities for kindergarten children
Kindergarten children and community members
Kindergarten children and community members

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Mr. Chhay Theara
Mr. Chhay Theara

Our previous reports have shown how Youth Star’s work in poor rural communities of Cambodia is helping develop those communities. As the Youth Star model is equally concerned with developing graduate volunteers as future Cambodian leaders, this report focuses on this aspect of Youth Star's work.

We asked a former Youth Star volunteer, Mr. Chhay Theara, to let us know what influence his rural placement had made to his life. We were interested in finding out what Mr Theara is doing now and what he has learnt through his Youth Star placement.

Mr Theara was one of 13 volunteers in the 13th Youth Star volunteer group. He was located in Choeung Doeung Village in Kompong Cham Province for 15 months, with his placement ending in March 2011.

Mr Theara said his key learnings were understanding the culture of people in rural communities, how to work with these communities to solve local problems and how to liaise and work with government authorities for the community's benefit. He also reported that he had developed his problem solving, planning  and communication skills, and learnt the importance of patience and sustained commitment to achieving his goals. Before his placement Mr Theara said 'he always ran away from problems', but his experience as a volunteer gave him self-awareness and the confidence to take on difficult challenges.

Some important achievements Mr Theara recalled from his volunteer placement were:

  • establishing a youth club with 92 members, including former gang members - one of whom became a vice-president of the club
  • changing community attitudes to health, so that members visited health centres and learnt the importance of boiling water for drinking
  • convincing children who had dropped out of school to return, creating a community awareness of the importance of education and particularly that education was equally important for girls
  • reducing domestic violence, with 13 families known for domestic violence stopping this behaviour by the end of his placement.

Mr Theara said that when he commenced his placement many community members were resisitant to volunteering, but by the time he left the whole community supported his work and were taking a longer term view to resolving community issues. This included making land available for community activities and providing donations of material and food to the youth club.

Mr Theara's career has flourished since 2011.  After progressive promotions he now works as a Deputy Manager of a Sunrise Children’s Village, a charitable organisation that provides education, medical care, and a home for oprhaned, abandoned, vulnerable and disadvantaged Cambodian children. He is already helping achieve the Youth Star goal of building a just and peaceful Cambodian nation.

We hope and expect the current crop of Youth Star volunteers - Group 18 - has similar success to Mr Theara's in their personal and community development activities.

If you would like to see and hear how a another Youth Star alumni describes his experiences as a Youth Star placement and how it changed his life, I recommend that you view this inspirational video, which features the current Acting Executive Director of Youth Star, Mr Luy Tech Chheng. I think it beautifully captures what we are trying to achieve - and achieving - at Youth Star.  Let me know what you think of this video and report - we always welcome feedback at Youth Star!

Youth Star volunteers in 2011
Youth Star volunteers in 2011
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Grandmother Chheang & grandchildren - Krang Veaeng
Grandmother Chheang & grandchildren - Krang Veaeng

The Youth Star 2014 volunteer placements have now been underway for 3 months and are all going well. This report provides some examples of how Youth Star works with under-served rural communities to provide resources and role models to foster positive future development in these communities. The work of Miss UTH Sithea,in Krang Veaeng village in Prey Veng province, illustrates the Youth Star approach.

Like many rural Cambodian villages, Krang Veaeng has no electricity or running water. Without the assistance of organisations such as Youth Star, the village children may receive little assistance in preparing for a future career. Youth Star aims to facilitate productive activities that enable Cambodian children to fulfil their potential.

During her placement Sithea has reinvigorated a youth club set up by a former Youth Star volunteer in 2012. In early April—with the assistance of local authorities and partners—she organised a role play performed by 26 club members . This play promoted the importance of school attendance. Hundreds of people from 4 local villages attended and $105 US was received in donations from attendees to help support the club‘s activities.

Every Sunday morning, Sithea organises youth club members to tutor primary school students who need learning assistance. These volunteers tutor 5 primary school age groups, with approximately 35 students in each group. In the afternoon youth club members bring along the ‘backpack mobile library’ and meet with Krang Veaeng villagers to promote a reading culture among children, youth and parents.

Sithea is currently working with the youth club to build a youth club office. This is being constructed from local building materials, including bamboo and palm leaf. It will be completed when sufficient funds are obtained to purchase all the building materials required.

Youth Star’s activities help relieve some of the daily burden on families such as ‘Grandmother’ Chheang’s (pictured). Like all grandmothers, Mrs Chheang only wants the best for her grandchildren and the opportunities offered by a better education provide her with hope for their future prospects.

Youth Star’s activities not only benefit the village children but the entire village community. Mrs Chheang is very happy that her grandchildren have more structured activities during the day. Along with her daughters, Mrs Chheang—who is in her eighties—is responsible for working the family farm, providing food for the table and raising her grandchildren. As often occurs in Cambodian rural communities, the children’s fathers work in faraway places and periodically send money home to help support their families.

Since Youth Star commenced operations, it has placed around 200 volunteers in villages like Krang Veaeng for periods of 12 months and longer. Many of these placements have not only assisted the village community, but have changed the lives of the volunteers in ways they could not imagine before their volunteering commenced.

An example of such a transformation is provided in the following short video, where Mr. Luy Tech Chheng (who was recently appointed as the acting executive director of Youth Star) discusses how volunteering for Youth Star changed his life. Stay tuned - we shall focus more on how the Youth Star program benefits volunteers in future reports!

Sithea (left in green top) and Youth Club members
Sithea (left in green top) and Youth Club members
A villager donates money to support the Youth Club
A villager donates money to support the Youth Club
Sithea travels the local countryside by bicycle
Sithea travels the local countryside by bicycle
Learning assistance in action in Krang Veaeng
Learning assistance in action in Krang Veaeng

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Kampong Thnal children watch Youth Star visitors
Kampong Thnal children watch Youth Star visitors

Youth Star has been busy preparing for its 2014 volunteer placements, which start next week. This work includes training volunteers (for 3 weeks) and ‘local partners’ (for one week) in Phnom Penh. A local partner supports each volunteer in the community and liaises with the Youth Star office on the volunteer’s activities during their placement. Youth Star provides financial support for the partner’s travel and accommodation when this training is undertaken.

In mid-January I travelled to 10 villages in Prey Veng province to meet with local community representatives to determine the location of four Youth Star volunteer placements, which commence in mid-February 2014. One visit was to the Lvear commune, where I met with the commune leader, Mr Sin Teoung. Mr Teoung strongly promoted the need for a Youth Star volunteer in the Kampong Thnal village in his commune, and was successful in obtaining a placement.

The Kampong Thnal village has been fortunate in in having a new kindergarten built from funding provided by Korean donors, but has yet to use the building as a kindergarten because no teacher had been available. The Youth Star volunteer, Ms Veasna Sophea, will undertake this role during her 12 month placement, supported by the local partner Ms Hout Thoeun. In future, schoolbooks and some other technical support will possibly be provided by SIPAR, who share Youth Star’s objective to build a better future for Cambodia through expanding educational opportunities.

During our time in Kampong Thnal village we were continually followed around by the village children, who were under the impression that their schooling was to start immediately! They are so eager to learn and the community support so strong that I am very confident this project will be a big success. Your assistance in supporting projects like these is greatly appreciated. We will tell you more about our other Youth Star projects throughout the year.

Youth Star volunteer, Ms Veasna Sophea
Youth Star volunteer, Ms Veasna Sophea
Kampong Thnal kindergarten funded by Korean donors
Kampong Thnal kindergarten funded by Korean donors
Lvear commune leader Mr Sin Teoung & Mora Gibbings
Lvear commune leader Mr Sin Teoung & Mora Gibbings
Future Kampong Thnal village kindergarten students
Future Kampong Thnal village kindergarten students

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Youth Star Volunteer Placements
Youth Star Volunteer Placements

A big thank you to all of our Globalgiving donors. Your donations will help make a lasting difference to our volunteers and the Cambodian communities in which they serve.

 Many of our volunteers have limited experience of life in rural Cambodia, which is why we take such care in training them to understand and respect the communities in which they are placed and support them while they are there. Our experience is that these communities welcome our volunteers and appreciate the educational assistance, youth development and specific projects they undertake. Our volunteers develop skills and social awareness that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

To date our Youth Star volunteers have worked in four Cambodian provinces and our aim over time is to expand our program further into these and other provinces. In 2014 we expect to have 20 volunteers out in the field working on diverse projects of great importance to these communities.

It costs Youth Star $3,000 to place each volunteer living in the community for 12 months. These costs include training, support, a small stipend for the volunteer and materials assisting them in their project. Your donations will help make these 2014 volunteer placements possible and I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on how our Youth Star projects develop throughout the year.

Last weekend (7-8 December) two Youth Star volunteers each led two campaigns: 'We are Good Men', supported by Paz Y Desarrollo, and '16 days of Activism against Gender Violence', supported by UN Women. The campaigns were in Kampong Thom province where both volunteers are based. Four hundred people in the local communities participated in these campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. Participants of the ‘Good Men’ campaign were dressed in white T-shirts and supporters of the ‘Gender Violence’ campaign in orange T-shirts.

Good Men Campaign
Good Men Campaign
Gender Violence Campaign
Gender Violence Campaign
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Organization Information

Youth Star Cambodia

Location: Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Website:
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Mora Gibbings
Project Leader:
Mora Gibbings
Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh Cambodia

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