Sreyleak Neam, a former youth leader, is currently a first year student at the university. She also interns with World Vision’s Global One project, which gives Australian youth the chance to connect and partner with economically-impoverished communities to collaboratively create a better world. She writes about the role that child participation played in her life.
“You are too young. I am older than you and have a lot of experience thus I know better than you” – this is the type of idea that elders in my community used to express to young people. This mindset encouraged me to be a quiet girl and to not express my ideas.
Because of the conservative mindset of these elders, girls were not encouraged to get much education and some parents forced their daughters to marry as young as 14. I rarely saw girls go to university.
There were also other challenges in my community: young people were led to gangs and alcohol, and there was a lack of knowledge among people of all ages about the best ways to stay healthy.
I started learning how to help improve my community when I was 15 years old – this was the year that World Vision first came to my community.
With the encouragement of World Vision, I worked with other young people to organise public forums and to raise awareness on issues like hygiene and the importance of education. People in the community have changed their mindset. They have started to value the social contributions that we are making and our participation. They have started to support us.
I wish to be a good example of the value that young people can bring, and I hope that this will help change the mindset of older generations.
In 2012, through World Vision, I was selected to go to India and express my ideas to World Vision’s leaders in the Asia Pacific Regional Forum. In 2013, after years of studying hard, I received a scholarship to go to university.
I studied hard not only for myself but to show my community that it is important for girls to get an education. I want to serve as an example to parents to help convince them to encourage their own children to pursue an education.
I am very proud of myself. I dream of having a big education centre in my community where people, especially young people, can learn English, computer skills and other skills.
Thanks to World Vision, I now have another opportunity to serve God. Through the Global One project, I help Australian youth to connect and partner with Cambodian communities living in poverty. The project helps young people to travel from overseas to learn first-hand about the issues facing people living in economic poverty. Once they get back home, they have the chance to advocate on behalf of the communities and people they have met.
I used to dream of travelling and communicating with people from other cultures and who speak other languages. Now I have many friends from abroad and help mobilise youth from Australia and Cambodia to work together. Every day, I get to see how young people like me and my peers can learn, share and connect with each other across borders and across oceans to collaboratively create a better world.
It is really amazing to work with World Vision.