It’s never too early or too late to learn new skills!
SreyTok, 21, from Kratie province in rural Cambodia, finished high school two years ago. She had planned to continue her studies at university but couldn’t afford the costs involved. Her parents, who are farmers and garbage collectors, earn very little, which makes it difficult for them to afford the expenses of university education.
For many young people living in rural Cambodia, pursuing higher education is a challenge. Universities are found only in a few large cities, often far from their hometowns, and require expensive housing, school materials, and other costs associated with living in a city. As a result, upward mobility is difficult for young people in these remote communities. They often struggle to find employment outside of manual labour, even after completing their high school education. SreyTok says her limited options meant she remained at home, assisting her parents with their farming work.
To support the future livelihoods of young people and encourage them to bring positive change in their communities, ChildFund, in partnership with the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT), has launched an ‘Essential Life Skills’ training program in the region. The program aims to equip the participants with skills and knowledge that will help them become more confident in their abilities and lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
“Two youth representatives from each village, roughly 20 per commune, were chosen to take part in the program,” says Mr. Ravy, a project manager at CRDT, explaining that the program saw young people take part in training sessions held every weekend over the course of a year. Topics focused on self-awareness, leadership, safely navigating social media, gender equality, reproductive health, and making wise life decisions.
Out of the 20 youth representatives taking part in the program, five were chosen to be the group’s leaders. For one day a month, the leaders would travel to different villages to impart lessons learned and skills gained through their training to other young people. SreyTok was chosen to serve as the team’s vice president. She says she is proud to share her newfound knowledge and skills with young people in the community, and now has a concrete plan to continue her studies in the city. “I know myself better and am more confident in my abilities and understand how to set and accomplish goals in life.”
As part of their training, young people also learnt the importance of teamwork and working with local authorities to create impactful and long-lasting change in their communities. This included a very informative session on community development plans, which covered budget planning and proposal, determining the underlying cause of community problems, setting priorities for those problems, and formulating suggested solutions.
SreyTok’s team has already begun to put their skills to good use, collaborating with the commune council to develop multiple projects. She says topics are wide-ranging but specific to the needs and future wellbeing of their communities, “Projects focus on child marriage, safe migration, social media, school infrastructure for children with disabilities, and more.”
Ms. Phalla, a member of the commune council in charge of children and women’s issues, is quick to sing the youth representatives’ praises. “They have been very supportive. I couldn’t help the community as quickly on my own,” she says.
Attending the training with SreyTok’s team was an eye-opening and informative experience for Ya, 23, who was married at 18 and has two daughters. Prior to the training, Ya’s knowledge was limited, especially when it came to her own body and wellbeing. “I never knew details about reproductive health” she says, adding that she now feels equipped to take better care of herself and her children. “I plan on passing on this information and other important lessons to my girls to give them the best chance in life.”