The seventh annual Youth Camp was themed “Youth Empowerment for a Green Life” and ended with countless significant personal changes. There were 46 participants of university students and working professionals from Phnom Penh and Battambang.
At the opening ceremony, Mr Khun Choeun, the chief of the community, said he was pleased to see the younger generation participating in social activities. He pointed out that when someone provides service to the community he or she will develop personally as well.
The president of Initiatives of Change, Cambodia, Mr Dok Virak, stated the committee for the youth camp voluntarily organized this event. Virak emphasized that the reason why we did this is because IofC has helped all of us find meaning and guidance in our lives. He hoped this youth camp would help participants have the same experience he did.
Mr Kim Vuth, a board member of IofC Cambodia, provided background information on IofC worldwide. He conveyed that while the world stockpiled weapons before the Second World War, Dr Frank Buchman appealed for moral re-armament. He believed that only through moral re-armament can the entire universe live in harmony. Moral Re-armament was founded in 1938 by Dr Frank Buchman and the organization soon developed into Initiatives of Change. IofC has many offices around the world with headquarters in Switzerland, Australia, and India.
Mr Chem Thornin, the vice president of IofC Cambodia, informed participants about a multitude of upcoming projects. Projects that include book distribution to poor rural schools, food programs providing meals, youth camps, exchange programs with neighbouring countries, tree planting and so on. He pointed out that IofC youth participate in all these projects providing time, energy, and finances to make sure they are successful.
A participant from Melbourne attended the IofC program in Battambang on the recommendation of Rob Wood. He had attended other IofC programs conducted in Asia Plateau, India which helped him to reconcile differences with his father and now he enjoys a healthy relationship with his family. He enjoyed the program in Battambang and found the participants to be sincere and genuine and appreciated how well the coordinators conducted it. This was evidenced by the quality of the sharing he heard which were kindly translated for him from Khmer to English by members of the coordinating team. At all times, despite the language barrier, he said he felt welcome and at home among friends. Some of his takeaways from the program include learning about the situation faced by farmers in Cambodia. Camp participants visited an organic farmer and learned how he manages to grow crops without using fertilizers and pesticides and still produce quality vegetables and rice.
Camp participants then journeyed to Phnom Anderk Pagoda for a family sharing session. Phnom Anderk Pagoda is a revered destination for meditation where many nuns throughout the country gravitate toward. The pagoda compound is full of green grass and tall trees which create a peaceful atmosphere.
Guest speaker Mr Sun Ridan addressed the group on the last morning of camp. Mr Ridan has had more than 10 years of experience working with communities in six provinces. Mr Ridan has degrees in Economics and in Conservation Agriculture. He opined that farmers today are facing great challenges and uncertainty. Some migrate to find jobs in the city and in foreign countries and only return to help during planting time and harvest. This leaves villages with only the elderly, women, and children. He went on to state that it is important for the farmers to build up a belief in themselves and to provide them with technical support and ideas about how to optimize their land and resources to make the soil rich for different varieties of crops. He is proud that the farmers he worked with are better off now than before.
Camp participants also visited a grape farm and enjoyed a bamboo train ride. The bamboo train was created after the railways were abandoned by the Khmer Rouge. The villagers created a bamboo platform with small wheels along a track to carry crops and goods from one village to the next. There is only one track so the villagers would have to remove one train if another train came in the opposite direction. After the war it became a tourist attraction and a way of earning money for the village.
Participants were asked what element of the youth camp was the most meaningful to them. Many participants agreed it was learning to speak freely and share and be honest about their past mistakes. They valued the experience of being part of a family. They all hope that IofC will organise more programmes to introduce positive IofC ideals to Cambodian youths. One participant said, “It’s been a short camp but it has touched my heart. I have lots of meaningful memories which will always stay with me. Our family group has become so close that we are now like a real family. It is hard to say goodbye and I hope we can meet again to continue sharing our life stories.”