UNICEF’s Generation Future workshops inspire 900 young students in Siem Reap
Young leaders from UNICEF's Generation Future delivered educational workshops to 900 students in Siem Reap as part of the Royal Government of Cambodia's Local Life Skills Programmme
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“Being taught by someone young like me encourages me to learn,” said Soth Veasna enthusiastically, after emerging from a workshop on nutrition and organic gardening led by Pollak Raksa Chea.
Veasna, 13, is a student in Siem Reap province, while Raksa, 17 is part of UNICEF’s Generation Future programme. “I loved learning in the classroom as well as the chance to go outdoors and put that knowledge into practice by planting vegetables with Raksa and my friends,” Veasna continued. “Now I need to change my habits. In the past I ate more snacks than actual meals!”
Raksa was thrilled to hear about Veasna’s commitment to change. “What I wanted to achieve was to help the students understand nutrition and to think more critically about what they consume every day, like instant noodles or energy drinks,” she said. “They need to know that these food and drinks aren’t good for them, and that organic vegetables are healthier. Even better, I want to encourage them to grow them.”
Veasna was one of 898 students from 18 schools in Siem Reap who participated in educational workshops delivered by six young project leaders from Generation Future in September. UNICEF launched Generation Future in 2021 as a pilot project designed to provide opportunities to Cambodia’s young people following the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely disrupted their education, social lives and career opportunities. Generation Future invites young people from across the country to put forward ideas for projects which will create positive social change, and selects the most promising to be implemented with UNICEF support, including training, mentoring and seed funding.
During the 2021 pilot, several projects were launched which had a major impact in communities and on social media, leading to support from partners in the Cambodian Government , private sector and foreign Governments. As a result Generation Future is now being expanded to reach more young people. 10 million Cambodians are under the age of 25, making it one of the youngest populations in the world, and providing them with opportunities is essential to the nation’s future.
One of the most important ways in which Generation Future is expanding its impact is through collaborating with other successful youth projects. For example, this year it has joined up with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport’s Local Life Skills programme. The Ministry has long recognised that more must be done to support young Cambodians to develop soft skills such as critical thinking and communication skills, while also learning more about how to respond to social challenges they face. As a result, the Local Life Skills programme supports experts in various subjects to go into schools to provide valuable extracurricular learning and training to students.
Generation Future shares the same objectives of improving soft skills and empowering young people to take action, so the two programmes are well aligned. The recent Generation Future workshops in Siem Reap were implemented as part of the Local Life Skills programme, with the young project leaders using the workshops as a platform to engage and inspire other young people.
As well as nutrition, the project leaders from Generation Future shared their knowledge and passion on a range of topics including opportunities for self-improvement for young people, the importance of digital literacy, reading and creativity for younger children, and how to attain and maintain good oral health.
Sokunpanha Ly, a 15-year-old from Kampong Thom who is also part of Generation Future, taught her students about the importance of bees in the Cambodian ecosystem as well as threats to their existence, and practical skills on how to protect them to protect the environment. “I’ve been passionate about bees for a long time, but it’s thanks to Generation Future and my mentor that I learnt more,” Panha said. “UNICEF has helped me to develop my project by learning about budgeting and social media and marketing, which is so important if this project is going to create more awareness around bees.”
Asked what the highlight of the workshops was for her, Panha said it was when she asked the students to work in groups and put their new soft skills into practice by presenting back on what they had learnt. “I was so happy that they understood enough about the lessons to be able to turn it around and teach us.” She also reflected on other skills she has gained through Generation Future. As well as deepening her knowledge of bees and their role in the Cambodian ecosystem, she improved her organisation and collaboration skills by working with three different schools in Siem Reap to implement her workshops.
Panha is particularly proud of the fact she has developed her leadership abilities and confidence, as proven when she taught some students who were older than herself.
“Before joining the programme, I wouldn’t have felt brave enough to talk to students like that. However, I have built my confidence and now feel that I have the ability to teach others about what I’m passionate about.”
The impact of the collaboration between Generation Future and the Local Life Skills Programme in Siem Reap will not stop just because the workshops are over. In Danrun School, where Raksa taught organic gardening, the Principal has decided to build a permanent school garden so that children can continue to put their nutritional knowledge to work for years to come. Other teachers and students were so inspired by what they learnt from the young leaders from Generation Future that they have signed up for further online training led by the young people, during which teachers and students in Siem Reap will learn how to run their own workshops. Inspiring and educating young people is only a first step for Generation Future. It is by empowering those young people to go on and inspire and educate others that its impact will ripple out and positively shape whole communities.