How I Changed Cambodia 2017-2018

My heart was pumping fast; dup-dup dup-dup. My adrenaline was high. My palms were sweaty. My legs were shaking. I raised my left hand up, holding my air inflator/deflator of my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD, or Buoyancy Compensator, BC). My instructor signaled me a thumbs down; in divers’ language, that means descend or go down. I was filled with both fear and excitement which made me breathe like I just ran a marathon. We all pressed the deflation button at the same time; fssss, the sound of the air exiting our BCD, and there I went underwater.

That was one of the most surreal moments of my life. The moment where I faced my fear- the ocean. Because of my passion for marine biology and conservation, I was committed to doing whatever it takes to help save the “dying jewel” of Cambodia.

Throughout this year, I’ve pushed myself to take risks and to do what I wouldn’t usually do. I was heavily influenced by a quote from Casey Neistat, that goes “The most dangerous thing you can do in life is play it safe.” This is the quote that I lived my year based off. This is the quote that inspired me to be a risk-taking, passionate, curious, and pioneering change agent.

Back in May 2017, the members of Liger Marine Research Team was announced, and I, pleasantly, was one. Even though I know it is a long-term research project about the Cambodian ocean, I wasn’t sure what I just got myself into. My first mission was to get dive certified so I spent my summer taking the Scuba Schools International (SSI) Open Water Diver course. I, then, went to Koh Seh to apply that knowledge into the water. We manage to cramp a course that would usually take three weeks into four intense days of training. The team, then, took courses with Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC), an organization based on Koh Seh that does conservations and research on the Kep archipelago, to learn the methodology of reef surveys, and to learn about fish, invertebrates, and substrates, and identifying them.

Fast-forward to March, right after the government establishes the Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA) in Kep, the LMRT implemented our own artificial reef block that sets off our three-year-long research project. In April, only a month after deployment, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in the fish population. We’ve surveyed and seen 14 new species in the area, which, only in a month, was a sign of success. I went from being scared of the ocean to logging in around 30 dives by the end of the year. I went from being interested in marine biology to be a marine biologist.

Another project that I’ve been involved with was about gender equity and discussing uncomfortable topics that needed to be discussed. From gender issues in advertisement and our economics to gender-based violence, my colleagues and I had been having in-depth conversations about different areas of gender equity. I got to write and publish two articles on the Change for Gender Equity website: “Boys, Cry!” and “Behind the Music: A Look at Female Musicians”. At the end of the 7 weeks project, we had a two-day student facilitated summit that was in both Khmer and English that discussed four topics– power, language usage, economics, and culture– and I was a co-session leader discussing language usage. Pause, let me be honest, I am really afraid of public speaking, and leading these discussions was very challenging. But conversations are really critical in our society, and when it comes to discussing about gender, in both languages but especially in Khmer, there’s a lack of vocabularies or misunderstandings in the language we use to discuss these sensitive topics, and that’s what made me stand up, bring a group of young people together, and discuss this issue. Discussions were had, and tears were shed. More than 100 students showed up and left with knowledge and courage. As one of the session leaders, that was a very impactful event and a satisfying success.

Approaching problems by educating people from a young age is what I believe in; that’s why I worked with seven Liger students, and a group of change agents from an organization called World Renew, to tackle the problem of drugs usage. I joined forces with my colleagues to study the issue, make an educational film, plan workshops and going to five provinces to lead interactive workshops with close to a thousand total highschool students. The workshops include sessions about general information about drugs in the country, the side effects, preventions, and solutions. The students were very engaging with the different discussions we had, and at the end of the day, they are one step farther from drugs.

To me, being a change agent was about rocking the boat, and being the black sheep in the herd. By doing these projects, I was apart of putting the spotlight on these issues, and working out how we will battle them. What I’ve done may seem like a very small fraction of helping with the problem in Cambodia or the world, but if I can make a vivid influence on one person’s life, my goal would be accomplished. If I can make one man cry when in our society, guys were strictly told not to, or make a little boy to say no to drugs when all his friends pressure him to join them, or even save a juvenile fish’s life when using the artificial reef block I deployed to try to get away from a trawler, that’s what I consider a tremendous success.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

Changing Cambodia 2016-2017

My fifth year at Liger just ended, which means it’s time for another Changing Cambodia post! This year at Liger, I had the guts to get out of my comfort zone, and get involved in projects that would help me in the future, and change Cambodia. I took a break from film making and did some awesome projects that helped Cambodia change, little by little. Two out of five of my explorations really did change Cambodia. They are Iron Deficiency Anemia and Climate Summit.

The first exploration that I had this year was Iron Deficiency Anemia. We were studying about the disease, Iron Deficiency Anemia, and worked with a company called Lucky Iron Fish to help solve this problem around Cambodia. We spent the first four weeks doing research about the disease, the problem with the disease around Cambodia, and working with the Lucky Iron Fish team to plan workshops for people in Siem Reap. The Lucky Iron Fish is a company that makes fish-shaped iron ingots that would help to give enough iron for people’s daily requirements in people’s food by just cooking the fish in a pot. We went to Siem Reap with the Cambodian Operations Manager of Lucky Iron Fish and spent 2 days, doing 4 workshops to the people around Siem Reap. We distributed about 300 iron fishes and about 50% of women around Cambodia has iron deficiency anemia, so that means, we could’ve helped about 150 people with this disease.

The other exploration that I had was Climate Summit. In this exploration, our main goal was to have a summit where high school students around Cambodia be delegates of 6 different regions and discuss ways to keep global warming under 2-degree Celsius. We were working on planning the event and make sure everything goes smoothly. We had teams that reached out to people. There is a team that works specifically with all the physical stuff that is connected to the event. I was on a team with 3 other friends. We were the “scientists.” It’s not part of the Climate Summit simulation to have people talk about scientific stuff but we want the participants to absorb as much information as possible. It was a really hard task for me to take but I’m glad I did. I had to do research, contact people, and turn all that into a presentation that isn’t boring for the audiences. I ended up giving a 15 minutes speech and I had a fun, little activity at the end. I’m more comfortable with showing a film in front of 1000 people than going up to speak to 70 high schoolers but I did it. By the end of the day, everyone was impressed with our work and they got a lot of new information about something not a lot of people talk about in Cambodia. We also did one for the whole senior cohort in Liger. So what did I change?! I helped to spread the words about climate change so people can help to be more aware of it and they will do things to try to release fewer emissions. There is a quote that is something like, if you throw a rock into the water, you will not just hit and stop, it will keep going down. So, we educated about 70 people and it doesn’t stop there. They will spread it to their friends, families, and others.

There were things I did that will be changing Cambodia hopefully, next year, like the waste management exploration and the Khmer Rouge. That will be in my sixth year “Changing Cambodia.” It wasn’t the easiest for me to take on all these challenges for myself, to do more writing, public speaking, critical thinking, and research but I’m so glad I took my chance to do it. It had been a great, fifth year at Liger, and also my first year of high school as a 13-year-old. Next year will be better.

The Liger Marine Research Team | LMRT Trip 1

As you might’ve seen in my other posts, I’ve been talking quite a bit about the Liger Marine Research Team, in short, LMRT. The LMRT is a group of eight students from the Liger Leadership Academy that will be doing research on the marine biology in Cambodia, more specifically, Koh Seh. Koh Seh is an island off the coast of Kep, Cambodia. 

Ariel view of the island

We had our first trip to the island on the 28th of September, 2017. The purpose of that trip was to get us all certified as open water divers. I took the SSI Open Diver course in my summer so I was ready to get in the water and practice the skills. We consisted of about one dive per day (excluding the “pool sessions”). It was weird staying underwater for that long. I had to get up at 6 AM and get ready for my “classes” that take place underwater at around 7 in the morning. It was also very scary to practice all those skills and stay underwater for a long period of time. The scariest and hardest skills I had to practice were, taking off my buoyancy compensator (BC) underwater and putting it back on, and performing an ascend when I’m out of air; my instructor would come behind my BC and turn off my tanks. I then, have to give her the “out of air” sign and ascend to the surface, inflate my BC with my own mouth; usually, I would use the built-in system in the BC to inflate itself but since I’m out of air, I have to inflate it myself. I got a chance to go to an island nearby to dive at around six meters depth with HUGE corals and other organisms. The morning following the day I got certified, I went diving with my buddy, Nilroth. We went seahorse hunting, and no, we weren’t catching them. We spotted a seahorse, living with a lot of seagrasses. 


That was one of the best weeks of my life, filled with mixed emotions. It was one of the scariest, the weirdest, the most dangerous, the most tiring, and one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in my life.

Changing Cambodia 2015-2016

Cambodia is a developing country so that means Cambodia is changing. These are the things I think that need to be changed in Cambodia:
– Education system
– Every kid should go to school
– Labour
– Plastic pollution
– Crimes
I think Cambodia need to fix the curriculum because how they teach students today isn’t the best way of teaching. A teacher just basically write a lot of text on the board and the students copy it into their books. Then the teacher talks a bit about the lesson and the students can ask any question that they have. I don’t think it is a good way of teaching something. The curriculum should include activities and potentially projects that student can work on. For example, if they are learning about potential energy, the student can be working a roller coaster project because it helps them understand about potential energy. Not every kid in Cambodia goes to school. A lot of the time, it’s because of poverty and because of poverty, kids under 18 go to do some type of work to support their family. People use a lot of plastics nowadays and it pollutes the environment. People in Cambodia doesn’t know about the impacts of plastics and they just use it. Another problem is, after they use the plastic bags or other plastic materials, they throw it everywhere. I think the only way to change that is educating people. Education is a big thing in Cambodia. A lot of people aren’t educated in Cambodia. The next change is Crimes. Everyday in Cambodia there’s a robbing happened and it’s really bad. There’s also illegal fishing happening and it is a big crime in Cambodia. I think the only way to fix this problem is of course, educating people. A lot of people in Cambodia are fishermen. They are uneducated and they wants a lot of fish everyday so they do illegal fishing activities to get a lot of fish. They don’t know about the bad impact on the environment so we should educate them so they stop doing illegal fishing activities. Another crime is robbing and stealing. People do those things because they are uneducated and there’s no job for them. I’ve talked a lot with people about crimes and plastic waste. All of the people I’ve talked with thinks that education is the only way to fix those problems. This year, I’ve been in a lot of projects and one of them is “Hidden Voices.” In this project, my team went to places around Cambodia and record old songs that people knows. Basically what we try to do is to take old songs that not a lot of people knows about and bring it to the present so the songs are not gone forever. One more change that I made this year to Cambodia is when some of my friends and I made a documentary about Cambodia fisheries and the problems in Cambodia’s marine ecosystem. The documentary got an award for the best documentary in the Phnom Penh Youth Film Festival. Now my video is being broadcast on a TV channel to everyone all around Cambodia so everyone know about the problem in Cambodia.We also show that on Sharation so now a lot of people knows about illegal fishing and how bad it is so they will not do it. I think that is a change for Cambodia because a lot of people knows how bad is illegal fishing and what to do instead so they will not do it. Last but not least is a project that 4 of my friend and I have started and it is Film making with government school student. Cambodia have a lack for the film industry and I wanted to change that because I think filmmaking helps us a lot with creativity and I love making films because it is fun. So the five of us that knows how to make films started this project to make some films with kids in Cambodia so they know how to make films. That project will start in November 2016 so we didn’t make any changes yet but we are starting.

Changing Cambodia 2014-2015

I knew that changing Cambodia is a very big goal. Even I knew it was a big goal but I still try hard to change this country to be better country in the world. I knew a problem in Cambodia that there’s not a lot of people aren’t good at it and that is technology. I’m also not so good at technology but again, I am trying very hard to help to change this country with technology. Now I have the opportunity to learn about technology at the Liger Learning Center. I’ve join an exploration called Tech Support. I talked about technology issues to my team and the small point that I want to focus on is to teach people to solve their Windows 8 problems by their own. I went to learn about that and I shared that with my friends and other people at different events like sharation and other networking events. I tried my best to explain and learn about it. At different networking events, people are impressed with me and they said that I am a good role model for our country to develop to a better country.