Tell us about yourself.
I come from a province in the southern part of Cambodia, but after high school, in 1998, I came to the capital, Phnom Penh. My first job was as an English teacher, and I did that for 10 years before being promoted to the school’s Brand Manager for four years.
But private education wasn’t what I wanted to do long term, so I shifted my focus to international development. I became a project coordinator at an international organization working on education projects. Over 10 years with that NGO I moved up to senior management, where I gained a lot of great skills.
Luckily, a friend mentioned that there was opportunity to volunteer with GoGreen Cambodia and I was very passionate about their goals and objectives to fight against plastic pollution and to educate the public about plastic waste. I started volunteering with GoGreen Cambodia in March 2019, helping to coordinate clean-up events and educating school children and people in the community about preventing plastic waste. I have also led ‘train-the-trainer’ courses and I act as a local representative for the organisation.
I have a Master’s degree in Business Administration and I’m also pursuing another Master’s degree in Development and International Studies.
How does your work help to promote and maintain ocean health?
GoGreen Cambodia means a lot to me. It started with pop-up groups on Facebook to find volunteers for local clean ups in 2016, and now we are an environmentally conscious project actively working to provide alternatives to Cambodia's waste management problems.
Our canals and rivers all eventually flow into the ocean, but they are full of plastics. So we collaborate not just with NGOs, but also with the ministries of environment and tourism, the Cambodia Hotel Association and various youth groups.
We have projects to raise awareness of plastic pollution in schools and we have recently formed a Task Force, consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Education, UNDP, Fauna and Flora International, and Youth Star Cambodia to develop environmental education tools and ideas to form a curriculum for teachers and NGOs.
We have also created a Facebook group, GoGreen Cambodia, to share information, organize community clean-ups, and send tips and messages to educate people about the consequences of waste pollution. And we created an app to track Phnom Penh’s waste.
What drives you to do this work?
Years ago, when I came to the city, I realized that the roads, canals, and sidewalks were full of plastic. I was thinking of what I could do to change it and clean it up. I used to talk to my sister about wanting to do something and she said, "Yeah, you can try, but it's too much – trash is everywhere”.
But getting to know my friends at GoGreen I have found that there are solutions. So my friends inspire and motivate me.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing our oceans in 2020?
The first challenge is the lack of awareness from the public towards plastic waste and responsible waste management. But we should celebrate that there has been a lot of progress and further engagement between stakeholders should continue to make a difference.
What message would you like everyone to hear on World Oceans Day 2020?
Keeping our ocean clean requires everyone's participation. Not only the government, but all of us must take care of the ocean, because we are all, together, the owners of the ocean.