Adolescence Was Life-Changing | Year 4 How I Change Cambodia

Understanding Others Through Listening to Their Stories

 

During my childhood, my surroundings taught me that the members of the LGTBQ+ community are “strange” and “different”. I remember when I was young, my mom took me and my brother to visit my big aunt often. Aunt would always tease my brother about being gay because he plays with nail paints and dolls that mom bought for me. Then my mom would respond with “I’m also worried that he will become one.” Those conversations about the community made me think that they were wrong for worrying their family members as well as not following the stereotypical concept their genders were supposed to be.​​ A few years after that, a learning project totally changed me and I’d like you to witness the serendipity that shapes the foundation of my thoughts on the LGTBQ+ community.

 

Through discovering new people, listening and observing, I realize how common this case happens in Cambodia. And they all share similar stories that, when a guy wears or plays with make-up, cares about their appearance or is just being artistic, people will assume they are gay on the first impression. When a girl hangs out with guys, talks or laughs very loudly in a lower tone and acts “manly,” as in playing lots of sports and being careless about their appearance, the public will speculate them as lesbians.  

 

Looking back at it, I can see how wrong I was about the community and how badly I was influenced by those conversations about them. Sometimes I think about what I would do if I were from the community:. 

  • I wouldn’t want someone to assume my sexual orientation based on my interests, what I do as a hobby nor how I look! 
  • I wouldn’t like it when my friends laugh, glare, point at me and mock me for being a part of the community. 
  • I will hate to keep things to myself because no other people understand. 
  • I would be brokenhearted and despairing if my family doesn’t want me as their daughter anymore because they think my lifestyle is based on choices and not who I truly am.

 

I really hope all these expectations and stereotypes vanish in the 2020s when the world is becoming more knowledgeable and open-minded. On the other hand, I also understand that people need time to adapt to the Modern Era. Recently, my family had a celebration of housewarming. The night before the ceremony, my brother hung out with one of his close friends who in my family’s opinion, is girly. My dad got really angry and blamed my brother for letting the boy sleepover and for befriending him in general. My dad repeatedly said in an angry and quite disappointed tone, “It’s not like you don’t have other friends to hang out with. Girls should act like a girl and boys should act like a boy, don’t hang out with someone who isn’t purely their gender. He might influence you to become like him in the future.” After that, he would threaten my brother to hit him “if he hangs out with the boy that has long hair.” This made me feel sympathetic for the boy and my brother. Though later that day, I told him that, “the boy has long hair because it’s his choice and it doesn’t determine that he is gay. Moreover, you shouldn’t restrict them from hanging out, that is too controlling and apparently, the boy is a good person, he doesn’t bite!”. I tried to defend the boy, my dad wouldn’t listen to me because he’s been following the same pattern for 45 years and he’s just close-minded! (Sorry dad). I understand why he got mad; however, changes happen all the time and we need to adapt and change. That is why we all need to start teaching youth the importance of sharing and listening to others’ perspectives to achieve a world with harmony and justice.

 

As someone who is IMPACTED by listening, sharing and understanding new perspectives, I admit it feels exceptionally good to accept the LGTBQ+ community as a part of nature and life. And I wouldn’t have become very empathetic toward the community if it weren’t for Liger Leadership Academy and project Adolescence. Adolescence is a 7-week long project led by a senior student, B Venghour with the help of a learning facilitator, Sam. We divided ourselves into different teams including: Painting, sketching and mixed media, Sculpture, Marketing and Performance team. Each team is responsible for creating masterpieces for some section of the story written by B Venghour. (Except for Marketing team which focuses on financial support) The story is about a boy growing up in his society where the things he enjoys doing are considered girly. It includes emotional struggles he had to face before coming out and all the intense discussions about the LGBTQ+ community he had with his parents. By being a part of this project, I am willing to use my ability and talent to strengthen the art gallery and share this story with the public because I want to see Cambodian society being more open about gender and sexuality. If the project empowered me to take some time and reflect on the misconceptions, I’m sure it will reach people on a bigger scale. 

 

Unfortunately, our project was interrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19 which was chaotic and abrupt. We had no choice but to separate our team due to social distancing rules declared by the government. Since then, working together has become very challenging. Everybody is not at the same pace in life, we have our schedules and life obstacles that need to settle. Yet for the passion to make the gallery possible, we broke through our differences and came together to meet and discuss this project. I am optimistic that a lot of people will understand the side of the world they once thought was unusual, strange or non-natural after discovering Venghour’s story! 

 

Now as a person with a completely different mentality from the past, questions cluster inside my head like sugar attracting ants. I am genuinely curious as to what people think is actually wrong about being a part of the LGTBQ+ community.  If the people who discriminate against the community can put aside their prejudice, would they finally acknowledge that they are no different than any other human beings on Earth but with a unique preference of their sexual partners? Do they feel good for assuming someone’s gender? Do they feel more superior because they are not from the LGTBQ+ community?

 

All the rhetorical questions aside, I believe that gender and sexuality shouldn’t be the factors that make someone feel proud. They should be more proud of who they are personality-wise, their core values, showing respect toward others, their efforts and achievements. So, let’s all appreciate our existence on this planet and start loving each other for our uniqueness and individual preferences. 

What I Have Done That Benefits Cambodia

How Have I Change, Think about Change and Promote Change In Cambodia

 

  • Technovation

 

Technovation is a program that introduces and promote the idea of creating apps that solve solutions to me. It is a 3 months program. Females students around the world can participate. Students age 15 or above will be considered a senior and will compete with the other seniors. I am 14, so I am in the Junior division. The ideal amount of member per team is 5. Each team had to choose a problem and brainstormed some solution that they can solve using an application. Once they got problem, solution and ideas on how they are going to solve the problem using an app, they will start planning thing more…etc. But that is not important to talk about in here. The problem that my team, Liter-Tree wanted to solve is about poetry in Cambodia. Khmer poems are complicated. In a poem, you will have a specific structure of syllables and rhyming and they are the hardest part that limits your usage of words. Khmer poems are popular among the students but not as popular as before because students face some problems while writing the poems. Those problems are; hard to find Khmer rhyme word, don’t know what to write about and do not how to write different types of poems. By creating an App and present our idea to the pitch, we hope that the audiences have gotten to be more aware of poetry in Cambodia. Though we failed the competition we or I will try to make this app available to Cambodian and really make this happen because I don’t want Khmer poems to vanish. There’s a possibility that this small problem compared to other big problems in Cambodia will be solved. We/I just have to continue working toward making it happen in the future. 

 

  • STEMgineering

 

By introducing STEM to Khmer students. Making them use their ingenuity and get them excited to do more STEM project which is good for Cambodia. We have potential, we don’t have to spend so much money to hire foreign designers. We can hire ourselves. Which is good because we have employment for Khmer youth. Having interests will lead to passion when you have passion, you will learn more. 

 

We brained storm cool ideas for Khmer students in the government school to getting them interested. We got amazing results. A lot of them wanted more! Which is a good sign that people are started to get interested in STEM. and I love that fact.!! It is not solving that big of a problem. However, isn’t it better than solving nothing at all? If more students got interested if more of them are willing to study STEM than Cambodia will be better at STEM in the future. 

 

  • SDGs

Learning about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is part of the curriculum. Honestly, before learning about these goals. I have no idea that the world these day has so many problems that are needed to be solved. Through the courses, I’ve gotten more aware of my existence on this Earth. In class, we did some research about different countries on their current state of different goals and I have come to see that, Cambodia needs this, Cambodia needs that. Now, I’ve got some problems that I see and want to change in Cambodia all thanks to Liger for making this class part of the curriculum. 

 

  • Outdoor leadership Exploration

 

As I travelled to my destination, I see the roads and everything. I thought about how can I improve the current situation of the place. The goal of the exploration is to get everybody to experience a trail, a camp and a life in the forest. And to also get everyone loves nature. For me though, when we went on the trips, I not only learn about the place and observe the nature, however, I thought about teaching it to my brother and my BFF which I’m going to on this summer break. I also wanted to teach them to do CPR and stuff like that. Teacher Da said that a lot of people in Cambodia do not know how to rescue a person so I hope to share the knowledge to many Cambodians as possible. Apart from that, I have also thought about developing sites around the area. 

 

  • Say no to plastic in Liger

 

In this exploration, we were trying to promote change in Cambodia by changing Liger. We thought that if other schools look at us as an example and then reduce the use of plastic, then when it is trendy to use less plastic, Cambodia will have fewer people using plastic which is good. First, we started by reducing single-use plastic. To do that, we tried to find alternatives to the single-use plastics such as straws, plastic cups, the cover of the plastic cups, styrofoam…etc. We also created a campaign which we gave out metal straws and reusable bag in hope of reducing the usage of straws and plastic bag. We are proud of our work and I will continue to encourage my family and myself to eventually reduce to only 5% of single-use plastic usage in our daily life. Students were asked to plan for their summer break. One of the goals for me was to reduce to not use any single-use plastic for the whole break and see if I can survive without it…. I am promoting and encouraging this change here and I will continue to do somewhere else so…. I hope there is another exploration like this. 

 

  • Precious plastic

 

In Precious plastic, we raised awareness about recycling plastic. We went to visit organizations such as; Rehash trash to learn how to recycle plastic bags into bracelets, baskets and more. I thought about this and raise awareness for myself that I should keep the used plastic bags in a safe place and recycle them into bracelets for me, myself and I….

 

  • Travelling theatre

 

It was an honour for me to be a part of the exploration. I got to act in a play with cohort 1 also known as ‘The Seniors’ and some of my cohort 2 friends (The Juniors). The play was about society’s beauty standard. The main character is a girl who wanted to be beautiful. People looked down at her and that’s what I thought is something we should change to make a better society. After showcasing the play to two different schools, we then went to other places to share the message. We performed four times in three different places. After successfully showcasing our plays. We saw that people complimented it and saw some positive reactions which in my opinion is that they understood and got the message and hopefully, they’ll pass it on. 

Year 2

How I Change Cambodia

Promote and Develop the Possibility of Change:

Disability Exploration

An exploration that Liger gave me was “Disability”. The exploration was divided into two parts, The Disability and the Disability Podcast. The Disability group was working on finding activities to inspire people to learn how people with disability feels. I was not there and I was in the another team which was Disability Podcast. We worked on promoting disability to other people to have a bigger idea of what it really is. There are two facilitators in this explorations. Caro and Sushi. Caro was leading a group called “Disability” and my facilitator was Sushi. Sushi is very good at technology. Sushi is also very good at arts, he knows a lot about drawing, painting, wood carving and a lot more. There were a lot of tasks that he gave us. He led us to do recording and interviewing people outside of Liger to know what their perspectives are about disability and people with disability. On our first day, we practiced a lot with recording and editing our voices. When we are good enough to move to the next stage we continued to work on what topic we wanna share to the world or specifically to Cambodians. Sushi separate us into four groups of three people. Two of them were assigned to work on their podcasts in Khmer and the other two need to publish them in English. Each team only need one main lesson that they wanted to teach people. My team worked on “Mobilituk”. We decided to work on this because we see that mobilituk has abilities to carry people with disability and carry transportations such as motorcycles and bicycles. According to a website called “wheelchairtravel.org”, Mobilituk is the world’s first wheelchair accessible tuk-tuk and it is a project that is made by Agile Development Group. Its existence in Phnom Penh, Cambodia make me/myself so proud to have something like this and that I never knew before. I thought that if I don’t know then I think there will be so many people out there that maybe they don’t know as well. Mobilituk is very useful but at the same time not a lot of people know about it yet. My team want to introduce mobilituk to people. We wanted to tell them that we are lucky to have this kind of mobilituk. After, we decided for the idea already, we start working on researching and exploring outside of the classroom. Disability Podcast went on trip to a lot of places. My team went to Agile Development Group to learn about how they make the mobilituk, why did they make it happen/what are their goals in the future and some basic questions like who is the owner of the company, how many projects had Agile created and a lot more.. After interviewing and recording their answers, we put those informations to our Podcast. Our group is responding for making a Podcast in Khmer so that we can share to Cambodians. Finally, the Podcast was published and people will know more about it.

Before this exploration even created, I don’t even use 00.000000001 % of my brain to think about DISABILITY topic. After this exploration created, (During the exploration) I feel positively on my thought that people with disability at least have brain like us, they have cells, they have feelings and if a lot of people hurt them because of their looks or they possibility to do something they will feel bad. I know that I can not stop people from sueing their feelings so why don’t make them happy at least. What I meant is “If, I can’t stop people from hurting their feelings I should do something else.” We know that they embarrassed them because of their look and their actions so why don’t we solve people with disabilities problems too? Maybe something like “Mobilituk”, I know they might not totally appreciate it but they would think about their existence, meanwhile, Mobilituk exist because of them which mean that they are important to the world then they would feel a ton better and warmth to accept what had made for them. Now if that happen, what do you think will happen in the future? Nothing is impossible man! We could invent more and more transportations or devices or even a flying glass that would fly to them without them trying to come by using their wheelchair at all! It is achievable that people will also accept people with disability that they are also part of the EARTH!

The Network

The Network is a play in an acting exploration. An addition to the play, there is will be a performance of what we’ve done so far to the public on the 8th of June. The play provides educations and understandings to people in socials. People use social media to communicate or for finding news and information but what they have never thought of are some essentials questions that this play provide of what the network looks like in the real world or in general. Here are some essentials that my facilitator (Alli) had thought of such as: What information bubble do I live in?, Do the Network really exist in the real world that we are living in?, How do we suppose to behave in the Network?, Could we just insult whoever we want on the Network? What is ‘real’ and when does something virtual become real?, And how does social networks affect our society both positive and negative ways?. While watching our play or performance, we would like you all to think about these kind of question. We hope whoever loves Social Network will understand more about the Network itself and that they would know how useful it is and understanding that people can express their feelings on the Network too. This play is huge, members in the exploration worked really hard to prepare that one play. We’ve divided tasks to do. Some people work on the props that need to be used in the performance, some work on designing the tickets and some work on promoting the play too. Members who needed to act in the play had to remember their scripts of course, we are not able to look at our scripts while the performance, ever!  Overall, We finished our three days of performances successfully! (Hooray) We got really good comments on our shows on those three days. We really appreciate those essential questions that Alli asked us before we started our journey. Now, we know that SNS have a very big impact on our society. Basically, social medias everywhere, and people need to create an account to catch up with the world. By that we also need to know what they are doing now, are they living in reality or in the network. You might hit or kick a person in a reality world but you can also hurt people because of your comments as well, so please be responsible of what you really mean. It really give me an idea like “Why don’t we just build a school and teach people about the impact of Social Media? That would make a lot of sense actually. Finally, I just hope at the end, people will know why do they use network and how to avoid those action of hurting people on the network!