“BEHAVING yourself is a big part of problem-solving, because if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.” That’s a favourite saying of Nao Unheng, a volunteer at the youth resource development program (YRDP).
Born into a rural family (her parents are farmers in the Sa Arng district of Kandal province), Nao Unheng, 20, began volunteer work when she was in high school.
She taught English to local residents who could not aff-ord to pay for their studies, saying: “I wanted to transfer my knowledge to the people around me.”
After finishing grade 12, Nao Unheng moved to the capital to further her education, even though her parents wanted her to work on the farm and she didn’t have any relatives living in the city.
“I was alone in Phnom Penh with only a little bit of money for my study, so I decided to take the entrance exam at the Cambodia Free Methodist Mission and passed it.”
Before she could become a member of core groups in the YRDP, Nao Unheng had to take a course in youth leadership for social accountability.
Since passing the course, she has had a chance to share her knowledge with people in the rural areas of Kampong Speu province.
“It was difficult at first, because people in the village didn’t trust us. We had to spend a lot of time getting to know each other,” Nao Unheng says.
“Another thing is that the old people often aren’t very receptive when we try to share our knowledge.
“I have to be humble when talking to them. Otherwise, they will not co-operate with me and accept our ideas.”
During her six months in the YRDP, Nao Unheng has been to 18 villages in Kampong Speu province, engaging in activities such as repairing roads, clearing ponds and sharing knowledge.
“I had to do all these things, no matter how hard they were, because I wanted the villagers to realise that even though these young people did not live there, they had come to help the local people,” she says.
Nao Unheng has visited several provinces, including Kampong Cham, Battambang, Siem Reap and Svay Rieng, to expand her vision, further her experience and share her knowledge.
She usually does a field promotion four times a month, but says: “Sometimes, I have to spend some of my own money when we don’t have enough funds.”
Nao Unheng has been invited to be a guest speaker on the Oh Men program at the Women’s Media Centre, and in the future she wants to create her own welfare organisation.
“I want to help young people in Cambodia and encourage them to become more involved in social-work activities,” she says.