By Nop Monineath
“Who is an inspiring local young hero?” That question suddenly brought me back to July 17th last year. Standing on the stage under the spotlight while attracting a thousand pairs of eyes from the sea of people, Ms. Jolyda Sou, my sophomore lecturer, with her usual confident aura, delivering a speech regarding the role of Project Inspire in influencing our youths.
As the flashback ended, a light bulb immediately lit up over my head. Yes, Ms. Jolyda, a lecturer whom I always admired, is going to be featured in my “Inspire! portrait”.
Q: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? (full name, education background, etc.)
My name is Jolyda Sou, born and raised in Phnom Penh. I obtained two Bachelor’s Degrees in Finance and Banking at NUM and Education (TEFL) at IFL, RUPP. I pursued Negotiation Program at Harvard Law School in Winter 2017. I’m currently pursuing Master’s Degree of Law and Diplomacy (focus on Trade and Business from Strategic Management and International Consultancy point of view) at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
After graduation in 2014, I became a lecturer at IFL for a year. Then, I worked for the Government for two years. In 2017, I worked for a private development consulting firm based in D.C.
Q: What are your accomplishments so far? (personal, educational or social)
For personal accomplishment, I travelled to more than 20 countries, skydived in Massachusetts (get out of your comfort zone!).
For my academic achievements, I earned scholarships (Government Scholarship for Bachelor’s Degree of Education, TEFL, Sumitomo Corporation Scholarship for Bachelor’s Degree of Finance and Banking, Fulbright Scholarship for Master’s Degree of Arts in Law and Diplomacy).
For my social achievements, I was a Cambodian Youth Leader for Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Program in 2014. And in 2015, I was a Cambodia Representative to Morocco and Europe in ACWAY (A Common Word Among Youth). I am also a Founder of Project Inspire Cambodia since 2016, which have organized conferences and forums in Cambodia and the U.S., and sent Cambodian youth abroad through Project Inspire and presented our success stories.
Besides, I did a handful of social development projects for international, local, non-profit organizations. I was guest speakers and featured in news (VOA, Sabay, Sovrin, Khmer Times, Post Khmer, etc.) as well.
Q: You have achieved a lot in your education as well as work. What is your inspiration?
My inspiration is what I imagine myself to be in the next 5 or 10 years. As I walk down this road, I am determined to take on the challenges and venture outside of the box because I want to see my future self to be proud of me — I want to impress her.
Q: You mentioned that you are a founder of Project Inspire? Please tell us a little about this project.
Project Inspire was created based on the notion of social development and international peace. We aim to provide a platform for youth to challenge their perspectives and contribute in positive ways to the world in order to promote peace. PI is currently operating in partnership with SSEAYP International Cambodia and ACWAY (A Common Word Among Youth). I want to create a dialogue between high-profile, experienced and eminent professionals, who are key figures, and the youth with regards to topics that matter to the society.
Q: What were the obstacles you have faced before you got to where you are now?
There are always obstacles, pressure from society that women are not capable enough or should conform to certain standards or stereotypes, for example. Scholarship applications and other opportunities, I have tested, tried, failed, and only to get up again. Don’t feel down just because you’re not selected. Don’t let anybody stop you from achieving your dreams just because of your race, gender or religion.
Q: What is your goal for 2018? Is it possible to tell me about what your future project is/might be?
I want to do more of what I am doing today — contribute to society more, directly inspire younger generation more and understand myself better through travelling and taking on new challenges. As for PI, all I can disclose now is that we are holding an annual Project Inspire conference for the third time in 2018.
Q: If you could tell your younger self one advice, what would it be?
“You shouldn’t worry too much.”
Q: What do you think are the challenges for our youth nowadays?
Youth may face a lot of challenges personally, emotionally and socially while the world is becoming more globalized and interconnected, such as socio-economic inequality, distortion from the media, poverty, etc. But, I think it should start from oneself towards the world.
Q: Do you see any solutions current youth could use to deal with those challenges?
One of the best solutions to deal with those challenges is through youth themselves. They need to see themselves as solutions.
Q: What advices would you like to give to our youth?
Read and travel more! Read yourself out of ignorance. Travel out of your comfort zone.
Q: Hypothetically, if you had the power to change one thing or remove one thing from the world, what/who would it be and why?
I would eliminate ill concept of judging people or things on the basis of race, gender or religion. However, the world is not perfect. Contrasts and imperfection make us value our life more.
A friendly reminder: Don’t let your age and gender limit your purpose. Don’t let them be the cage that hold you from reaching your dreams. Use your young mind to find keys to unlock these social cages and see the world in bigger picture.
Thank you Ms. Jolyda for sharing your inspirational story to the world.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.