by Heang Sokuntheary
Each and every day, we make a lot of decisions, but not all of them are the same. Some are simple, such as picking an outfit, others are more serious, like choosing a career goal. What I want to talk about here is my decision to apply and be a part of Voices of Youth Cambodia and how it changed me and the way I think. For me, walking into the cool air-con breeze of UNICEF head office that first morning, my commitment was to walk into a new zone of knowledge and to try as much as I could to enjoy the moment of free learning. And I did.
I didn’t know myself and how much I could do until I joined the Voices of Youth (VOY) Cambodia programme. Even though the journey with VOY was not that long, it gave me all kinds of bitter-sweet, happy and priceless memories with the other VOY bloggers, the people who work at UNICEF Cambodia, and especially our talented blogging mentor, bong (sister) Sorita, who guided and taught us all sorts of things about blogging from the start until the graduation day of the programme.
I am very happy and more than grateful to have been part of the Voices of Youth programme. So, to show you what I have gained from the programme, and especially what I went through, I would like to share some important lessons I have learnt during the programme to all of you and why you should be in the next VOY generation (because there will be a next generation of course).
- Discovering my passion
I didn’t know much about myself before I joined VOY. I was always in doubt about what I could do, what I liked to do, what causes I wanted to advocate for, and what it was that I was good at in terms of career prospects. All sorts of questions raced through my head, and for the most time, I caught myself thinking, “I am talentless, and have no courage.” But little by little, VOY has provided me some answers to those questions. Every week, while deciding what to write for my blog post, I got to brainstorm a lot of ideas, by going through the information in my head, especially about what I like and what I am interested in the most. With some help from our mentor, I got to narrow down to specific topics concerning society, and at the same time, discover what I like to read and write about. That was my first step in discovering myself more, and I think consistently doing this helped me a lot in finding myself.
2. Expressing myself in a better way: Strengthening my self-esteem
I was and still am an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I can’t speak or express myself. If it was me a year or two ago, oh man, I was so afraid of speaking about myself, my ideas and my opinions. I was too afraid of other people’s opinions on how they liked my idea. I was afraid of judgement and criticism from others. I hid myself so much that even my close friends hardly knew me at all. But why do other peoples’ opinions matter?, I asked myself, and I finally found that answer in VOY. In the training sessions, we were encouraged to share our ideas, do group discussions and ask questions. I tended to interact and speak more with the VOY participants and I’m so happy about that. From one week to another, I discovered myself and expressed a better and better version of my idea through my blogs. And with the help from our mentor, I am very proud of my blogs.
“With each new session, my motivation to start my own blog always increased”
3. Learning about the basics and importance of blog writing
Even though they are all forms of writing, blogging is different from normal essay or academic writing. Writing a blog is writing to engage and interact with your audience online, so that they could relate. While we write conversationally, we must also follow certain writing rules and clearly structure our ideas to express them well. We can also use other media. So, in the training, there were various sessions focusing on essential blogging skills ranging from the basic writing for web, idea generation, research, basic photography, online safety and so on. There were also sessions where we had a guest speaker who shared her first-hand experience in how to write and manage her blog as well. From one session to another, we were equipped with the essential skills for blogging, especially writing to advocate for social issues.
4. The opportunity to meet like-minded people
If you are someone who is interested in advocating for social causes through blogging, then Voices of Youth is the programme for you. Not only will you learn how to blog about social issues concerning children and youth in Cambodia, you will get to meet some amazing people here who share the same or similar interests as you. It’s such a good opportunity for you to build long-lasting friendships and connect with these people. They share great ideas with you and you share yours back, and that’s when you start to open up your world by seeing an idea from different angles.
5. A baby step to a blogging journey
With each new session, my motivation to start my own blog always increased. During one session, we learnt about how to set up a blog, start a plan on blogging, generate content, and how to manage it once we get started. I got so excited and started coming up with different content for the main theme of my blog. The ideas kept coming, and the whole thought process about the end products is exciting. With this basic knowledge I have learned from VOY, I’m not only motivated to continue blogging, but I’m also ready to survive managing the blog by myself. It will be such an interesting journey, of course!
Now that VOY has come to an end, I feel both happy and sad at the same time. Happy that I’ve finally gone through all the writing assignments in the programme, and sad that the work has come to an end too. It’s been an exciting roller coaster journey here with VOY, and I am so thankful for that. Special thanks to our mentor, bong Sorita, who’s always been there for us trainees. Finally, I hope that when the Voices of Youth Programme opens for the next generation to apply, you will consider my messages here, and I’m sure that whatever decision you make, you’ve done your best in thinking it through.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.