by Sok Rith Thea
I am not a good decision maker and, very often, the decisions I have made turn into mistakes that I have to learn from. Fortunately, last year, I managed to make a few great and right decisions in my life, one of which is choosing to join Voices of Youth Cambodia, a blog training program created by UNICEF.
Although this journey only lasts a few months, the experiences, knowledge and enjoyment that I have received along the way are very meaningful. VOY is an extraordinary program because it is not just about learning how to write; it offers way more than that.
It gives opportunity
VOY did not just teach me about writing, it gave me a chance to become a writer. Yes, I am not a great one yet, but becoming a trainee in VOY is a very good starting point. If I am asked what a writer is, my answer is simple. A writer is the one who is able to write what he or she wants to write in a professional way. I did a lot of writing when I was in school, but that does not make me a writer. Most of the things I wrote there were not what I wanted to write about, and I did not have an actual audience. What I got was just a teacher who marked my grammar, structure, and vocabulary skills.
However, VOY is a completely different story. First and foremost, I get to write about what I want to write. This time I am in charge. I am no longer writing just to get a good score, but to express my own ideas out loud in a professional way, not in an academic way which I find very boring. On top of that, with the help from UNICEF Cambodia, my articles can reach more people. I have way more readers than when I was in school.
Being able to write what I want to write in a professional way and having actual readers reading my articles are what made me, in a way, become a writer.
It teaches about professionalism
One day, I happened to be listening to the radio in the car. I heard a VJ of one radio program talking about the pornography film industry. She talked a bit about the industry situation in Japan, then she expressed her ideas about it. At one point she suggested that this industry is not good for Cambodia and she did not support it. She explained her reason, and I quote, “…because people in Cambodia are low-educated, pornography film can drive their sex desire, so the rape crime will increase…” I was shocked. I fully understood that she did not mean to degrade Cambodian people, but she just did not know how to express an idea in a professional way.
Writing and speaking in a professional manner, means the writer and the speaker need to explain clearly where their ideas come from. If one gets that piece of information from other people, books, institutions or from any research, one needs to state clearly and properly the owner of those ideas. This is not just about giving credit to the sources, but this is also about allowing other people to double check everything we put out, so it lifts the trustworthiness of our words. However, if it is merely a personal idea, one also needs to point out that it is just one’s personal point of view. Yet, one cannot use one’s own ideas to color the image of a whole community or an entire thing.
Going back to that VJ’s case, she should have mentioned data that supported her statement on Cambodian people’s education level and the relation between it and rape crimes, if she thinks these are related to the consumption of pornography. Citing your sources is important. The VJ can’t just make a claim about Cambodian people without any support. It was both incorrect and offensive.
After I heard what she said, I remember the things I learnt and did in the VOY program which takes professionalism in writing very seriously. It did not take us long to understand about the importance of showing the references for our claims, giving credit, and finding trustworthy sources. In VOY, I learned more about the importance of having concrete support for what I write, and the right way to show the references. I have now become more aware of the need to find and show the supporting information for my ideas, especially when it comes to writing and speaking.
It covers all important aspects
Before becoming a trainee of this program, I only expected to learn about how to write a blog. However, I am both amazed and pleased when I also received other vital training provided by this program. VOY Cambodia 2018 invited inspiring and successful blogger, Ms. Keo Kounila, to share her story with the trainees. In her lecture, she talked about her motivation, achievements, and story related to writing which made me able to have a closer look at life as a writer. After that, I became more confident and happy than I was before with my decision to walk on this writing path.
Very surprisingly, this program has a photo taking session which was not within my expectation when I first joined VOY. The lecture helped trainees know more about the techniques of taking good photos by themselves for their article. This session was like an extra bonus. It not only offered me the chance to be a writer, but it also turned me to be a more professional photographer. But that’s not all. With good photo taking skills, I can produce an article that belongs even more to me because now I can use both my words and my photos in my article.
Another thing I have learned here is finding the right photo for my article. I have come to know that there is something called Creative Commons License. The program brought in a talented guest speaker, Anirudh Singh Bhati, to give trainees the lecture on what CC license is, how to find it, and what can we do with it. It was a very useful session which taught me what photos I can get online for my own article without violating any form of copyright.
I honestly did not expect to learn these, but thanks to VOY Cambodia, I have now obtained all of these good lessons.
It has a great coach
I cannot finish this article without talking about this part because the main trainer of VOY Cambodia last year, sister Sorita, is just amazing. Her enthusiasm, readiness, and effort in coaching each and every trainee is one of the very important machines that move this program forward successfully. She reads everyone’s writing carefully and gives back good constructive feedback. She makes my article and,everyone else’s, become better than it originally was. Without her constant motivation, patience, and understanding, I might not be able to learn, write and finish this program as good as I wished.
To sister Sorita, Thank you very much. You are a very good mentor, and I am lucky to know you and to learn from you.
As Voices of Youth Cambodia 2018 has already come to an end, I still remember the day I applied to this program. It is far better than I expected. I have learned great things and written some fine articles. Being part of VOY Cambodia is a very meaningful journey; it brings me one more step closer to becoming a great writer, and I am thankful to everyone who made this program possible.
If you are reading this to see whether you should join this program, I am going to go ahead and tell you, “Do it.” From my experience, it will be one of the right decisions you have made in your life.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.