Around the world, it is the youth who are taking a stand and moving towards change in their community.
By: Mara Seibert
Two young men proudly showed me around their center with a sparkle in their eyes.
Kong Leap (16) and Rith (15) are both small for their age, but have experiences that most American teens will never know. At the Bamboo Street Children Center in Phnom Penh, kids living on the street can come and live if they choose. The center provides a safe place to eat and sleep, as well as the chance to learn new skills by going to school.
Rith and Kong Leap have not only chosen to get off the street and live in the center, but they have decided to be peer-educators. I was fascinated. At the age when most teenage boys in the US are playing video games to their heart’s content, eating the entire contents of the fridge, and messing around with sports, these boys were not content to simply reap the benefits of their new life, but wanted to go back to the streets where they lived before and teach other kids.
These young men are filled with an incredibly selfless desire to share their joy and newfound knowledge. The street children were listening because Rith and Kong Leap are familiar faces who shared these same streets. Crowding around a few bright lanterns on a plastic tarp, Rith began teaching his lesson on how to avoid sexual predators using a picture story. He got the kids laughing, repeating the lessons, and singing songs. They taught on countering disease, manners, and teaching the girls how to be leaders.
The contrast between Rith, Kong Leap and the street kids surrounding them was stark. The street kids were dirty, rowdy and half-clothed, a few were even high on glue. In contrast, Kong Leap and Rith were clean, confident and in control, politely escorting me to their lantern-lit area. They have hopes and dreams: Kong Leap of becoming a chef, Rith of becoming a doctor, no longer scavengers on the street.
Rith and Kong Leap have a fire and a passion for changing lives; for going back, time and again to give others the chance and the skills for a new life. They are leaders of the highest degree, stepping up in their communities to inspire transformation. I was so impressed and amazed by them, especially because I have seen nothing like it in the US, and that is simply a result of our apathetic culture.
The boys told us their stories, of once being those kids crowding around the lanterns on the Center’s outreach nights. Rith saw the peer educators, watched them leading the group and decided he wanted to be like them. In turn, Kong Leap watched Rith and was inspired to do the same. They have grown into those leaders today, proving that no matter your circumstance or location around the world, you can be an activist for change.
Here’s the story of the center outreach program and a clip from the film Working for Tomorrow.
A group of young creative activists who met Rith and Kong Leap and others in Cambodia created our new campaign: ACT:S+MICRO, to tell stories of how lives are being transformed. Together they’re challenging groups across the nation to learn about microfinance, tell their stories, and work together to fund an entrepreneur. Learn more, see the film, and order resources at worldvisionmicro.org/acts.
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