2018-2019 Yearly Reflection

What is a Change Agent?

What does it had to do with me or you?

What requires to become one?

Living in the Liger Leadership Academy‒for more than six years‒where I always deem it as my “second home,” I never know the true definition of the word “change agent.” Specifically, this year, countless projects, events, and opportunities continuously occur and I realize I have accomplished so much. From marine-science research, LMRT to cinematographic internship, Minor Act. From then on, there were preparations for those common three-letter, two-letter and five-letter tests: SAT, AP, and IELTS, respectively. Assuredly, I know these projects and tests somehow assist me to a better “future,” to the place where change exists. However, they are not the core of me as a person or change agent. There is something I feel which is deeper: addressing gender and sexuality via collaborative dialogues.  

After I experienced the most confusing phase of my life‒trying to understand myself‒I finally know who I am. Therefore, I came out as bisexual. I remembered the sweats and tears I sacrificed, to uplift my courage so I could declare my sexuality. It was emotional and depressing, yet compelling and heartening. Beyond any doubts, in that indelible moment, it was when I thoroughly understood that identifying who I am, accepting who is me, and loving my own skin, the door which led me to “change” opens.

The aftermath of my coming out had been a wonderful ride: a roller coaster. Though there were ups and downs, I am still pushing myself through. The day I came out has impacted my life drastically; it motivated me to become the “voice of many” for the beloved people in my community, the LGBTQI+.

Last year, in 2018, I was one of the students in Gender Equity Exploration. It was the greatest opportunity for me to express my vulnerability by sharing my personal anecdotes and listen to others. As the exploration progressed, many touching gender-related discussions were held. Every member of Gender Equity was extremely keen to share their voice with interesting stories, critical perspectives, and intense gender-based questions. Excitingly, the team hosted a bilingual summit called “CHANGE” and invited students from private organizations and  government schools to engage in various dialogues. Furthermore, the project created a blog for students to share their writings in the reflection of gender issues of contemporary society.

Since this exploration, I learned more about myself, others, and my country. I was so moved by every moment of the project and was inspired to share my thoughts through one of my written articles which I always resonate with, A Human or A Robot.

Recently this year, 2019, I participated in another summit that is similar to CHANGE led by my friends, Makara, called “Rainbow.” The intention of Rainbow is “to encourage people to provoke meaningful discussion, to embrace differences, and to inspire Cambodian youth to create positive change in their own communities about LGBTQI+.” Throughout the summit, I always feel empowered, respected, and loved. Specifically, with the participation from students and teachers all over the places across the country, the summit was simply powerful and mesmerizing.

Based on my experience from both spirited events, I notice the change within me; I see myself now becoming the advocate, the role model, and the support for people who conflict with their identity. Also, I notice the change in Liger community. Since the summits, I have been hearing many  gender-based discussions between students, facilitators, and staff. Eventually, I notice the change in my country, Cambodia. Those youths who wholeheartedly joined CHANGE and Rainbows are now back at their communities, sharing what they have learned and disseminating the messages to their family, neighbors, friends, and others.

Without a doubt, voice has clearly impacted me, my community, and the people of my country. After I let myself sifting through every moments that have influenced me‒from my coming out, to the summits‒I found the key to unlock the question I was incapable to answer: What is a Change Agent?

My true definition of Change Agent is understanding explicitly who you are before understanding others. By knowing the real essence of you, you actually widen your path to creating change. By sharing your voice and stories, you actually give others the permission to share theirs. Undoubtedly, lack of self-awareness and not knowing who you truly are cause change to be unattainable. Therefore, start asking yourself. Who am I? What do I want? What can I do to get it?


Khmer Model United Nations – the second one

Sopheak gave an opening speech.

Last year, the first Khmer Modeling United Nations was hosted. Surprisingly, another one this year happened. It is my greatest honor to have this opportunity for the second time. The main organizer of the event, Sopheak, offered the role of a head chair or president–the same as last year. There are two topics in General Assembly 3.

  1. The Question of Improving Air Quality Around the Globe
  2. The Question of Addressing Equality and Legal Rights for LGBTQ+ Community

As always, the head chair has the responsibility of writing a report for the topics, explaining the problems expressly and suggesting reasonable solutions. Excitingly, it was my first time to write the MUN chair report in Khmer. Of course, there were some challenges arose during the time I wrote the report like being precise and cohesive with my writing.

Me and my another head chair

On the event day, there was a multitude of students and guests from many private and non-private organizations joining us. Obviously, it was the first time for some students, participating in MUN conference. Therefore, I clearly understood the stress and excitement they had at that time and it is my responsibility to assist them throughout the event.

Delegate of Myanmar

When debate session arrived, it was extremely mesmerizing for me, to observe everybody in my assembly actively participated. We firstly debated on the topic of air quality; then, the topic of equality of LGBTQ+ community. Throughout the debate, every delegate strongly stood their grounds, representing  their country’s point of view. Some delegates were bombarded with many difficult questions and teasing speeches. For example, the delegate of Senegal; he did not agree with the equality for LGBTQ+ community because the religious traditions. Consequently, he received many questions and responses that were overly unanswerable. However, this was the perfect demonstration of how each student is required to represent their country well, even though he or she personally does not agree to.

Overall, my experience with this conference had got better. I always enjoy every moment, specifically when everyone participated wholeheartedly and actively. I have learned the different topics or plights which are happening in our society. It is extremely important for everyone in the event to share their own voice, speak for their country, and make change.

It Was My Moment – Rainbow Summit

After the gender summit, Change, happened last year (2018), another summit had happened this year: Rainbow summit or In-tha-nu. This time the summit is a student-led project, consisting of eight members, working together for over a month. Rainbow is a summit that helps to advocate the LGBTQ+ community and disseminate the message and information from the community to many Cambodians across the country. In Cambodian society, addressing the problems of LGBTQ+ people is very sensitive. There are still many young individuals who live in various provinces are still lacked with information of the LGBTQ+. Because of this, it leads to countless assumptions, discrimination, violation, and exploitation. Therefore, the Rainbow summit aims to “encourage people to provoke meaningful discussion, to embrace differences, and to inspire Cambodian youth to create positive change in their own communities.”

I am one of the members of the Rainbow summit. There are four distinguished topics that cover many problems which are LGBTQ+-related: Language, Culture, Politics, and Health & Violence. I am one of the two session leaders responsible for presenting the latter topic. During the process of organizing the summit, all members have learned and discussed the common LGBTQ+-related problems in Cambodia. Each week, we met each other to research, read over many texts, and discuss for the better comprehension of chosen topics. Of course, there were many confusions, questions, and difficulties during the discussion of our meeting. For example, we tried to understand what cisgender really means and translated English words of different sexualities into our language, Khmer. However, these challenges the team went through actually empowered everybody to keep being persistent and channeling against their difficulties.

On the summit day, the team was prepared to share what they have. It was the day for everyone to finally feel that they can change the world. Establishing momentous conversations, participating in powerful activities, and listening to educational information were moments of enlightenment. One of my highlights of the day was the activity I led, Imagine How You Would Feel. This is the activity that allows participants to understand the feelings and pressure of homosexual people, especially the LGBTQ+ people. The reaction I received from the audience was inarticulate. I could sense the heartbeat of the people fastening and echoing every faucet of the room. There were gasps, tears, and silence. That Silence was the moment that hinted me that they completely understood. It was the moment where I can find light in the darkness.

To be honest with you, I do not want this day to end at all. I want to sit with the participants all day, talking about anything. Unfortunately, it ended, but I believe that what the people have learned that day will innate their mind forever. It is not just us who organized the event are the change agents. They are too.


Amazingly Productive Trip of 2019 – Mar 20th-24th

Do you want to hear a fabulous new from this trip?! You guess it. We finally surveyed our block! We were extremely excited and again, ready to rock and roll! Ordinarily, MCC had always organized the schedule for us when we are there, but this time and from now on, we take the initiative to make our own. To be honest, I feel that this trip is the most productive trip we ever had. I personally learn a lot from this trip.

Here are the three day summaries written by all of us when we were there.

Day 1: “Learn from mistakes and failures.”

LMRT’s back on the island! Not eight students but 11 (including three younger students from Liger!) Everyone was excited to be back again and, for some of us, for the first time. We started our first work day by surveying our first deployed artificial reef block!

Here are what we learned.

  1. To snorkel! Our three newbies snorkeled for the first time in the ocean! To them, “it was so weird and strange to breath under the water, but at the same
    Our three newbies: Soucheng (Left), Mariya (Middle), and Vanreach (Right).

    time it was an amazing experience to get to explore all of those marine species. We also got to see how the artificial reef block and clusters help to create the habitat for lives under the ocean.”

  2. To be more focused. Our first survey wasn’t successful, part of the reason being the lacks of planning and communication. When the first team laid the transect line for surveying, there were confusions that led to inefficiency. If we were more focused, we would have known to Stop; Breathe; Think; Act.
  3. To learn from mistakes and failures. We are young scientists and
    My friend, Sythong (In front), Amick (At the way back), and I (in the middle) are the laying the line team.

    conservationists, and we aren’t perfect. Mistakes and failures are inevitable, which we can’t fully prepare for. But what we can prepare for is how we response to them. Like today, we were struggling with diving, but that’s a sign we need to review. Besides that, the visibility did not support us with the survey, and there’s nothing we could change about it because it is SCIENCE, but what we can do is learn from it.

Life goes on no matter what; same with our project! Things didn’t go as expected, but it is all about how we response to and learn from it, like we did today.

Listening to one of the MCC volunteers about coral reef.
Everybody was searching for something called “Plastics!”

Day 2: The Liger Marine Research Team was finally able to conduct his survey this morning at our old artificial reef site; the visibility was still not the best, but it was at least good enough to see some species. We saw a burst of biodiversity at our survey site; there were a lot of java rabbit fish, black spot snappers…. there was even a huge grouper!

60 kg of trash!?? whoooh, gotta take a group photo.

From one of newbies: We had a fun snorkel this afternoon and saw many types of fish. We saw two long-beaked coral fish along with many other cool ones that we don’t know the name of (yet…) 😉 particularly the big ones under the pier. We also saw our very first seahorse (there were two of them)! But we were a bit scared by the sea urchins 😛

Data log!!!

To end the day, the whole group did a beach cleanup and collected 60kg of trash in an hour. Well done, team!

Day 3: We hope everyone is having a great weekend so far; we definitely are! At 6 am, bright and early, two teams took off to do a boat-based dolphin survey–with the assistance of our younger LMRT members–and a reef survey, conducted by the older LMRT members with MCC’s facilitation.

Loading up the equipment.

After hours of searching through the binoculars, the dolphin team finally spotted 7 individuals! Two were traveling together while others were diving individually and exhibiting a variety of behaviors.

The newbies were doing the dolphin survey.

Meanwhile, under the water, the surveyors were roaming along their 100-meter transect line scanning for fish, invertebrates, and substrates. Fortunately, the visibility was decent enough for them to conduct a baseline survey in the afternoon at their soon-to-be second artificial reef site.

LMRT’s Back! First Trip of 2019 – Jan 31st – Feb 3rd

After 8 months, getting back in the water, I be like…

After a long break from LMRT–about eight months–we were finally back on the island. The reason of having a long break is the rainy season. We always survey our block and dive during the sunny season because the visibility is better. Sadly, for this trip, the visibility was still bad due to the illegal and destructive fishing and seasonal change. Therefore, we could not survey block, but that did not mean we could not visit our block.

My first time seeing “bat fish!!!!”

During our journey visiting our block, there was a surprise: our block’s structure changed its shape. About one-third of the block buried in the silt. Furthermore, there are four hollow cubical blocks in the middle of the main structure; one of them was found under the main structure. Last, our cluster was missing. Nobody knew what knew how did that happen neither the LMRT nor the MCC. However, we hypothetically think that the main cause is from the illegal and destructive fishing: trawling.

The happiest time together. Making a boat and testing it out.

We are not consider this situation as a failure. It was actually the starting point for LMRT, to finally understand what is “real science.” We cannot keep thinking that our study is always perfect. This is an experiment in a “real” laboratory; anything can happen. From now on, we still keep surveying the block. We want to see how the modification of the block affects the lives there. Will there be new species? We do not know, but we believe that no matter what happens, our block is still doing its job, protecting the ocean.

“Golden Trevally” Trip April 5th – 8th

Learning many different knots for the making the cluster.

This was the most exciting trip out of all the LMRT trip because finally, we were able to take the first official survey of our deployed artificial blocks from March. Again, we deploy the blocks with the cluster about 300 meters away from the island. For the previous trip, we were really hopeful to see the lives rehabilitate at our place which it had been destroyed by the trawling. Therefore, this trip, we were so happy to see the first result.

Final product: Cluster!

For this April trip, it was a shorter trip, but we were still involving in the same activities: making cluster, surveying the blocks, and cleaning up the beach. Specifically about surveying, my partner, Soliday and I were responsible for the invertebrate survey. While surveying, there was not many invertebrate organisms besides some different types of urchins, volutes, and shells. The sea bed was entirely covered with silt; the water turbidity was bad. But when we arrived at our blocks, there were a lot of different sized fish swimming around. Interestingly, we had never seen a single catfish, but when I looked under the blocks, there were at least 50 of them. In data, on average, the number of species increased from six to 17 species.  

Buddy check with Sythong before getting into the water.

The survey was not finished. On the day we had to leave the island for Liger, I had to woke up early around six in the morning to do another survey: fish survey. My partner was Nilroth. My most memorable moment from that the survey was that I saw a “Golden Trevally!” It is an immense fish. It was swimming above my head calmly, trying to find food in the early morning. In fact, mostly, we have to do the fish survey in the early morning because that is the time when all the fish is trying to hunt.


                          GIANT STRIDE!

Overall, spotting the Golden Trevally–to me–was everything.