Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my study trip to Cambodia was the “home stay” experience at a kind of youth community center called “Small World Family”. I went there with no idea what the young people who started this project two months ago were doing there, only to be surprised, inspired, delighted by what I saw.
It’s a bit difficult to explain what SWF tries to achieve. Basically, young people like college students can become a member and utilize the space for sharing ideas with others – ideas for businesses or social projects, for example. They are also free to use internet and get drinks so they don’t need to spend their money in cafés. Then, once they’ve come up with some plan they can further make use of the office space or facilities of the SWF building and expand from there. They also organize events and hold workshops. Some of the members actually live in the house and invest their money to pay the rent.
Everybody I met at SWF radiated with enthusiasm and energy. During the last two months these folks had cleaned the compound from ground up, sowed grass, planted trees, decorated walls… I felt as if I was meeting the most progressive young people of the whole country. They seem to be brimming over with ideas how to connect to young people and offer them opportunities. To feel their dedication to contribute something meaningful to their society was really uplifting after learning about the sad history of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge time and the civil war that followed.
Most of the SWF folks were at my age, and I felt there was a kind of mutual understanding that this can bring despite cultural differences. During my homestay, two of the founding members of SWF, Theary and Chhunny, made time to show me around in Phnom Penh. Thanks to them I felt very comfortable. I did not expect such hospitality, let alone to be so touched by their passion. My prayers are with these great people.
These are some impressions from the Small World Family house. They asked my co-participant Mr. Tamura and me to sow some seeds and we carved our names into the bamboo vessels.