Sereyrath’s Story: Caring for the Forest and Inspiring Youth

It is not every day that you meet someone who calls herself a friend of the forest. Sereyrath is just 5ft tall, and might be small in height but is giant in ambition and passion. She has a loyal group of followers, and the tools she uses to protect the forest are science, social media and her own ears. At just 27, Sereyrath is the co-founder of Young Eco Ambassador Cambodia, a conservation champion and a Development Innovations (DI) partner.

As a little girl, Sereyrath lived in the forest on the Tonle Sap river in Pursat province in Western Cambodia. Her home was 100 meters from the banks of the river, and she often fished with her father to feed her family. So, her love affair with nature began early and continued to blossom into adulthood where she studied Environmental Sciences at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Sereyrath’s first encounter with DI was back in 2014, when her then employer hosted a training course at the DI offices. Then four years later she joined DI’s Social Media Basic training course.

A determined environmental conservation champion, Sereyrath co-founded the conservation community Young Eco Ambassador in 2017 to spark awareness of the environmental issues in Cambodia. To reach and recruit her target audience of youth ambassadors she needed to leverage social media, particularly Facebook, the most popular social media channel in Cambodia. She needed support to amplify her organization’s voice to as many people as possible. From 2018 to 2019, Development Innovations worked closely with Sereyrath to help her organization realize this ambition.

Environmental campaigning in Cambodia is still a relatively new concept and Young Eco Ambassador is trailblazing this movement with the Khmer youth. In the last two years, they have experienced a 50% increase in volunteers attending their annual Storytelling event, which centers around a key environmental issue. This year, the event which focused on the Mekong river, garnered a crowd of more than 600 young Cambodia volunteers.

When Sereyrath is asked how she feels about her DI experience, a wonderful smile spreads across her face as she recounts where she is today, “I can lead teams and empower people more than before. I understand how to use social media and how to use a smartphone to take a video. I learnt how to manage my team and how to deal with people and also how to make decisions and solve problems. DI helped us to learn, to meet other partners and to develop a clear direction – we now know that we are environmental campaigners,” sums up Sereyath.

Young Eco Ambassadors currently has 100 active Ambassadors campaigning for a range of environmental issues nationwide. To follow their story, join their Facebook community @YoungEcoAmbassador.

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