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.

Sereyrath and the Young Eco Ambassador team took part in the DI Social Media Basic Training, Train the Trainer (ToT), Smart Phone Video training and used DI’s one to one Advisory Services. She explains, “The DI training changed the way we think at Young Eco Ambassador. Before we used social media to promote our good work, but it wasn’t well planned. The social media training showed us to plan our content and create a good strategy.”

Inspired by the impact of the Basic Social Media training, Sereyath worked with DI to adapt the 3 day training into a two day workshop for her Young Eco Ambassador recruits. She met with the DI team once a week for four weeks to adapt the training and to gain the confidence to deliver the training herself. “During the ToT, they trained us to feel more confident. When we go on stage, how we can prepare ourselves, not only our appearance but skills and knowledge on how to prepare before we speak in public. It built my confidence and helped me find my voice.” As part of the two-day training, DI showed the young Ambassadors how to take good pictures for social media, how to edit a video on a smartphone, how to create engaging digital content and how to use analytics.

It is clear to see the impact of not only the technical skills imparted by the DI team, but also the soft skills. Sereyrath talks candidly about the positive influence of DI’s Senior Innovation Program Manager / Lead Trainer, Sotheavy At, “She is a very powerful woman and she is my role model and mentor. Theavy shared how DI could help us during the training process and gave me a lot of support. Even if DI is closed Theavy will still be our mentor and advisor which makes us feel very happy,” says Sereyrath.

Community is one of the most important things to Sereyrath. From the forest communities that she is working to protect, to inner city communities where she is influencing people to reduce single use plastic and of course the Young Eco Ambassador community, her belief is in the power of citizens voices. “One of my team, she is not really confident to talk with communities and to talk with volunteers, but I just show her what I learnt and give her a chance to practice and do it for herself. I try and support her to find her voice and confidence.”

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