Cleanup team in Cambodia dives in (Mar 23)

Let's Do It! team in Cambodia is hard at work to bring cleaner future to Cambodians. The first big cleanup is set to happen already in April. Indre Sabaliunaite from the team shared the first results of their action and talked about the plans for next months coming up.

How have things started in Cambodia?

Two international organizations JCI (Junior Chamber International) Cambodia and AIESEC
Cambodia met one day and decided to create the project «Let’s Do It! » which was successfully
completed in different countries throughout the world such as Estonia, Slovenia, Brazil, Italy,
and Portugal. They believed that this project could also be successfully completed in Phnom
Penh which suffers from quite a large garbage problem.

Do locals mind the garbage? How is the waste management organized in Cambodia's
different regions?

It seems that the locals don’t mind the garbage that much – there are a lot of people who go
scavenging through the garbage in the streets. One can see garbage floating down the open
sewage systems around which many impoverished people live.

In this picture: Let's Do It! Cambodia! team meeting with the Ministry of Information, from left to right: Bianca Lokkeberg (PR and Media Manager), Vandy Touch (JCI), Chy Sila (President of JCI), H.E. Khieu-Kanharith (Minister), Lauri Lahi (AIESEC Cambodia president), Indre Sabaliunaite (Research, Logistics, Partnership, and Volunteer Coordination Manager), and Alisa Dudareva (PR and Media Manager) 

How did your team meet, who are the people working in the team?

JCI and AIESEC decided to raise a full-time team and gather the members of this team from
AIESEC’s international trainee network. There are currently three AIESEC interns working on
the project full time with JCI members working part time. The first intern to arrive was Indre
Sabaliunaite, from U.S. Bianca Lokkeberg from Norway joined this project later and the last one
to arrive was Alisa Dudareva from Russia. Now the team is working together and is trying to
improve the environmental situation in Phnom Penh.

What have you been doing to start the project?

First, we were gathered into different teams – Research, Logistics, Partnership, Volunteer
Coordination, Public Relations and Media, IT, Finance, and Sales and Marketing teams.
However, because AIESEC was only able to get three full-time interns, we have joined the
Research, Logistics, Partnership and Volunteer Coordination teams into one single team which is
managed by Indre Sabaliunaite. Alisa Dudareva and Bianca Lokkeberg manage Public Relations
and Media and the other teams are run by JCI members. At the beginning, we mostly focused
on researching the trash problem in Phnom Penh and the research team picked eight most
trash-infected areas on the city. Then we worked on long-term action plans and broke down
everyone’s responsibilities. We started making contacts with schools, the government, media
companies, and writing proposals to present to NGOs and businesses.

What has been or will be the hardest things?

Everything that has dealt with the project has come across as quite a challenge because we
are starting the project from scratch in Cambodia – that is, nothing of this sort has ever been
done before and the people are not familiar with the ideas of “environmental awareness”
and “sustainability”. We have many responsibilities for our actions and we don’t pick anything
as ‘easy’ or ‘hard’.

One of the hardest things has been the fact that we are working in a developing country like
Cambodia where not that many people speak fluent English. Since the only full-time team
members working on this are foreigners, we are of course not as familiar with the city, culture,
and lifestyle of Phnom Penh as the locals.

Has anything surprised you in the process?

There have been a few both good and bad surprises! The good ones have included CINTRI,
the only garbage-collecting company in Phnom Penh, coming into our office one day and
announcing they want to cooperate with us; having a meeting with the Ministry of Information
and the Minister being super supportive for our project. Some of the not-so-pleasant things
have been seeing people’s involvement in the project drop significantly. This was during one
of the hardest times of the project development because during this point we were collecting
information, gathering contacts, and writing proposals.

When will be the cleanup?

The main event will be on 23rd of April and we hope to see many inspired Cambodians in the
streets. Even though we have located nine key trash sites, we will most likely only focus on cleaning up around the schools where our volunteers will meet because it has proven to be too difficult to locate areas for meeting close to the trash sites. Also we will do educational lectures on sustainability and environmental issues at universities throughout Phnom Penh. The first one will take a place at University of Cambodia on 27th of April.

Which areas are you hoping to include?

It is the first project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and research team picked nine areas, which are
the most trash infected. We will clean around schools and universities and we have picked some
schools which are near to these sites. If we are successful, our team will expand the project to
Cambodian provinces after the main event in Phnom Penh.

How have you engaged local communities? Or what are you planning to do to engage

We are planning on engaging the local communities through youth – we are hosting a few
educational events at schools and we hope that the students will spread the idea of a clean city to
their families and communities. We are also doing public recruitment through public marketing
such as handing out leaflets to people in the streets and hanging up street banners. We are still
waiting for sponsorship to do this.

Have you had contact with local authorities? Do they support your action? How?

At first it was difficult to get the local authorities’ support because they are very wary of any
events that would involve large amounts of people – looking at what is going on in the world,
this concern is quite understandable. However, after getting CINTRI’s support, we were able to
have a meeting with the Ministry of Information (thanks to JCI’s president Chy Sila and member
Vandy Touch) and get the Minister’s full support. They will provide us a live half-hour interview
on Cambodia’s national television news show. And after we make the exact plan for April 23rd
(location and times), we will be able to present it with the proposal to Public Orders and Traffic
which could even lead us to get a letter of support from City Hall. We have high hopes!

What will happen during next month?

During next month we will have educational lectures on sustainability at universities throughout
Phnom Penh, photo-shooting in CINTRI uniforms (which will appear in local magazines),
meetings with potential partners which will include NGOs and local businesses. We are also
hosting an essay contest for students which is called “What if we slept for 100 years?” The
winner’s essay will appear in local magazine Angkor Thom. We will also be attending events at
universities where we hope to spread word on the campaign and engage more students.