In 2019, a group of young adolescents in the Cambodian village of Okcheay set out to plant trees along a patch of road to improve air quality and provide shelter from the heat.
At the time, they could not have anticipated that this section of the road would be protected from severe erosion during the floods which came a year later.
Although modest in its impact, the project and how it can continue to be supported was recently discussed among local leaders of neighboring villages.
“If these youth hadn’t started their project, we might have lost the whole road. If we help them continue their efforts, we could see a big difference for future floods,” said the leader of Okcheay village, Chhert Say, at the meeting.
The youth were inspired to undertake the initiative through their participation in Baha’i educational programs that develop capacities for service to society. Phoeurb, an older youth who works with the group, describes an important aspect of these educational programs, saying: “These youth have been developing an essential capacity – to describe the social reality of their village and identify needs that they could address.”
One of the young members of the group explains the thinking behind the project. “It gets hot during the summer, and there was no shade for people who walk on the road, so we decided to plant trees.”
“Trees also produce flowers and fruit,” adds another youth, “which makes our village more beautiful.”
Local leaders and community members, including other youth in the village, enthusiastically supported the project from the outset, giving advice on selecting the most suitable species and helping to plant the trees.
Mr. Say shares his observations about the group, saying: “This shows the importance of the Baha’i activities, because the young people of our village are using their time after they come back from school to discuss meaningful topics and to be of service to the village.”
At their most recent meeting this week the youth reflected on how they can continue their efforts. “Our hearts are full of happiness,” said one young person, “when we see all the people in the village happy. We see how we can do our part to make a new civilization.”