A Cambodian awakening
After six weeks in Cambodia I am infatuated. This is such a special country.
You get on a bus and are more likely to see people singing along to karaoke than reading a book, or taking part in a mass hip hop classes at 5.30am rather than jogging.
I'm here providing production support for a radio programme for young people and to help the senior producer develop a strategy for the radio station for the next 8 months. Launched in January, Loy9 (loosely translated it means cool), is a mass media campaign aimed at 15-24 year olds across TV, Radio, Online and live events. The project's main aim is to encourage youth participation in civic engagement and it gets funding from the UN Development Project. Young Cambodians rarely get an opportunity to voice their opinions and Loy9 gives them a platform. The audience are encouraged (amongst other things) to think for themselves, to develop problem-solving and teamworking skills.Inspirational young people
Loy9 is run by BBC Media Action, the BBC's international development charity. I took the attachment because I've always enjoyed working with young people, from developing their ideas and helping train them to seeing the difference you can make to their lives. I wanted to gain experience of this in a country where the challenges for young people are very different from the UK, where I'd be stretched to think differently about programme making and use of media.
I mostly work with Loy9 Radio which broadcasts every Monday lunchtime on 12 stations across Cambodia. It's a phone-in show with advice and opinions each week from guests and features real-life examples from inspiring young people who've changed their own lives and those of other Cambodians.
For example on March 8, International Women's Day, we featured Chantha. She grew up in poverty in rural Cambodia, in an illiterate family and experienced a lot of discrimination. It took her twelve years to get her bachelor degree as she had to work throughout her studies, often in unimaginably harsh and difficult conditions. Chantha's story was broadcast during the Women's Day Special, which had an all-female production team and presenters. Hearing Chantha's story made me proud to be working on a project that's given young people in Cambodia the opportunity to talk freely about their lives.Optimism for the future
On Loy 9, the average age of the production team and presenters is just 23, and they are overwhelmingly bright and driven. It is easy to forget you're working with people who, just a year ago, had never handled a camera or been in a studio.
Marie, the show's senior producer, has an infectious personality and huge optimism. Together we've planned new feature ideas, changed the show format, introduced live music, encouraged listener interaction, created presenter blogs and for those with internet access we have an online site, webcam and Facebook. We have many more ideas which I hope will be implemented over the coming year.Developing a democracy
There's a serious purpose underlying the fun. Very few young Cambodians understand that they can have a role in their country's developing democracy. One of the aims of Loy9 is to build greater awareness of institutions like the Parliament and Commune Council. It's a hard ask, thinking of creative ways that will work when most listeners don't have internet access, SMS is limited, using celebrities doesn't have the same effect as in the UK and we only have 60 minutes of radio a week.
It's an absolute privilege to work for BBC Media Action in Cambodia. I'll return to the UK with a much greater appreciation of the resources and freedom I've had all my life. Loy9 to me is also about celebrating young people. In a country where 60 per cent of the population is under 30, it is vital that young people are involved in developing Cambodia's future and Loy9 is paving the way.