This is the 2nd place winning essay in TI Cambodia’s Essay Writing Contest. By Sokun Chendamony.
Cambodia is a unique country. While abundantly blessed with natural resources, awe-inspiring temples, and a population whose smiles can make one’s heart skip, it also has its fair share of troubles. Infamous for sex trafficking, human rights abuses, and corruption, these social pathologies are eating her people up from the inside. In particular, the culture of corruption is, as the Khmer term implies, “rotting” this society from the bottom up. In fact, corruption happens right in front of you. Take a look at the rampant cheating at schools or the so-called practice of paying fines to traffic police. Amidst this brokenness, there is hope. While everyone has a part to play, youth in particular play an important role in eliminating corruption. To properly respond to this terminal disease, it is crucial that youths are aware of and understand that corruption is an issue and that the desire to change starts with them.
If a person is not aware that he or she has a disease, why would that person want to get rid of it? In the same manner, if youth are not aware and convinced that corruption is a moral issue, how could they start doing something about it? Awareness is the first step in solving any issue in life. The challenge is how can youth become aware that corruption is a problem when this malpractice is so acceptable even among youth themselves? How are they motivated to eliminate corruption when they themselves enjoy the “benefits” of it? How could they ever desire change when maybe all they know is the easy shortcut through corruption? A change of heart is imperative. It is a heart disease. The heart needs to be exposed and the puss surgically removed.
Once youth are aware of and understand that corruption is an issue and not an acceptable norm, change needs to start from them first. As the “baby bamboo,” youth are rightfully seen as the pillars of the nation, whose strength is equipped through education. Together, youth and education form a strong force. In this unique context, youth have an opportunity to practice integrity at the very place where their potential is being realized and strengthened. Change starts when a youth believes in the power of hard work versus intelligence. Change starts when a youth, grounded in the power of hard work, acts on that belief and studies hard. Change starts when a youth understands that everyone has different talents and that math and science are the not the goddesses of learning when he or she feels tempted to cheat during math/science tests. Change starts when a youth refuses to cheat even when given the chance to do so. Change starts when a youth does not steal his or her friends’ learning and cares about them enough by refusing to share answers. Change starts when a youth takes personal responsibility and refuses to purge his “absent days” through financial means. Change starts when a youth respects his or herself, learning, and others.
May these seemingly insignificant changes become a ripple effect! Starting from one person…