August 28, 2015
On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I would like to congratulate everyone here at today’s closing ceremony for the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program, sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development. I can sense from the energy and enthusiasm in this room just how meaningful this program was! Our thanks go to the Kingdom of Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and the Institute of Technology Cambodia for hosting the program, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Southeast Asia for its willingness to share best practices. We also thank the Ministry of Youth & Sports of Malaysia and the University Kebangsaan Malaysia for providing leadership in successfully launching and implementing AVYP in Cambodia and throughout the region. And of course, we thank the 49 young people that served as AYVP volunteers in Cambodia. Your efforts will serve as an inspiration to others.
Building on the successful launch of President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative in 2013, AYVP was formed to strengthen youth leadership development across ASEAN, deepen engagement with young leaders on key regional and global challenges, and build mutual understanding between the United States and Southeast Asia. By bringing young people from the region together, AYVP is contributing to the core goals of YSEALI – deepening collaboration with the young leaders of the Asia-Pacific region and cultivating a stronger ASEAN community.
As I watched the video about your experiences in Phnom Penh and in the Krakor Floating Village to help the community resolve problems with water sanitation and hygiene, I was impressed with all that you have accomplished in just four weeks. Although AYVP in Cambodia lasted for only one month, I am sure that the networks and friendships you developed with the community and with your fellow AYVP volunteers will last a lifetime. We hope that you have gained a deeper appreciation of your ASEAN neighbors and recognize the fact that we can all learn new things from each other.
Is Mr. Ket Monny Vathna here with us today? I would like to recognize Vathna for his role with AYVP as well as being an active member of the Embassy’s Ambassador’s Youth Council. Vathna has emerged as an environmental champion in Cambodia through his participation in a number of important activities. Last year, after visiting the United States as a YSEALI Academic Fellow, he returned to Cambodia to initiate the “Plant Trees, Plant Our Future” project. Over the past four weeks, he helped coordinate all of the 49 volunteers as an official AYVP facilitator. When I see how Vathna has applied his knowledge and experience to contribute to the development of other Cambodian and ASEAN youth, I am reminded of a well-known Khmer proverb: “Ches 10 min smaeu prasop muoy” – “knowing 10 things is not better than being skillful in one thing.” We are very proud for both the knowledge and the skills that Vathna continues to display in his service.
I am also inspired by the many young women that I see in the audience today. When First Lady Michelle Obama visited Cambodia last March for the launch of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative, she urged female students to finish their education and become active role models in their local communities.
To all of the AVYP volunteers, I wish you best of luck with your future activities, including your project proposals for consideration. Along with the people of ASEAN, we are counting on you to match your energy with fresh, innovative ideas that will help make this world a better place. I hope each of you leave here empowered, because frankly, the world needs you. You are the future. Today, I challenge each of you to return to your respective countries seeing yourselves as the agents of change and positive examples for us all.