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Blogging To Improve Cambodia’s Environment

ZJMeet Zarah Jane Almeida who works as a producer for Mlup Baitong's Environmental Advocacy Radio Program. She has been blogging about her work and life at Sreisaat Adventures in Cambodia since January, 2004. Born in Roxas City, known as the seafood capital of the Philippines, she graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in mass communications. She moved to Cambodia in April, 2000.

1. How and why did you find yourself in Cambodia?

Five years ago, after more than three years of working as a TV producer, I lost my enthusiasm for my work and resigned. My sister was working for an NGO as a volunteer agriculturist in Cambodia and encouraged me to take a job there.

2. Tell us about your work in Cambodia with the NGO, Mlup Baitong.

Mlup Baitong’s mission is to address the problem of deforestation in Cambodia, with a focus on educating the public on conservation of natural resources. I manage the over-all production of the radio program, attending production meetings and conducting in-house training for the local radio program staff so that they can take over my place after a period of time. It was difficult to learn to the language at first! Now, I enjoy working with my colleagues, traveling, searching for stories, interviewing people and listening to their stories and just interacting with them. Although I come from a different culture, it doesn't hamper my work. It is a benefit.

3. How does your NGO use technology to support your advocacy and education work?

Our organization gets feedback from listeners of our radio program via email and sms text messages. (I got an exchange deal with a local mobile phone company and they gave us a free dial number so that listeners can call in during the broadcast for free for one year.)

monks doing advocacy and education work in action

After broadcast, we re-edit the material and distribute for pagoda broadcasts in the provinces during holy days. The monks broadcast it through the pagoda public address system, a rudimentary system composed of a cassette player connected to an amplifier. The monks help us with our environmental education and advocacy work. I've written about this program on my blog and posted photographs on flickr.

The Community Forestry committee was also provided with a digital camera to aid them in documenting illegal activities that they've encountered during their regular patrols inside the forest. The pictures are very vital evidence when the committee members write reports to local authorities or our organization to seek assistance. The committee members of Community Forestry and Ecotourism projects were trained in basic computer skills and English language skills.

4. Tell us about your blog?

I started my blog with the main goal of keeping in touch with family, relatives and friends from far and wide. I want them all to know about my work in Cambodia, and life here in general. My Indonesian friend introduced me to blogging. Using chats, she taught me how to start a blog and upload pictures.

When I started to get lots of visitors, I realized why not blog more about my work with Mlup Baitong? Although my blog is primarily for family and friends, I am inspired to read comments left by visitors saying that they learn more and something different about Cambodia’s environment.

6 comments

  • It is very interesting that a foreign development worker shares her work experience in Cambodia with other people. This is another good one: http://www.blog.kalabird.com/

    The name of her weblog, Sreisaat, means Beautiful Girl/Woman in Khmer language.

  • Jess Almeida

    the beautiful girl only proves that culture is borderless and that differences issues are not hindrance to sharing a hand to explore ones culture and learn from it.

  • MJ’s blog (along with the other bloggers in Cambodia) is a “priceless” communication tool for development for “less the price”.

  • Oops. sorry about the typho… It’s supposed to be ZJ (Zarah Jane).

  • bbgirl almeida urdelas

    community work does not only helps but (must) influence the culture and character of an individual and the community. My big sis is one of the many who would like to share what HELP means.. language is not an issue when you want to HELP! dedication,commitment and love to others: that’s what ate ZJ have….keep it up’

  • I also found the above interview fascinating. Particularly interesting also how the ZJ and another comment giver use blog to promote their work.

    What this made me wondering once more is about the extent to which the bloggosphere could be an alternative public for Cambodian civil society to grow and flourish in, given the restrictions on freedom of association and expression, among others. It seems to me that the few Cambodian bloggers there are engage in self censorship, anticipating disadvantages from voicing their opinions. For good reasons I believe. I wonder about those blogs in Khmer but assume it is a similar situation.

    Personally, I started my blog explicitly with the idea of promoting my work, which is related to ethnic minorities in Cambodia. Since ethnicity is highly politicized in Cambodia I came to think that it would not contribute to advance this work (with the government) if I would share my ideas publicly. I ended up writing only travel reports and not writing about politics in Cambodia at all, although this is what fascinates me most, personally and professionally.

    Stefan

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