Student takes lessons on dietary nutrition to heart

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Ly Leakhena is a 14-year-old girl who is currently studying in ninth grade at Khael Chey Secondary School. She and her family live in Ou Svay Commune, Kampong Siem District, Kampong Cham Province close to the Mekong River in eastern Cambodia. While eating breakfast with her friends, Leakhena told us that she and her friends do not skip their morning meals anymore after attending a workshop with Save the Children.

“When we have breakfast, we are not often sick anymore,” said Leakhena. “I remember that before [when I would skip breakfast] I used to feel dizzy, look tired, and could not concentrate on my studies.”

Leakhena and many of her friends used to skip eating breakfast before school, and instead they would just drink canned beverages while chatting before class. As a result, they often felt tired and would sometimes skip school. This routine made it hard to concentrate and stay alert, and they were not getting as good scores as they could have in school.

With funding support from GSK, Save the Children works with secondary schools in Kampong Siem District to raise the awareness of students regarding the health benefits and dietary requirements of consuming nutritious foods. The workshop taught them about the importance of eating breakfast and having diversified diets, including eating many different fruits and vegetables. Leakhena and her friends found that they were interested in the orientation session.

“I never attended such an important session, I used to know only about hygiene,” explained Leakhena. “I learned a lot from this session, and I can share the knowledge with my friends.”

Leakhena, who is the leader of the Children’s Council at her school, helped spread the information about nutrition to the other council members during their monthly meeting. Leakhena is a football player on her school team and she also shared the information to her teammates during football practice.

My friends now have breakfast every day, they listened to me when I explained to them about the importance of having breakfast,” said Leakhena with enthusiasm.

In addition, Leakhena started asking her mother to cook more vegetable-based meals than meat-centered ones for their family. She says they are enjoying eating them.

“First, I was afraid of telling [my mother] to change her cooking. I just told her that I wanted to eat samlor ko kor [a mixed vegetable soup] and my mum cooks it for me,” explained Leakhena. “Later on, my mum changed her cooking; now everyone eats [more] vegetables and fruits.”

Leakhena feels more energetic, positive and healthy, and tells us her studies are improving. She hopes Save the Children can continue to teach her and her friends about dietary nutrition, so that she can share more new knowledge to her family and children in her community.

“I want to be a qualified teacher when I grow up, so that I can teach the next generation to have bright futures and get good jobs,” said Leakhena.