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8 November 2023 - Story

Young Environmental Activist Transforms Plastic Waste into Containers for Plants

Khy Rotana is a 9-year-old girl environmental activist who shines in her community. She often turns recyclable plastic bottles into plant containers, beautifying her school and home in an eco-friendly way. Rotana believes that waste can be transformed into something beautiful and helpful for everyone.
Rotana lives with her parents in Kampong Krachab village, Trapeang Chan commune, Boribo district, Kampong Chhnang Province. Her parents earn a living by fishing far away from their floating house. The village is surrounded by plastic waste piled up and scattered, as the residents are unaware of how to manage waste properly and the negative impact of plastic pollution.
The school where Rotana attends used to be an unhealthy environment for students. This was because the school lacked convenient access to proper trash bins. Rotana, a fourth-grade student and member of the student council at Krachab Primary School, said, "Before, the school appeared unattractive because it was surrounded by messy plastic waste during the rainy season." Rotana also said, "I consumed plastic packaged snacks at school and home without being aware of the harmful impacts." 
High water levels during the rainy season have damaged many trees in this area. This has resulted in several problems, including flooding, high temperatures, and the spread of disease among children.
Rotana and her friends have limited space to play. They have found it challenging to find a suitable area for a playground because there is no shade available. As a result, they often play in their small classrooms.
In July 2022, with funding supported by Save the Children Norway, Save the Children Cambodia worked in collaboration with local authorities and schools to implement the Green Generation project, which was introduced in 12 pilot schools and among them is Rotana's School for grades 4-6, where she learned about the insight on the important of environmental protection and climate change provided by her teacher.
Through the environmental education sessions, Rotana was impressed in the Waste and Litter lesson, where she and other students learned to differentiate between recyclable and non-recyclable plastic waste, the negative impact of waste pollution on the environment, and several methods of plastic reduction for their school and community.
 "In each session, I divide the students into groups so that they can discuss, identify and solve real-life environmental problems together," Aor Ratha, teacher of Rotana, added. "They also learn to cut plastic bottles and transform them into various sizes of plant pots and containers to decorate the school environment."
As the day went on, Rotana started collecting plastic bottles around her house and storing them in trash bins she had created from fishing traps. "I cut those plastic bottles, filled them with soil, and planted various flowers and plants on the front porch of my house," she continued with a bright smile. "I also planted trees around to beautify my house, and I usually water those plants after class."
Each day, Rotana brings a lunchbox filled with rice to school. She also prefers banana leaves over plastic when buying Khmer cakes, and she reduces plastic consumption overall. Determined to bring eco-friendly practices to her school and community, Rotana co-leads environmental awareness campaigns with other student council members with the support of teachers and local authorities. Through these campaigns, they aim to raise awareness about waste management, environmental issues and educate communities about the harmful effects of plastic usage.
 "After a few environmental campaigns led by children in the community village, people became more aware of environmental issues and gradually changed their behaviour towards plastic consumption," said Chhon Non, the Village Chief. "The school became more eco-friendly with better waste management practices."
Little Rotana continues to be an inspiration to her friends and family members. As a result, she received a Letter of Appreciation from her teacher for being a role model for other children to follow.

Interviewed by: Bun Heng, Project Office
Written by: Yous Ratha, Communications Officer
Edited by: Taing Vida, Communications and Campaign Manager