Seila Chea

2023 IVLP Impact Award Project: End Plastic Pollution in the EnvironmentCambodia

Seila Chea has been working for more than 15 years as a volunteer, research assistant, researcher, community facilitator, coordinator and project manager with different projects focusing on the protection and management of natural resources and communities' livelihoods depending on the Mekong River and main tributaries in Cambodia. Currently, she plays a role in managing the Wonders of the Mekong Project. She is responsible for coordinating most aspects of the project in Cambodia, including Interdisciplinary Research and Conservation; Training and Capacity Building; and Environmental Education and Outreach activities.

She spends most of her time working with communities along the rivers, especially in Stung Treng Province, to document local ecological knowledge and wisdom on fish and biodiversity, herbs for food and medicine, livelihoods, wetlands, climate change and plastic waste pollution. The results from the research have been integrated into the local management plans and policy dialogues. Finally, she was among the research team who helped explore the world's largest freshwater stingray weighing 300 kg, known as "Boramey," tagged and released it alive to live in the Mekong River's deep pool in Stung Treng Province.

IVLP Impact Award Project: End Plastic Pollution in the Environment

This project tackled the pressing issue of plastic pollution in Cambodia by empowering high-school students to become catalysts of change in sustainable waste management practices. Plastics have become pervasive in modern society, but poor management of plastic waste has resulted in detrimental consequences for aquatic life, human health and bodies of water. The project engaged 1,908 individuals, including 150 students, as well as teachers and members of the community to actively participate in discussions and clean-up activities to combat plastic pollution in Cambodia. The project helped raise awareness on solid and plastic waste management among students. Seila also hosted four community and school cleanup events along the Bassac River in an effort to keep Takmao town clean and remove the waste before it enters the river. The project also established a plastic recycling youth club at a local high school which involved students in painting a mural at the school. By fostering awareness among students about the detrimental effects of plastic pollution, the project instilled a deep sense of responsibility and understanding of sustainable waste management practices, with around 80% of students reporting that they reduced their use of plastic bottles and plastic bags after the project was implemented.

"I hope [that] everyone has learned how to respect.. [and be] responsible for their own plastic trash by keeping it properly, refusing to use single plastic products, reducing as much as they can and reusing." - Seila Chea

IVLP Exchange Experience 

Seila was a participant in the IVLP Project Environmental Engagement and the Economy for the Indo-Pacific, organized by the U.S. Department of State and the Mississippi Consortium for International Development.

Seila's exchange experience led to the development of her IVLP Impact Award Project. She particularly was inspired by the Vermont's Natural Resource Council Office's belief that a healthy environment results in healthy economics. She also described learning from meeting with Mr. Andrew Leary, a director of Sustainable Tourism and Partnerships at the Leave No Trace Center in Colorado. She described how she connected with their message of "encouraging people to be responsible outdoors... [by] not destroying things in nature, not littering and educating kids and elders about 'Leave No Trace.'"

U.S. Communities Visited

Sacramento, CA; Denver, CO; Washington, DC; Burlington, VT

Country: Cambodia

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