Whenever I travel around Cambodia, I am reminded of the incredible promise that Cambodia’s youth hold for the future of their country. Everywhere I go, I meet energetic, smart, and impressive young women and men who I’m sure will go on to achieve great things. Last week in Siem Reap, I met a group of 22 outstanding young people who are helping their peers receive important information about protecting themselves from diseases and improving their health.
These youth peer health educators are literally on the front lines in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, bird flu, and other diseases that threaten the health of the Cambodian people. We are partnering with them to ensure that U.S. assistance saves as many lives as possible. Improving the health of Cambodians is an important focus of U.S. efforts in this country; in fact, over half of our development assistance is in this field. Without healthy citizens, a country has little chance of improving its economy and sustaining long-term development. Thanks to the life-saving information shared through our innovative youth peer counseling program, implemented by the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC), young Cambodians can look forward to living longer, happier, and more productive lives.
I had an enlightening discussion with the group and appreciated spending time with such inspiring individuals, who shared with me both their successes and the challenges they face in their communities. Their hard work is helping to win the fight against illnesses like HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, and I encouraged them to continue reaching out to fellow youth. I was especially pleased to introduce the peer educators to members of my Youth Council, which I rely on for advice on issues affecting Cambodia’s youth. I asked these two dynamic groups to continue their dialogue so they can benefit from each others’ experiences as they work to make Cambodia’s future brighter.