When Sophal Chim came to Australia from Cambodia as a refugee, he brought with him a love of the natural environment, work experience in environmental education, and a degree in ecotourism. His journey to reclaim them has turned him into an Environment Victoria environmental ambassador.
Sophal’s family were rice farmers in Cambodia. After seeing the erosion and land degradation caused by farmers cutting down trees, Sophal and his family planted trees around their home and farm. The experience shaped his concern for the environment and his burgeoning career in manufacturing here in Australia.
Settling in Australia, however, hasn’t always been easy, and Sophal was disappointed to realise that his degree and work in environmental education would not be formally recognised here. His journey to set up a new career for himself in his adopted land eventually led him to Environment Victoria’s Multicultural Leaders in Sustainability (MLS) program.
After completing his English studies, Sophal started a vocational training program in manufacturing at the Adult Migrant Education Centre, and Environment Victoria’s MLS program. When he graduated in June 2009, Sophal took with him a greater understanding of energy, water and waste conservation issues, leadership skills and greater confidence in public speaking.
Sophal said continuing his education was an important way for him to demonstrate what he was capable of. “I have to start again and this will show I am a good team person, I am reliable and can do a good project.”
As with most participants in the program, MLS has become a crucial launching pad on the pathway to higher education and employment. Sophal is now completing a Certificate I in Active Volunteering and hopes to pass on his new knowledge to future employers. His long-term dream is to one day own a factory himself and implement environmental best practice standards.
“I want to show future employers all the things I learnt from MLS,” Sophal said. “To show them how to do it the right way, to do good for the environment. After MLS I am confident to speak out for the environment.”