Boys 2 Men is a youth development event for high school-aged boys. You may remember when I participated in last year’s event branded under the name Boys Respecting Empowered Women, or BREW. Like BREW, Boys 2 Men focused on building leadership skills, raising awareness on issues of health and gender, and allowing a rare opportunity for Cambodian students from different provinces to express themselves exchanging ideas on how to better themselves and their communities.
The event brought together PCVs and their counterparts with 120 male youth participants. The three-day-workshop focused on topics related to health, career planning, college preparation, domestic violence, healthy relationships, community volunteerism, and development in a safe and open atmosphere.
The camp started out with a fun creative confidence-building rocket activity.
The boys learned a little about physics and then got to use their creativity to build water rockets.
Which they launched competitively for accuracy.
After a session about goal setting and techniques for achieving goals, Lauren and Greg, a married couple serving with me, led a session on healthy relationships.
The 2-part session introduced the boys to the insights of their relationship and that of a Cambodian married couple through a forum.
The boys, dividing into small groups, then discussed 8 topics related to healthy relationship building.
A representative from each group presented their findings.
On day 2, I presented my session on alcohol’s effects of on the body and responsible drinking.
Cambodia currently has no minimum drinking age, and although they do have, a blood alcohol limit for driving, drunk driving is not enforced or discouraged. Alcohol is unregulated and can be obtained any place and by any one regardless of age. The only barrier to obtaining alcohol in Cambodia is money. There is tremendous peer pressure to drink alcohol, especially amongst men, which usually manifests in the form of peer pressured binge drinking. A common phrase in Cambodia is “Drink to get drunk, and if you are not getting drunk, then why drink?”
My presentation began with a quick basic anatomy and physiology lesson tracing how alcohol is processed and its effects on the different body organs and systems. Then, I led a discussion on the consequences of intoxication. We explored the ways that alcohol can affect many aspects of our lives such as financially, our health through disease as well as through accidents and increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, and socially through our relationships including increased domestic violence. The boys received my lesson very will and asked many intelligent thoughtful questions.
I had the students play the popular spoon game that simulates the loss of coordination that comes with intoxication. In this game, they close their eyes and spin multiple times getting progressively dizzy to simulate increasing levels of intoxication. I ask them to walk a straight line balancing an egg on a spoon. By demonstrating how alcohol alters consciousness and coordination preventing us from doing tasks we normally can do effortlessly, I hope they will become responsible consumers of alcohol.
The boys seemed very receptive to the presentation, and they easily made the connection on their own to driving drunk. Road accidents are the number one killer in Cambodia, and alcohol accounts for more than half of traffic fatalities.
Skatestan Cambodia is an organization that works to bring skateboarding, arts, and leadership opportunities to girls and boys of all backgrounds and abilities. They presented personal success stories gained through the confidence of trying new things such as skateboarding.
The boys then got to watch a skating demonstration by the presenters and try for themselves in a short lesson.
None of the 120 boys had ever skateboarded before. With tremendous support for one another, several of them did exceptionally well, and they all had fun.
The final day was a field trip to Tonle Bati, a large lake where we had a big feast. We also got to explore an ancient ruin of the Cambodian empire, Ta Prohm, allowing the boys to learn a little about their own history and heritage.