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Five BA (Hons) Criminology students at Solent University, Southampton are becoming mentors to young women in Cambodia, as part of a pilot mentoring project.

8th March 2024
CriminologyHomepage - News - Standard

Developed in collaboration between Solent University’s Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Nigel Lee, and Scott Neeson, founder of the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), this new scheme is launching in time for this year’s International Women’s Day.

Created to empower young women to enter a career of their choosing, with particular focus on roles within STEM to enhance gender equality in the sector, this two-year project has launched with a four-month pilot period. Student mentors at Solent will meet with their mentees in Cambodia, through an online platform, once a week.

Mentoring has been proven to improve interpersonal skills, confidence, and positively impact education and career decisions. Sophie Graydon, a Criminology student at Solent and mentor, says:

“This mentoring scheme matters to me because it is an opportunity for me to learn about the culture in Cambodia from girls who experience this way of living. Having the chance to be able to listen to these girls’ experiences and support them, sharing my own experiences along the way to hopefully impact them positively, is amazing. To me mentoring is important as it is a way of me having the opportunity to give back and build connections with girls who I would have never had the chance to meet otherwise.”

The Cambodian Children’s Fund educates young people who have grown up in poverty, giving them the tools and support they need to thrive in their education and adult lives. In 2017, the charity opened the Neeson Cripps Academy, a flagship institution for the education of some of Cambodia’s most underprivileged children. The school is located near the former Steung Meanchey landfill, where many of the Academy’s students have lived experiences.

Mey Sreyphkay, Grade 10 CCF student and mentee, says: "I feel excited that I can communicate with UK students and learn from them. This program is really unique. I feel nervous because it is a new experience for me but I'm really looking forward to it. Sharing about our lives and learning about another country and culture will also be interesting."

In 2019, Solent’s Nigel Lee was recognised for his important work in child protection with the CCF, receiving a Mahasena (Grand Officer) of the Royal Order of Sahametrei on behalf of the King of Cambodia. Reflecting on this latest development with the charity, Nigel says:

“This is an exciting opportunity for both our students and the students of the Cambodian Children’s Fund. Being able to actively engage our undergraduates in becoming role models and mentors for CCF students studying STEM at the Neeson Cripps Academy is a worthwhile project, and to see and hear the enthusiasm from our five volunteers fills me with confidence that it can be a success during the pilot period and over the next two years.”

The Neeson Cripps Academy specialises in STEM pathways, and five of their students will now become mentees of female undergraduates studying Criminology at Solent. The aim is to inspire young women living and studying in Cambodia, connecting them with students who can act as role models, who are already studying in a field traditionally dominated by men, with the hope of empowering them to pursue STEM courses at university level.

Lea Phorn, Education Projects Officer at CCF, says: "This mentoring program will have a great impact on our students, allowing them to know more of the world and the options that can be possible to them through education. By sharing experiences with the Solent University students, I believe this expanded social network will also improve their confidence and English. We're all really excited to work with Solent University and hopefully form lasting friendships."