One Year of Mentorship: What I’ve Learned from my Mentee by Marica Rizzo

Phaerong (rising star) with mentor Marica

Rising Star Phearong with Mentor Marica

Phearong is an incredible young woman from Kampong Cham province in Cambodia. She comes from a rural village and is the youngest of five children: the first to attend university. In the past year I have watched her evolve from a shy, quiet girl, to an inspired and strong young woman. Each time we speak, I am blown away at how much I am learning from her, which begs the question, who is the mentor and who is the mentee in this relationship? Sometimes, I believe our roles could be reversed.
Her propensity towards action is humbling. For a girl who works as hard as she does with at her studies, maintaining her place at the top of her class, she stretches far beyond what a typical student will take on. She recently founded a student-run organization where she and her peers from her university will travel into Takeo province to teach math, English, and leadership to children in the rural schools on the weekends.
After recruiting her peers to join her, she asked that they all nominate and elect a leader – as it was the fair thing to do. She was humbled when her peers elected her. My initial reaction to this was to question why she put it to a vote if this was her project. In my experience, we often assume the one who conceives of the idea becomes the leader. Phearong doesn’t view leadership that way. What I learned from her about building trust and empowering her team was a powerful lesson in selfless leadership, and true democracy.
Her organization is called Joint-of-Youth (JOY) Cambodia. You can find them on Facebook here.
Her dedication to changing the education system in Cambodia is unwavering. In order to get from Phonm Penh to Takeo, each of them pitch in about $20 to rent a van. Phearong comes from poverty. She has a scholarship for her tuition and a loan from for her living costs from Wedu. I am blown away by her generosity to give so much. She has so little in capital – but she has so much in heart, talent, and a desire for change.She has taught me an incredible amount about leadership, and true selflessness – mixed with a daring spirit, Phearong and her peers are going to change the world.
Happy 1 Year of Mentorship, sister!
I am truly grateful to Mario Ferro and Mari Sawai, Co-Founders of Wedu for putting their faith in me over a year ago when I joined their team as a volunteer to create the Wedu Mentorship Program. As much as I gave of my time, I have earned back and beyond in the relationship I have with Phearong.

Originally posted at Marica is the former Mentorship Manager at Wedu. She presently works at Briteweb, a digital creative agency in Vancouver, Canada. Connect with Marica here.

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