University students from Cambodia and Japan have united under the “Diversity Voyage” programme, which aims to harness the transformative power of athletics to educate and empower children.

Focused on fostering inclusivity and teamwork among the younger generation, this ground-breaking venture serves as an example of global citizenship in action.

Organised by Global Incubation x Fostering Talents (GiFT), a Tokyo-based non-profit, and Japan’s Toyo University, the project involves 14 students from Toyo and 11 from higher-education institutions (HEIs) across Cambodia. Participants were chosen through a rigorous application and interview process which was finalised at the end of June.

The selected students put the initiative’s principles into practice, by organising athletic competitions at the Olympic Stadium for approximately 100 children on September 11.

“Physical activities are a key medium for conveying our message. The event was originally designed to instil the values of athleticism into educational practices, all in the spirit of the Olympics,” said Kimura Daisuke, who spearheads the project and is the head of education research at GiFT.

Meas Lay Leap, a second-year student specialising in Japanese at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, played a critical role in the event’s proceedings. As a translator and team member, Leap bridged the communication gap between the attendees. He introduced vital life lessons such as solidarity, teamwork and overcoming challenges through athletic contests.

“Over the past week, our focus has been on physical education, leadership and, most importantly, experiences that teach children valuable skills,” Leap said.

Initiated in 2014, the “Diversity Voyage” venture aims to cultivate young minds to develop 21st-century skills and a mindset geared towards global citizenship. It has been implemented in seven other countries as well, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore and Bhutan. During the Covid-19 crisis, virtual sessions connected students with peers in Germany and Egypt.

Daisuke said that approximately 250 students have been involved since the Phnom Penh chapter launched in the summer of 2017. Given the country’s recent successful hosting of the SEA Games, this year’s theme aims to build on that legacy by emphasising Olympic values under the keyphrase “Beyond the Games”.

The programme also featured a school visit to Santhormok Primary School in Phnom Penh, where students were invited to partake in a GiFT Day Sports event at the indoor arena of the stadium. Additionally, the group visited Hiroshima House Cambodia, an organisation supporting children facing challenges, to extend invitations to the athletic activities.

Kobayashi Natsuki, a Japanese university student, expressed her delight in connecting with her Cambodian peers.

“Our interaction involves mutual support with all learners, from the very young to the older ones,” Natsuki said

Daisuke, who also offers curriculum consultations and teaches “service learning” at Meiji Gakuin University, shared his future plans.

“We are strategising to expand our reach by bringing students to Japan,” he said.

Established in 2012, GiFT’s mission is to empower the youth and enhance global literacy. They focus on promoting inclusivity through dialogue and co-creation, earning recognition at UNESCO conferences and contributing to ASEAN integration.