Written by Yaiza Morales.
Rushing out of Siem Reap was no joke. We nearly missed our bus to Phnom Penh! Then, kept our fingers crossed that we’d make it on time to meet Scott Neeson, founder and director of The Cambodian Children’s Fund. When our bus finally arrived, we hailed a “tuk tuk” and sped off, nearly paddling through a sea of flooded streets in order to reach our destination. We made it just in time! A very humble and enthusiastic Scott Neeson sat before us. He gave us details on The Cambodian Children’s Fund, founded in 2004, which is a charitable organization that works to lift the community of the Stung Meanchey landfill district out of poverty through education. Yes, you read correctly, a landfill district, a community that lives in a dumpster! What this man has done for these children and their families is more than admirable; he takes the definition of humanitarian to another level. His passion for CCF is paramount and we knew that we were in the presence of an extraordinary human being.
Scott, who the children refer to as “Papa,” left his luxurious life as a Hollywood film mogul to help the children he found digging through the garbage dump of Stung Meanchey in 2003. You might be asking yourself, “digging for what?” Well, digging for food to eat, things to sell…anything that might help them escape their desperate situation. What began as a small center serving 45 children has now become a thriving program of 1,700 youngsters who are being empowered to become the future leaders of Cambodia. Through diverse initiatives, CCF transforms the lives of not only the children in its care, but their families, and the entire community. Education programs are offered together with social services such as healthcare, nutrition, community outreach, and women’s advocacy. The integrated model Scott and the CCF team have implemented has been so successful and has made such a positive impact, that outside entities are looking to replicate it in other parts of the world! When our meeting was over, we handed Scott a donation of $150. We explained that he should use it for what CCF needed the most. We knew the money would go to the right place, as we wholeheartedly trusted Scott as the driving force of CCF. Without hesitation, he let us know that the money would be used to purchase 10 or more tarpaulins for the roofs of houses that were in dire need, due to the arrival of the rainy season. They ended up buying 17 of them!
The following day we were welcomed at CCF 1 and at the Community Center. Mr Chamroeun and Ms. Saron, who run the Sponsor Relations Program, received us warmly and gave us extensive tours. The kindness of all the staff members that we met exceeded our expectations, and they made us feel at home right away. The environment in both facilities was extremely friendly and the energy was contagious. Happy children in stimulating learning environments filled the classrooms of each center. In addition to our monetary donation, we delivered a bag filled with school supplies, that we brought in all the way from Puerto Rico. They were very thankful and it felt great to donate all these things to such an amazing organization.
Our day at CCF ended in the best way possible, a visit to one of the newest additions to the program, its Nursery! The sweetest little toddlers popped up and surrounded us with curious smiles and open arms asking to be carried. Our hearts melted, as we sang, hugged, and laughed with them. Alexandra and I were overjoyed and fascinated with our experience at The Cambodian Children’s Fund!
We highly recommend that you check out their website and learn all the ways in which you can help out. Visit their site for more information. You can volunteer, send in donations, or even sponsor a child. Take a chance and make a difference in the lives of Cambodia’s most impoverished children today!