The Build Your Future Today Centre (BFT) has become an important resource for disadvantaged, homeless and orphaned children, providing, with the support of both local and international donors, training in crucial life skills, among other programmes.

Siem Reap-based BFT, which was established in 2006 by Long Sedtha, manages programmes designed to help impoverished children – including orphans – within the local communities there and in other provinces.

BFT this month extended its partnership with sports NGO Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) to ensure that the children and young people they serve access academic and sporting opportunities as part of their personal development and growth.

“The main goal of our organisation is to contribute to poverty reduction by helping in particular disadvantaged children and orphans so that they have equal access to education.

“And after they have had the opportunity to learn, we explore providing life skills so they can get a good job or start a business to improve their lives on their own for the better,” Sedtha said.

BFT is continuing its partnership with Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) after the two youth development organisations began working together in 2014.

During this time, BFT and HFCA trained homeless youngsters to get the chance to travel abroad and compete in editions of the Homeless World Cup, with some going on to work as football coaches.

“Giving children the opportunity to play and train in football is very beneficial. Before the Covid-19 pandemic we sent children for football training with HFCA, and some went on to play at the Homeless World Cup.

“We sent players to compete in the Homeless World Cup in the Netherlands in 2015, Scotland in 2016, Norway in 2017 and Wales in 2019, with our homeless youngsters able to develop into highly skilled and strong players, while some have become coaches,” Sedtha said.

HFCA, founded in 2005, is an NGO aiming to empower Cambodia’s underprivileged youth through football.

Its founder Paraic Grogan said it was an honour to continue its important collaboration with BFT.

“HFCA ensures that disadvantaged youth have the right to high quality training, team building opportunities, and opportunities for growth.

“This promotes wellbeing, mental health and self-confidence, and most importantly provides additional opportunities through the development of soft skills for educational and career success.

“HFCA is honoured to extend its long-term cooperation with BFT because Long Sedtha is an inspiring person and HFCA has learnt a lot from him,” Grogan said.

HFCA has since 2017 provided weekly football training in Siem Reap, and in February 2020 this was extended to more villages in Siem Reap, such as in O Rong, Chob Smach and Srah Srang.

Around 50 children attend regularly, while all the HFCA coaches are former HFCA players or from BFT.

Through years of hard work, Sedtha said, BFT has helped many underprivileged children and orphans to receive vocational training and employment opportunities.

“We have helped children for more than 15 years, and most of the children at our centre have graduated from university and gained work at various companies.

“Some have become university lecturers, while some received scholarships to study abroad or pursue master’s degrees.

“So through our organisation since 2006, we have helped a lot of children become capable and beneficial to society,” Sedtha said.

He said BFT was aiming to expand its important work into other provinces.

“We develop the education sector in our communities, so we have built many schools in Siem Reap – both primary and secondary – and we are now building a university in Banteay Meanchey province.

“Our organisation has been actively working on these programmes in Siem Reap, carrying them out in almost all districts, with some in Banteay Meanchey province.

“We have also done work in Pailin province, and we have now reached parts of Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces, but we do not yet carry out many activities there.

“So we are looking to expand into Oddar Meanchey province and parts of Preah Vihear province,” Sedtha said.

Thong Kim Hong, an orphan who started living in BFT Centre at the age of nine, said the work of BFT and HFCA had transformed his life.

He began playing football with HFCA in 2014 until becoming a coach at BFT, before hanging up his boots last year after graduating from university with a degree in business management. He now works for a gas company in Phnom Penh.

Growing from a young orphan to a capable employee with a good career, Thong Kim Hong has never forgotten BFT’s support.

“BFT is a great organisation that helps disadvantaged children, youth and orphans. Without the training and support I received from BFT, I would not have had the opportunity to graduate from university and get a good career as I have now.

“Everything I have now is because of BFT’s support,” Kim Hong said.