The Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF) marked its 20th anniversary with a grand celebration on May 26, highlighting two decades of remarkable achievements in supporting the most at-risk children in Cambodia. 

Founded by Scott Neeson, a former Hollywood executive, the CCF positively impacts over 155,000 lives, through its extensive educational, healthcare and community support programmes.

The journey began in 2004 when Neeson, then enjoying a luxurious lifestyle in Hollywood, encountered an eight-year-old girl named Srey Nich at the Steung Meanchey garbage dump in Phnom Penh.

Witnessing Srey Nich and her family scavenging hazardous waste for survival profoundly affected Neeson and was the catalyst for the founding of the CCF. 

The fund originally looked after the health and well-being of 45 children, but today, the organisation has expanded to support approximately 4,300 vulnerable children, granting them access to vital services and education.

Prime Minister Hun Manet’s wife, Pich Chanmony, joined the festivities, underscoring the significance of the CCF’s mission. 

Founder Scott Neeson (centre) and Pich Chanmony (centre-right) attend the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) on May 26 in Steung Meanchey. CCF

In her role as general commissioner of the Girl Guides Association of Cambodia (GGAC), Chanmony praised Neeson’s unwavering dedication and extended her gratitude to all of the CCF's supporters.

“Today marks a joyous and proud moment. I am privileged to preside over the 20th anniversary of the Cambodian Children's Fund,” she said, during the May 26 ceremony, held in Steung Meanchey. 

“This is a historic moment for the CCF, which has pursued its notable cause for the past two decades,” added Chanmony, who is also deputy-chairman of the Board of the Samdech Techo Young Volunteer Doctors Association (TYDA).

During her speech, Chanmony noted how Scott Neeson’s “genuine compassion for Cambodian children and dedication” had inspired her and her husband to support CCF’s mission.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Scott. On behalf of Hun Manet, Prime Minister of Cambodia, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the founders, leaders and all involved in the CCCF for their unwavering generosity and efforts,” she added.

Pich Chanmony speaks with some of the members of the CCF’s ‘grannies’ programme during the celebrations. CCF

Neeson explained that he could never have imagined what the CCF would achieve.

“It started with one eight-year-old girl, Srey Nich, who lived and worked in the most horrendous conditions on the dump with her mum and sister. Today, we have around 2,000 children working towards a better life for themselves and their families through higher education,” he said.

 “We have expanded our reach to provide education, healthcare, and community support, and have an impact on more than 155,000 lives, which is remarkable,” he added.

Neeson said the CFF works with 4,300 children who are deemed at high risk of neglect, malnutrition or abuse due to poverty.  

“Without intervention, they are at high risk of dropping out of school to work to provide income for their families, or to look after younger siblings while their parents are out working,” Neeson told The Post.

Pich Chanmony took part in many of the fun activities that were on offer at the 20th anniversary of the Cambodian Children’s (CCF) on May 26 in Steung Meanchey. CCF

“Children are also at risk of being out on the streets in unsafe environments while their parents are working,” he added.

The CCF provides support and keeps these children safe in school, with high quality education and community support programmes.

Chanmony, was an active participant in the festivities, engaging with guests and touring various booths and displays.

The community street festival was open to the entire Steung Meanchey community with fun games and music. 

Princess Jenna was the headline act among several big-name singers performing on a community stage. Other artists included Mr Sai, Miss Vis, Mr Puthika, and Miss Sok Serey, according to Kate Ginn, CCF's senior communication editor.

Chanmony emphasised the importance of continued support for CCF’s mission from philanthropists and stakeholders.

“Your assistance in all forms, whether through financial contributions to fund operations, donations of essential educational materials and equipment, or sharing of ideas, skills, and knowledge, is invaluable in ensuring the continued success of the foundation's work,” she appealed.

Pich Chanmony (centre) speaks with some of the 155,000 vulnerable Cambodians who are supported by the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) on May 26 in Steung Meanchey. Pich Chanmony

The event also highlighted several success stories of CCF alumni, such as Sophy Ron, who went from living on a garbage dump to graduating from the University of Melbourne, and Heuv Nhanh, now a successful filmmaker. 

Their stories exemplify the transformative power of the CCF’s programmes.

“The CCF has done so much for me. I would not be where I am today without them; they have given me everything,” said Ron.

Heuv Nhanh spent five years living and working on the garbage dump as a child and never believed he would leave. With the support of CCF, he made it out and is now carving out a successful career in filmmaking.

“I thought I would be a garbage picker for life; I didn’t think I had a future,” said Nhanh, now 30. 

“When I think about the past, I cannot believe how much things have changed. If you have an opportunity to study, like I was given, then you take it, and that is your chance to change your destiny. You cannot change the past, but you can change the future,” he added.