It has been nine years since Scott Neeson first set foot in Cambodia. Originally visiting Phnom Penh on the way to Angkor Wat, he found his life changed by a visit to Steung Meanchey. At the time, Phnom Penh’s notorious garbage dump, Steung Meanchey was home and workplace for several thousand of the region’s most impoverished and neglected children. Unwilling to walk away, Neeson set upon a path to find better lives for these children.
After a 26-year-career in the film business, including tenure as president of 20th Century Fox International, where he oversaw the release and marketing of several of the top films of all time — 'Braveheart,' 'Titanic,' 'Star Wars' and 'X-men' — Scott left the industry to establish and personally oversee Cambodian Children's Fund as Executive Director.
In his words:
> My greatest joy: There is a moment when a previously neglected or abused child begins to understand that the care given is unconditional and lifelong. That is a magic moment.
> I believe that every individual: has the power to bring about significant change, good or bad. Whether we choose to use that power — and for what purpose — defines our legacy.
> My personal passion: photography. I have thousands of images, mostly portrait shots of the locals, especially the children. As wretched as a dwelling may be, having a photo on the wall brings colour and light. I want every child in our communities to have a photo of themselves; in 10 or 20 years’ time, when this squalor is buried in the past, I want them to remember they were here and to show their own children and grandchildren a piece of their childhood.
> On fashion: I have about eight black t-shirts in various stages of fading. They don’t show the dirt, and I get plenty dirty in a day. I rotate four pairs of cargo-type pants — anything with plenty of pockets. I wear boots for the field work, but per local custom, most of us go barefoot around the office.
> If I had to do it all over again: I wouldn't change a thing. I truly believe I have found where I am meant to be. Alter any part of the path that led me here, and I might never have reached this point.
> The best part of the job: spending time at our community centre. I usually head there early evening, when we have evening classes, a food program, a medical clinic and a safe, secure place for kids to play.
> Quotes to live by (or at least try):
"What each must seek in his life never was on land or sea. It is something out of his own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else." Joseph Campbell
"Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself." Joseph Campbell
"Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning." Joseph Campbell
"I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done." Buddha
"Stare into the abyss long and the abyss will stare back" Friedrich Nietzsche