CCF student Malita and her mum are survivors of an acid attack more than a decade ago. This week they will travel to the U.S. for expert treatment thanks to a charity specialising in helping victims of violence

Cambodian Children’s Fund student Malita left Cambodia before many years ago for medical treatment in Vietnam. Her mother has never left Cambodia.

This week, both will leave their home in CCF’s community and travel to America to undergo reconstructive surgery for their injuries suffered in an acid attack when Malita was a little girl.

The trip has been made possible thanks to a new partnership between CCF and Face Forward International, a U.S. based charitable organisation, which offers reconstructive surgeries for victims of violence from around the world.

Malita, 14, and her mother, Chenda, who was blinded in the attack, will travel to the U.S. on 5 September to receive treatment and care from Los Angeles-based specialist medical experts. Face Forward International will be covering all expenses related to the trip, including surgery and counselling, air fares, accommodation and nursing aftercare.

Surgical visits and 3 or 4 procedures alone for an acid attack victim costs around $300,000.

A member of CCF staff will chaperone Malita and her mother on the trip. Head of CCF’s Medical Clinic, Dr Deth Sereivuth, will also travel to the U.S. to accompany them for a few weeks.

Additionally, Face Forward International will honour CCF Founder, Scott Neeson, at their annual Gala on 14 September . Scott will be the Honoree recipient of the Humanitarian Award at the Gala.

Malita was injured in an acid attack in February 2008 when she was aged 2 years and 8 months old, suffering extensive burns to her body, including her face and arms. Her mother was also left badly scarred and blind with only a tiny amount of vision in one eye, when a noxious substance was thrown over both of them outside a relative’s house in Phnom Penh. 

Two men were later arrested and jailed for the attack.

Malita has since undergone years of  treatment in Cambodia.

Scott Neeson first met Malita when she was six years old and living with her mother in Steung Meanchey. The family has been receiving support from CCF since then with housing and financial assistance. 

“I have watched Malita grow and begin to thrive. During that time, she has had to undergo painful treatments and her courage has been remarkable,” said Scott Neeson.

“It’s wonderful that Malita and her mother have been given this hope.”

Malita is a pupil at CCF’s Neeson Cripps Academy and has just passed her Grade 9 National Examination. Her ambition is to go to university to study film and media. Malita’s mother Chenda, 44, works in CCF’s rice workshop. The family lives in one of CCF’s World Housing communities in Steung Meanchey.

Face Forward International Founder and CEO, Deborah Alessi, travelled to Phnom Penh in July to meet Scott Neeson, and Malita and her mum at CCF.

“Meeting Deborah in person provided an insight into why Face Forward exists. Deborah is on the frontline meeting those forgotten victims in greatest need with unflinching compassion,” said Scott Neeson.

Deborah Alessi said she was honoured and humbled to visit Cambodia and have the chance to meet with Scott Neeson. 

“I was so personally inspired by the incredible work of Scott and his team with the children and families they serve,” said 

“We are thrilled to announce our partnership with them and the upcoming arrival of our first patients, Malita and her mum. Malita is a brave and wonderful young girl. Face Forward will begin their reconstructive surgery this summer and together our teams will support Malita and her mum as they continue their healing journeys and look to a bright future ahead.”

Malita and her mother are expected to stay in the U.S. for around 3 months this time. Treatment, could continue over the next 5 years or so.  This would include scar revisions and skin smoothing, and possibly ocular repair options for Malita’s mum.

“We are optimistic that there is a lot we will be able to do to help them both in truly life changing ways for many years to come,” said Deborah Alessi.

Malita and her mum are both looking forward to the trip.

“I am very happy to be going to America,” said Malita.

Her mum is full of hope about what the future may bring.

“I am anxious but excited,’ she said.

“It is like being born again. My big hope is that one day I will be able to see Malita again.”

 

Kate Ginn/CCF

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