No going back: how the NCA will transform the future of Steung Meanchey

As we prepare for the most exciting day in our history, the opening of the Neeson Cripps Academy, we want to take a moment to remember why it matters to us so much. This post may be a little long and emotional.

This PBS video from 2006, one of our earliest, shows just how unimaginably hard life was in Steung Meanchey back then. It shows tiny children toiling away on the old garbage dump. It shows them with burn scars from the fires that pocked that hellish landscape. It shows the dreadful slums that sat on the edge of toxic sludge. And it shows the beginnings of Scott and CCF’s work to create a better future.

Life is still very hard in Steung Meanchey. Many families live in squalor. Malnutrition and poor health are rife, and social problems including alcoholism, drug addiction and domestic violence are still the reality many of our students go home to.

But there has been real, measurable progress. The old dump is gone. Our medical centre offers healthcare to people who once would have died from preventable diseases because they couldn’t afford help. Our food program feeds hundreds of tiny malnourished children every night, preparing them for the day they step into our schools and get the education their parents were denied. Our World Housing communities offer clean homes to hundreds of families who once lived in desperation. Our maternal care program has turned a maternal death rate of 8% into 0%. There is real hope now, where once there was almost none.

The NCA is the most visible symbol of that progress – a beacon of learning right on the doorstep of the old dump. Those children who once begged Scott “som tov rien” – take me to study – could never have imagined that dream would be realised in the form of gleaming new learning spaces, high-tech facilities and science laboratories which would compete with any school in South East Asia. It will offer every CCF student the chance to unlock their potential, to become a highly educated leader. We will never be able to thank Velcro enough for making this happen – it changes everything.

It doesn’t mean our work is done. There are still many deep-rooted problems we need to overcome, from drug addiction to family dysfunction. We won’t rest until our former students are themselves leading their communities and country into a better future. As Scott says in this video, “there is no going back”.


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