Scott Neeson’s story, as seen in the media
December 1, 2016
Scott Neeson has recently returned from three weeks abroad – a whirlwind of fundraising events and meetings with sponsors, donors and supporters. During that time, he was asked on several occasions about his life story. After all, what could have possibly convinced a Hollywood executive to give up an attractive salary and lifestyle in order to move to Cambodia? For those who don’t know, here’s Scott’s story, as told to journalists over recent years.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mr. Neeson and his parents moved to Australia when he was 5. The son of a cleaner at the local high school and an employee of Australia’s defense department, he dropped out of school at 17. “I was a rat bag of a student,” he says, adding that he had no ability to concentrate. “I’m sure if it was today, I’d be on pills for ADHD,” he says. “I was incredibly restless, and I’d just want to be in the outside world. Fortunately, there were no such medications, and I dropped out.”
– Scott Neeson: From Hollywood Executive to Philanthropist, Wall Street Journal, 2015
Foray into Film
A high-school dropout, [Scott] began work in the movie business as a projectionist and his confidence and intelligence drove him on from there.
– Scott Neeson steps up the fight to protect Cambodia’s poor children, The Australian, 2014
Scott Neeson spent 26 years in the film industry, where he eventually served as President of 20th Century Fox International. While Scott was at Fox, he managed revenues in excess of $1.5 billion, as well as oversaw the release and marketing of hundreds of blockbuster films including Braveheart, Titanic, Star Wars and X-Men.
– Scott Neeson receives the Variety International Children’s Fund Humanitarian Award, Variety.org, 2016
The Trip that Changed Everything
After a five-week vacation through Asia in 2003, his life changed dramatically. Scott visited the poorest area of Phnom Penh, where he found women and children rummaging through burning garbage dumps for scraps they could sell for money.
“It shattered my world, walking from the best parts of LA to the apocalypse,” he said.
“It was incredibly hot and the stench was overwhelming.”
“Children as young as three with no food, no clothes and nowhere warm to stay.”
– Christ Church welcomes Scott Neeson, Christ Church Grammar School, 2016
The Big Move
When [Scott] flew back on a return trip to the garbage dump, preparing to begin an organization to help the children there, his cell phone rang. It was a particular Hollywood star’s agent and the star, both on the phone in a rage because their private jet wasn’t stocked with the right food. The contrast between what he was seeing and what he was hearing was unbearable. The actor on the phone said, “My life wasn’t meant to be this difficult.”
He felt a physical revulsion.
“If I wanted a moment to show me how ludicrous my Hollywood life was, there it was,” Neeson said. He flew home determined to completely change his life. By the end of 2004, he had resigned and sold nearly all his possessions to raise money to start the Cambodian Children’s Fund.
– The Ex-Mogul Who Saves Kids, A blog post about Scott Neeson, Huffington Post, 2013
Since 2004, CCF has been working with some of the most impoverished communities in Cambodia, centered around the former garbage dump at Steung Meanchey. Today there are more than 2,200 students working towards a better future for themselves and their families through CCF’s award winning education program.
The garbage dump was closed in 2009, however the need for CCF’s services continues as Steung Meanchey remains an entry-point into Phnom Penh for destitute families with no option but to try and make a living through scavenging or begging on the city streets.
Through a range of programs that focus on 6 core areas – Education, Leadership, Community Outreach, Healthcare, Childcare and Vocational Training – CCF takes a holistic, on-the-ground approach to developing integrated solutions to the complex issues of poverty.
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