Sometime later this year, Dan Roberts hopes to travel from the UK to Cambodia again to visit the two boys he sponsors through Cambodian Children’s Fund, meeting one for the first time.
Dan has been to CCF in Phnom Penh a few times but this trip will be extra special. It will be the first meeting in person with Dara, the second boy he sponsors through CCF.
Due to COVID, Dan hasn't been able to fly out to see him. So for now, they’ve had to get to know each other through video calls and emails.
He’s already met Sopheak, his other sponsored child.
"I was lucky enough to be at CCF for his 5th and 6th birthdays. My intention was to get out every year but with Covid we’vd had to rely on FaceTime recently," says Dan.
Every time I see an email from one of them, it brings a smile to my face, however bad my day might have been.
By sponsoring a child through CCF, Dan is giving the gift of an education and helping lift families out of poverty.
Without sponsorship, these children living in one of the most impoverished parts of Cambodia would never have the opportunity to go to school.
“Every time I see an email from one of them, it brings a smile to my face, however bad my day might have been. The connection is very special,” says Dan.
“I knew almost nothing about Cambodia before visiting as a tourist. Now I have a real affection for the country and its people, and I’m happy to be able to help in some way,” says Dan.
Dan, who lives in London, first visited Cambodia as part of a trip around SouthEast Asia and was struck by the sight of children working selling souvenirs around tourist attractions rather than being in school.
Back home, he did some research and realized he’d only seen the tip of the iceberg.
“Understanding more about the extent of poverty in the country, I decided to find a charity to support, and that’s when I came across CCF online,” he says.
CCF ticked all the boxes - the main criteria being a model that demonstrated real impact tackling poverty with the most effective use of resources on the ground - and the Sponsorship Program offered the level of commitment he wanted.
“CCF’s one-to-one sponsorship model really appealed to me, as it gives a true connection between the sponsor and the child,” says Dan.
“It’s a relationship that grows over time and allows you to really become part of their development, while letting them know you’re in their corner.”
He saw me and came running over, jumped into my arms, and wouldn’t let me put him down
In 2019, Dan visited CCF for the first time appearing as a special guest at little Sopheak’s 5th birthday.
The highlight of his sponsor experience so far, he says, was the second visit to CCF the following year.
“I’d only met Sopheak for an hour previously, and I really didn’t think he would remember me,” recalls Dan.
“Scott [Neeson], CCF’s founder, was kind enough to give me a tour of one of the schools, and we happened to pass through an area where Sopheak was playing outdoors with friends. He saw me and came running over, jumped into my arms, and wouldn’t let me put him down for a good while! It was a really special moment and shows how much having a sponsor means to the kids.”
During the trip, Dan also had time to take a tour of CCF, stopping by schools, the Community Centre, and the Divine Community World Housing project, where he met some of CCF's famous grannies.
Dan was so impressed with CCF that he decided to sponsor a second child, Dara, now aged 15.
“I knew with another sponsorship I’d be making a real difference to another young life. I’m really looking forward to meeting him next time I’m in Cambodia,” he says.
Having a sponsor gives the kids another person who cares, who they grow to know personally, who encourages them to try their best, and who celebrates their successes with them.
Watching them grow up, Dan has a front seat to watch the transformation of their lives.
The difference that your sponsorship makes is so clear
With CCF’s support, hundreds of children who would never have a day at school are receiving a high quality education with many progressing to university.
“The difference that your sponsorship makes is so clear. I find it really rewarding,” says Dan.
“It will not only enrich their life, but also yours.
“All parents want the best for their children, but families in Cambodia are often faced with a choice of sending their kids to school or being able to eat - it really comes down to survival. By providing a whole package of support services, CCF takes the burden off parents and allows these kids to reach their true potential.”