In memory of Hoin
CCF’S Community Head, Leanghoin Hoy, passed away in May suddenly at the age of 38 after suffering an acute hemorrhagic stroke. The heart and soul of CCF, he will leave a lasting legacy behind in the work he did for vulnerable children and families in Cambodia. Here we remember him
As CCF’s Community Outreach manager, Leanghoin Hoy oversaw a team operating at the sharp end of CCF’s operations, working on the ground to provide assistance to some 3,500 people living in some of Cambodia’s most impoverished communities.
Hoin - as we all knew him - was based in a small office from the Community Outreach’s building situated in the heart of the area where CCF works centered around the former dumpsite in Steung Meanchey.
But more often than not, Hoin was not to be found sitting behind his desk.
He was at his happiest out on the ground, directly working and interacting with, the children and families, many in desperate situations, who needed CCF’s vital support services. This was where Hoin felt he was needed most, where he could do his job the best, forging relationships and seeing with his own eyes where crucial resources and support could be directed for maximum impact.
During the day, he could be meeting children and their families; discussing new admissions to the CCF program; deciding which deserving families would receive housing; or even handing out a barefoot child’s first ever pair of shoes.
Whatever the weather, Hoin and his Community Outreach team would be working tirelessly, night and day, to help the vulnerable.
As dusk fell, he would head out into the community for what he called his “walk through the village.”
This was his almost nightly ritual, tramping through the dusty, potholed lanes, down rubbish-strewn alleyways, in the communities, checking up on some of the thousands of children and families under CCF care. There would be perhaps a mum and her newborn to visit; a child who had missed school that day; or a family struggling to make ends meet.
Invariably, he would be joined by a handful of CCF children, his ‘bodyguards’ as he jokingly referred to them, following him around on these regular excursions.
Bong Hoin, as he was called by his team - a Khmer term of respect to an elder or superior - was born on 5 April 1982 the eldest of six children in rural Cambodia’s Kompong Thom province, roughly halfway between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
After graduating from the local high school, he left his parents and five younger sisters to attend university in Phnom Penh. He would later complete a PhD and Master’s Degree in Social Work from St Elizabeth University of Health and Social Services.
Hoin started his first job in 2003, growing his chosen path in different NGOs before joining CCF in 2012. An early photograph of Hoin with a child is pictured here.
Hoin was dedicated to his job and CCF’s children and their parents, who he called his “beloved extended families”, devoting his time and energy, sacrificing his free time and often weekends to be ever present.
He was known for his smile, laugh and easy manner, who instantly put anyone - from abandoned children to VIP visitors - at ease. Firm but fair, he was considered a gentle but strong man, who never judged, and always looked for, and brought out, the good in others. His kindness was endless, his heart was open, and his personality always unflappable, even in the most testing of situations.
Hoin created a model of community relations that surpassed all expectations.
"Making our community members part of a large, interdependent family, with openness, trust, and with an absence of judgment,” says CCF Founder & Executive Director, Scott Neeson.
“From abandoned newborns to centenarians, Hoin brought them under the caring wing of CCF like they were his family. He was the heart and soul of the community, the unofficial "Mayor of the Landfill" and embodied what so many of us aspire to be.”
Hoin was Scott’s right-hand man, at his side out in the community, at events and official occasions.
When Hoin reached his 5 year anniversary with CCF, it was Scott who presented him with his award of recognition.
Hoin’s undoubted bond with CCF’s students and community children was evident for all to see and a pure joy to witness.
But the most remarkable relationship of all was the one Hoin shared with CCF’s grannies, the formidable elders of the community.
He was a central figure in their lives, leading the Granny Program and the Adult Learner’s Literacy Program, which gave many grannies a chance to attend school for the first time in their lives.
Hoin would watch on profoundly moved as women in their 60s, 70s and even 80s, who had never studied before, stepped up on stage in full graduation gowns at CCF’s Neeson Cripps Academy to accept their certificates, and later join them for official graduation photos.
He also arranged trips out for the grannies - funded by generous CCF supporters and donors either individually or from fundraising events such as the Hong Kong Gala.
There was a trip to see their Khmer heritage at the famous Angkor Wat temples and to see the sea, for the first time for some of the grannies, on Cambodia’s coast of Sihanoukville, as well as camping amid the lush forests of Kirirom National Park and travelling up Bokor Mountain, which has both religious and culture significance, and regular trips to the swimming pool.
Hoin was also there during some of the most testing times for CCF, such as the fire that destroyed one of our communities in Sambok Chab in March last year, leaving 52 families homeless after the blaze burnt the entire community to the ground. Miraculously, everyone escaped safely and without serious injury.
He was also there nine months later when a new community, built on the same land, rose from the ashes, though ever modest he kept in the background at the official opening attended by His Excellency Hun Manet and his wife, Her Excellency Pich Chanmony, Khoung Sreng, the Governor of Phnom Penh, and Oknha Leang Khun.
Hoin was never afraid to roll his sleeves up and get stuck into dirty work when the need arose (always immaculately dressed, as ever).
His contribution to CCF and to the welfare of Cambodian’s impoverished communities were recognised.
There were royal audiences with King Norodom Sihamoni and Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, the Queen Mother, at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh (pictured with Scott Neeson and CCF’s Country Manager Kram Sok Channoeurn), as well as a meeting with in February to celebrate the birthday of His Holiness Samdach Bour Kry, the leader of Buddhism in Cambodia.
Hoin would also host Her Royal Highness Princess Samdech Reach Botrei Preah Anoch Norodom Arunrasmy, a great supporter of CCF, when we had the honour of her visiting CCF’s events such as the Adult Literacy Graduation and CCF facilities.
His work in the field of social work saw him awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Morality Social Works from the International University of Morality.
When he had spare time, Hoin liked to escape to the fresh air, enjoying hikes in the countryside, cycling and camping. He was also a keen traveller, recently visiting Kuala Lumpur and China.
He also ran the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon and 10km run several times with members of his Community Outreach team.
Phann Samnang, a member of the Community Outreach team, had worked with Hoin for five years.
"I felt very confident, joyful and energetic working with him, as he was a great leader to me," says Samnang (pictured above with Hoin and another colleague).
"He always liked to share credit with his colleagues and look for solutions together. He was open-minded, kind and friendly. People used to say Hoin was gentle but firm. His motivation made us work tirelessly."
A hero in the eyes of those he helped, Hoin will be sorely missed by so many.
"Losing Hoin is a big sadness for everyone such as colleagues, students, community people, and grannies," says Hoin's colleague Samnang.
For me, losing Hoin is not only losing a great leader, but it is like losing a lovely brother and a best friend.
"These people will miss his smile, his kindness to everyone, especially his big dedication to make a better change for their family's future.
But his spirit will live on in the thousands of children and families that crossed his path in CCF’s communities, and his legacy with the work of CCF will see a new generation of children bring an end to the cycle of poverty that trapped their parents and grandparents.