Leading The Way
Un Seng Hoarng and her contemporaries are the first generation of CCF students now giving back to their communities and leading from the front
As she looks ahead to a bright and promising future, Un Seng Hoarng will never forget where she has come from.
Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) has given her access to an education and the opportunity of a scholarship to study in Australia, and now she wants to help others to have the same chances that she did.
I am giving back to my community because it’s where I belong. It’s my home
Seng Hoarng, 21, has begun donating AUD $15 (USD $12) a month to CCF to give back. She wants to repay the investment placed in her and, in turn, put her faith in children in the same position as she once was.
“I think if you can, give back to your community. Not only to your community but your country and the world,” says Seng Hoarng.
“I am giving back to my community because it’s where I belong. It’s my home. It feels good to help where you come from.
“Here [in Melbourne] $15 is the cost of one meal but back home, it can help buy three or four meals.”
Seng Hoarng won a scholarship to Trinity College, part of the University of Melbourne, in 2018, one of six CCF students to become Trinity Scholars. She is now in the first year of a degree majoring in psychology at the prestigious university.
Her actions are validation of CCF’s model and the vision to create a generation of young leaders capable of instigating change in the Cambodian communities that they grew up in and beyond.
I am in a position to help in a small way now
The ripple effect will hopefully inspire others to do the same for their communities and country.
Seng Hoarng may be 6,887km away but retains a deep connection to the communities of Steung Meanchey, where CCF works and where she lived from the age of eight after joining CCF.
When 52 families were left homeless after a fire swept through CCF’s Sambok Chab area in March 2019, Seng Hoarng donated AUD $50 (USD $39) to the crisis appeal to rebuild the community.
“I am in a position to help in a small way now,” says Seng Hoarng.
“Doing social things makes you feel positive. It starts when you help your friends from the beginning, just to be there for them, then it grows to where you think you can start giving back to your community.”
In the future, Seng Hoarng also plans to give back to her country by helping establish wider access to psychological services in Cambodia.
We have to be the ones to help others
She is not the only CCF alumni starting to give back.
Former CCF student Sol Phearum, 22, has also set up a monthly donation to CCF to give some of the most impoverished children in Cambodia a better life, as CCF did for him.
Phearum joined CCF when he was seven years old. 15 years later, now working and living independently, he’s in a position to contribute in a small way to the new generation. His CCF journey has now come full circle.
“I think it’s important that we all give back if we can. We have to be the ones to help others,” says Phearum.
Helping students fulfill their potential is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job
Some former CCF students are making a difference by becoming CCF staff, working to directly impact lives in the communities where they once lived.
Soeurn LaySeng was nine years and earning money by picking rubbish to sell when she joined CCF, and her life changed forever. From scavenging to survive every day, she was able to access education and learn Khmer, English, and even begin art classes.
Now 27, and married to an American, Sean, with a two-year-old daughter, Jessica, LaySeng is working as a Leadership Assistant with CCF, helping shape the next generation of young CCF leaders, as well as working with CCF’s Granny Program.
“I couldn't do anything other than this to give back but I'm trying and working so hard to help CCF as much as possible,” says LaySeng, about her motivation to work for CCF.
“I love working with CCF students and elders in the community. Helping students fulfill their potential is one of the most rewarding aspects of this job.”
CCF has had a huge influence on her life and continues to provide daily inspiration in her work and personal life.
“I have two people who are my idols since I started with CCF as a child until now, Scott Neeson (CCF’s Founder and Executive Director) and Sister Channoeurn (Kram Sok Channoeurn, CCF’s Country Manager),” says LaySeng.
“They raised me more than my parents did because I spent more of my life with CCF than I did with my family.
“I won’t forget about CCF my entire life. I can't imagine my life without CCF.”
Having our own students donate back to us is a wonderful tribute
Heuv Nhanh, 26, is giving back by supporting his family.
At 10 years old, Nhanh was also living and working on the Steung Meanchey garbage dump.
With CCF’s support, Nhanh went to school and college, and is now working as a director at a Cambodian entertainment and production company.
He has paid to build his parents a house in the province they left almost 15 years before, so they could finally move away from the area around the former dumpsite (which closed in 2009).
To me, having our own students donate back to us is a wonderful tribute,” said Scott Neeson, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director.
“They know the work of CCF and to donate from their own limited funds means the world to me.
“From the poorest of families through education and leadership to an independent life and now to be giving back to CCF feels like the final piece of the cycle"
Seng Hoarng, Phearum and Nhanh were all active in CCF’s Leadership Program, which aims to create passionate, well-rounded and engaged young leaders who will work to transform the world around them.
The program provides more than 900 students with the key qualities that a young leader needs to make a difference. They also undertake volunteer community work, such as teaching younger kids, and caring for the grannies and grandpas in CCF’s communities.
In turn, they can be role models for younger CCF students coming up behind.
Seng Hoarng is a guiding hand for current CCF leadership student, Koiy Vannak, providing mentorship and a listening ear.
One of the things that inspired me to help others…is because of what I got from CCF
When Vannak recently set up a fundraiser on his own initiative to attend an online UN children’s conference, she donated to help him secure his place.
“I talk to Vannak regularly about his goals. We share with each other,” says Seng Hoarng.
“He’s a great friend and a young leader who has a bright future.
“One of the things that inspired me to help others, like Vannak and my friends as well, is because of what I got from CCF.”