Jan 29th, 2021 01/29/21 | Community Stories

The Graduates

11 more proud CCF students have graduated from university, taking the total number of graduates to more than 100. But celebrations at CCF have had to put on hold for a while due to COVID

As one of the CCF’s 2020 university graduates, Heng Theara is proof of the remarkable power of education to transform lives and change futures. And she’s also playing a part in making a CCF milestone.

Squre 00 00 15 12 Still001

With Theara and 10 more graduates in 2020, the number of CCF students gaining a university degree has surpassed 100. The total now stands at 105.

Among these graduates are some of the first children to be rescued from the toxic Steung Meanchey garbage dump in 2004/5, which makes their achievements even more outstanding.

Among these graduates are some of the first children to be rescued from the toxic Steung Meanchey garbage dump in 2004/5, which makes their achievements even more outstanding.

Usually CCF would mark Theara and her fellow graduates' achievements with a graduation ceremony at the Neeson Cripps Academy - CCF’s flagship education facility located in the heart of the Steung Meanchey community Unfortunately this had to be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Celebrations will hopefully be held later in the year when it is safe to do so.

Children like Theara, who has been with CCF for 12 years, are given opportunities through education to fulfil their potentials and escape the cycle of poverty that trapped their parents.

From once having little hope of escaping a life of deprivation, she has just graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and already has a job as her first steps to independence begin.


Theara’s story is one shared by many CCF students who have overcome adversity. After difficult starts in life among the most marginalized communities in Cambodia, they have all made the most of chances to lift themselves up and escape the fate once destined for them.

Empowered by education, they will be the last generation to know a life of poverty.

decorative quotation mark

I was a poor kid living in the province. My family couldn’t afford to send me to school. My aim has been to study to get a good education so that I can get a good job and support my family.

— Heng Theara

Theara, 22, who joined CCF in March 2008, singles out CCF’s Education and Leadership Programs as being central to equipping her with the academic skills and self-confidence to get into university.

“Starting university is a new life with a lot of responsibility to make our own decisions,” says Theara.

“I faced many difficult challenges over the four years of my degree. I am not very good at drawing, which was my biggest hurdle. So, I practiced day and night in order to catch up with the other students and improve my work.“


The hard work paid off. Theara graduated with a top grade in Graphic Design from the Royal University of Fine Art in Phnom Penh.

Her fellow CCF graduates of 2020 gained degrees in a variety of subjects, including Accounting, IT, Management, Computer Science and Hospitality & Tourism Management.

Theara is now working as a graphic designer for a private health clinic in Phnom Penh, and living independently.

“I’m very excited with what I have done so far, graduating university was one of my biggest goals,” says Theara.

Theara has also made her family happy - her proud mother bought her a bouquet of flowers to celebrate the graduation.

decorative quotation mark

I’m just starting the new page of my life and there is still more to achieve in the future

— Heng Theara

Since 2004, CCF has been providing a quality education to children like Theara, some among the most impoverished and neglected children in Cambodia. With the right education, a child’s potential is limitless.

“Witnessing such a transformation is a gift. The growth of Theara, in terms of academic achievement, confidence and leadership abilities speaks volumes of her resilience and ambition,” said Scott Neeson, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director.

CCF looks forward to commemorating the success of Theara and the other 2020 graduates later in the year.

“Behind my success, there are many people who support and encourage me,” says Theara. “I would like to thank Scott who gave me a chance to study and continue my dream. And, I would like to thank all supporters of CCF who have supported my education since the beginning.”

Untitled design
Written by

Kate Ginn

Community Stories

See all

All the best stories from our students, graduates, and CCF family members.