Celebrations have been held for another 60 Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) students graduating from university to mark their incredible accomplishments.
The annual graduation ceremony had to be postponed for three years due to COVID, leaving some students waiting a long time for this moment.
It’s hard to express in words how it feels to stand here today and see you all graduating
A total of 141 CCF students have now graduated from university, some of whom once worked scavenging on the Steung Meanchey garbage dump. Most had never been to school before starting with CCF.
Education has been a pathway out of the generational poverty that has trapped their parents and grandparents, and their futures now shine bright.
It’s the end of their journey with CCF but the start of a new chapter in their lives.
Events were held at CCF’s Neeson Cripps Academy high school to celebrate the graduates from years 2020-22 with certificate presentations.
“It’s hard to express in words how it feels to stand here today and see you all graduating,” said Scott Neeson, CCF’s Founder and Executive Director.
“It’s been an amazing journey and it’s been an honor for me to go on that journey with you. You have made my life so joyful. I know that moving here [Cambodia, to start CCF] was the best thing that I have ever done.”
CCF student Kan Sattya, 26, who graduated in electrical engineering, spoke passionately on stage about the power of education to transform his life.
“I cannot imagine what my life would be like without CCF,” he has said.
“My age, in Cambodia, I would have a family, maybe right now I would be working on the dumpsite. I cannot thank CCF enough for giving me the chance to learn.”
Sattya’s wife, Sina, a fellow CCF student, has won a scholarship to study for a Master’s in Australia and will be leaving Cambodia in May. Sattya will join her later as they build a future together.
That chance was life changing for me
Without CCF, university was an impossible dream for these students and their incredible potential would have remained unfilled.
Sreyleap was helping her mum sell watermelons in her village when she was given the opportunity to study with CCF.
“That chance was life changing for me,” she said.
Over 18 years later, she has completed a degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.
“I remember the first day that I got to university, I was so excited,” said Sreyleap.
“It was a great feeling. A new chapter in my life.”
She broke down in tears as she thanked her mother, who joined her on stage, for supporting her wish to have an education.
“Thank you, ma, for trying to raise me up. I hope I am making you proud,” she said.
Sreyleap is now giving back, working in CCF’s Sponsorship Department and helping children who are in the same position that she once was.
Education can transform children from impoverished backgrounds and gender inequality means girls are often the ones who fall by the wayside.
CCF works to give all girls access to a high quality education, encouraging them to aim high.
Fellow CCF graduate Sokleang never imagined that she could achieve her aspiration of becoming a pharmacist.
“I came from a hard background with domestic violence. I could not express myself, I was scared. I spoke to no one,” she said.
Joining CCF changed her life.
She has graduated with two degrees, in Pharmacy and English, and is now working at the Ministry of Health as a pharmaceutical analyst.