Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Difference Maker

Scott Neeson left Hollywood to save children rooting in Cambodia's garbage dumps

He sold his mansion, Porsche, and yacht and set off for Cambodia to provide food, shelter, and education to destitute children.

(Page 3 of 3)



He stops at a windowless cinder-block shanty inhabited by a mother and her three teenage daughters. The bare walls are adorned with Neeson's portraits of the girls in school beside their framed Best Student awards.

Skip to next paragraph

"I'm so proud of my children," says Um Somalin, a garment factory worker who earns $2 a day. "Mr. Scott has done wonders for them."

Neeson rescued one girl from being trafficked, another from domestic servitude, and the mother from a rubber plantation, after he had come across the youngest girl living alone at the dump. "We always bring the family back together," he says. "We help everyone so no one slips through the cracks."

The need is great: Life here can be unforgiving. "This girl has an abusive father. This one here fell into a fire when she was 6. That guy got shot. That one there lost an arm in an accident," Neeson says, reeling off details.

Then, flashlight in hand, he doubles back down another path – and steps into what seems like a different world. Behind a high-security fence, children sit in neat rows in brightly painted classrooms, learning English and math in evening classes. Others play on computers in an air-conditioned room.

Until recently, the site where Neeson's new school now stands was a garbage dump.

"When I started working for him, I was surprised how much he does for the children," says Chek Sarath, one of his helpers. "He places their well-being above his own."

Neeson stops by young children who have their eyes glued to a Disney cartoon playing from a DVD.

"I miss a lot about Hollywood," Neeson muses. "I miss Sundays playing paddle tennis on the beach with friends and taking the boat out to the islands.

"Sundays here, I'm down at the garbage dump. But I'm really happy."

• Learn more about Scott Neeson's work at www.cambodianchildrensfund.org.

Donate / get involved

UniversalGiving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations worldwide. Projects are vetted by UniversalGiving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause.

To support programs in Cambodia and elsewhere, UniversalGiving recommends:

Asia America Initiative builds peace, social justice, and economic development in impoverished, conflict-plagued communities. Project: Support a healing center for child victims of war.

Globe Aware promotes cultural awareness and sustainability. It seeks projects that will help people live happy, healthy, and independent lives. Project: Teach English in Cambodia.

Plan International USA works side by side with communities in 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children. Project: Give school supplies to children in need.

• Sign up to receive a weekly selection of practical and inspiring Change Agent articles by clicking here.

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!