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
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"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:
• Sign up to receive a weekly selection of practical and inspiring Change Agent articles by clicking here.