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Empowering children through education in Cambodia

10 Dec 2018

From his home in Hong Kong, technology has enabled David Sit to mentor two Cambodian children, meeting with them on a regular basis via Skype to discuss school, their lives, practice speaking English and talk about their plans and dreams for the future. 

David, who works in Macquarie’s Hong Kong office, also regularly donates money to enable the children’s education, which is matched by the Macquarie Group Foundation. His inspiration came from Hollywood executive turned founder of the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), Scott Neeson. 

“Scott took a sabbatical trip to Cambodia where he saw hundreds of children and their families living and working at the Steung Meanchey garbage dump on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, one of the most toxic environments imaginable,” says David. 

“It was a moment that changed his life.” 

Scott quit his Hollywood job, sold his possessions and decided to focus his energy and passion into the Cambodian Children’s Fund, which provides access to education in Cambodia.

“I think this is something a lot of us would like to do, but very few will have the guts to do it,” says David. 

David met Scott at an event and decided to get involved. He has volunteered his time to mentor students, alongside organising fundraising events and even traveling to Cambodia where he had the opportunity to meet his students in person and visit the schools and facilities that CCF has helped build. 

“Empowering children and young people through education is crucial,” says David. 

CCF recognises that many families need their children to work for the family rather than go to school, so they can contribute to financially to their household. 

“CCF provide free healthcare, childcare, loan programs, food and nutrition programs, housing and emergency support services, and by doing so, they incentivise children’s education in impoverished communities.” 

“They make sure that a mother never has to choose between sending a child to school and putting food on the table,” says David. 

“The results have been incredible, with CCF having some of their students go from living in a garbage dump in Cambodia to a being accepted into a university in Australia for example.” 

As well as school education, CCF run a range of initiatives, from the ‘Granny Program’ in which grandparents play an essential role passing on the wisdom, the knowledge and the memories having lived through the civil war under the Khmer Rouge. 

“Over a third of the Cambodian population was killed during this genocide so this is important to pass down the knowledge of what happened during that tragic time,” says David. 

Another initiative is the Maternal Care Program through which CCF provides support for pregnant women living around the garbage dump as Cambodia has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rate regionally. 

Recently Macquarie donated close to 150 computers and monitors to CCF and held a photography fundraising event to cover the cost of freight and shipment (from Singapore to Cambodia), plus a donation to the charity. 

The photography exhibition included photos David had taken on his trip to Cambodia. The event raised nearly 110,000 HKD, including Macquarie Group Foundation matching. 

“The photos David took on this recent trip to Cambodia were heart-warming and beautiful, so it made sense for these images to feature in our fundraising event,” says Jeffrey Shiu, from Macquarie’s Hong Kong Office and Macquarie Group Foundation Committee member. 

“It was an incredible success, and as a board member of CCF I know the impact this funding will have on the student’s lives.” 

As well as the physical computers and monitors, over the next six months, staff from Macquarie will also be conducting lessons over Skype to teach CCF students different computer skills.

Image caption: David Sit (third from left) pictured with school children in a recent visit to Cambodia. 

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