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Lions Roar : March 2017
Out of his own pocket, Neeson started giving the grand- mothers money and rice each week. Then he decided to make sure their wisdom was passed on to the younger generations. He developed a community youth leadership program, designed to give thirteen- to seventeen-year-olds a sense of responsibility, the ability to speak in public, and a voice to speak up for their rights. “It was also designed to teach empathy, which is sadly lack- ing here,” says Neeson. “Empathy tends to be one of the first casualties of poverty.” Youth are paired up with grandmothers, and are responsible for checking on them, getting them rice and medication and other things they need. This also encourages interaction between generations to help youth learn traditional values of Buddhism, family, and Cambodian culture. Maternal care is another a priority for CCF. “Last week, we had the one-thousandth birth and we have maintained a zero maternal death rate,” Neeson says. “It used to be about 6 or 7 percent on the garbage dump. We’ve never lost a mother.” The maternal care program includes blood tests, bringing in grandmothers to teach mothers about prenatal and postnatal care, and giving community youth the responsibility to report domestic violence. CCF pays for hospital stays for giving birth, and the mother receives a “Welcome Home Baby Pack”— gloves, a hat, a washable mat, disinfectant, antiseptic, a mos- quito net, and more. “As well as being practical, it gives the mother a sense of pride,” says Neeson. “Normally a child would be something of a burden, possibly putting the family into debt. These days, when we have the postnatal training session, they’re all showing each other the babies proudly. I do all my oohs and ahs and take photographs. I have 165,000 photos on my computer.” Thanks to CCF, in the Steung Meanchey area of 12,000 people, most children now spend their days in the classroom, with a low absentee rate due to the benefits parents receive for keeping their children in school. CCF has built 400 homes for families with a Thanks to CCF, most children in this community of 12,000 are now in school. Here, students proudly display their work in the Early Childhood Education program. PHOTOSCOURTESYOFCAMBODIANCHILDREN’SFUND LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 42