I firmly believe that supporting Cambodia’s children, from nutrition to health care to education, is the best investment that we can make in this country’s future. The government and the international development community have a big role to play, of course, but charitable giving can also have a significant impact.
I am particularly proud that many U.S. citizens and companies are contributing to this team effort through donations of time, money, and talent to make a positive difference for Cambodia’s children. One excellent example is John and Cammie Rice – two Americans who are committed to improving education in Cambodia.
On Wednesday morning, Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung represented the Embassy at a ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Rice Academy – a new community-based education facility in Phum Russey run by a fantastic NGO called the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF). The Rice Academy is the result of the support of John and Cammie Rice, who are making a major investment in Cambodia’s youth. The Rice family’s contribution represents the spirit of giving that is an essential part of the character of the United States.
Thanks to their support, CCF will be able to provide quality education, healthcare, nourishment, and safe shelter to nearly 200 children living in one of Phnom Penh’s most impoverished areas – and do it in a sustainable way in partnership with the Cambodian government.
All in attendance at the Rice Academy launch were honored by the presence of two forward-looking government leaders: Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron and Minister of Commerce Sun Chantol. In his remarks, Minister Naron highlighted that supporting education for children requires the attention of not only governments and companies, but that every individual in the community has that responsibility. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers provide the foundations of love and encouragement. Both ministers have shown their commitment to implement the necessary reforms in their respective ministries to give young Cambodians more of the support they need to succeed in life.
John Rice is the Vice Chairman of General Electric (GE), which is one of the most famous and iconic U.S. companies. Like many U.S. businesses, GE has a long history of contributing to local communities around the world through its corporate social responsibility program. GE is particularly active in Cambodia. Since 2009, GE has contributed more than $9 million dollars in advanced medical equipment to hospitals throughout the country and also provided the necessary training for using the equipment. In Phnom Penh, GE has donated advanced ultra sound equipment, x-ray machines, ventilators, and patient monitors to Calmette Hospital. On Thursday of this week, GE launched its new Safe Water for Cambodian Health Facilities program, which will provide water purification filters, training, and research to improve the quality of water for up to ten hospitals and clinics. GE’s contributions are being used every day to save and improve lives of Cambodians.
I would also like to personally thank Scott Neeson, the executive director at CCF, and the many staff and volunteers for their commitment to the children of Cambodia. Scott left a successful career in the film business to dedicate his life to helping Cambodians. During my visit to CCF last year, I learned about the work that the organization is doing to provide quality education and other support services to underprivileged and vulnerable children so they can achieve their potential. Their community-based education model is a success because it also supports the students’ families. CCF believes that no mother should have to decide between sending her children to school and putting food on the table. I couldn’t agree more. CCF’s dedication to the children of Cambodia is truly inspirational.
I have no doubt that the Rice Academy will have a powerful and positive impact on the lives of the children of Phum Russey and for the future of Cambodia. There is a Khmer saying “tompaing snorng russey,” or “bamboo shoot is the future bamboo.” By helping these eager young “bamboo shoots” to grow, John and Cammie Rice are building a brighter future for all of Cambodia.