Cambodia’s Hollywood Dad

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Scott Neeson went from being a poor young immigrant from Scotland, working as a projectionist in a drive-in movie theater to becoming a top Hollywood movie industry executive. By worldly standards he had it all: a beautiful house in Brentwood, a fancy car, and a gorgeous girlfriend. When he got an offer in 2003 to work at Sony, he gladly left his job as president of 20th Century Fox International.

However, before taking on the new position, he decided to take a five-week break to travel and learn more about the world.

Call it destiny, but for some reason Neeson ended up visiting Cambodia’s Steung Meanchey garbage dump, and his whole life changed. He describes that first impression as the “single most impactful moment” of his life. He called it The Apocalypse. You’re looking at eleven hectares of garbage and 1,500 children living there, collecting garbage, eating garbage, sleeping there and barely surviving.

Scott realized that for a very small amount of money he could change these people’s lives. But he didn’t just walk around handing out spare change, he sent the children to school and made sure the parents got a means to provide for their families.

At first he thought he could go back to his high-paying job and send his excess money to continue helping the people of Cambodia. But then he realized that he needed to quit, sell his belongings and change his address indefinitely to the garbage dump.

And so it came to be that in 2004 Scott Neeson moved to Phnom Penh and set up the Cambodian Children’s Fund.

A few years later he noticed a growing problem of child abuse all across the country and that led him to invest in an organization that would investigate the abuse and protect vulnerable children in Cambodia.

Scott built schools in the slums and has been able to get up to 90% of the children in the community to go to school. The other 10% aren’t yet able to attend for various reasons including the fact that their families are too dysfunctional.

Scott Neeson never finished high school and because of that had to work much harder than others to get to where he was. He admits that he had everything, but in retrospect, he understands that it’s very possible to have everything and still have nothing.