Scott Neeson: From Hollywood highs to Cambodia’s slum kids
In Scott Neeson’s stellar career, he went from being a poor young immigrant in Australia working as a projectionist in a drive-in movie theater to a top Hollywood marketing executive. He had a house in Brentwood, a Porsche, and even an actress girlfriend. When he left his job as president of 20th Century Fox International in 2003 to take an even better job with Sony, he decided to take a five-week break to travel. He ended up visiting Cambodia’s Steung Meanchey garbage dump, which he describes as the “single most impactful moment” of his life.
What he saw there left him dumbstruck and aghast: over 1,500 children, many gravely ill, combing 11 hectares of a fetid dump in temperatures of up to 55°C just to survive. On encountering a mother and her two children in dire straits, he decided to help and discovered that, with a relatively small expenditure of time and money, he could change the course of their lives.
Little did he know at the time that his act of kindness would change the course of his own life as well. He soon quit his Hollywood job and moved to Phnom Penh to found the Cambodia Children’s Fund, which helps children and families with basic needs, such as housing, education, and healthcare.
Since then, Scott has dedicated 12 years to helping Cambodia’s poorest children. Most recently, he opened an academy where the older ones can study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics on the very site where it all began – the Steung Meanchey dump, which closed in 2009.