Flight Centre, CCT & You: Sponsor A Child By Christmas

15 November 2015

Sponsor a child with the Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT) between now and Christmas, and you could win a five-day trip for two to Cambodia, including the opportunity to visit CCT’s headquarters in Battambang and meet the team.

“The 100KidsbyXmas campaign is our goal to get 100 kids sponsored by Christmas,” says CCT’s Marnie Walters. “Everyone who signs up as a sponsor and every existing supporter who gets a friend to sign up will go in the draw to win a trip to Cambodia donated by Flight Centre. We desperately need 100 new sponsors so we can continue our work in 2016.”

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The charity, which is proudly supported by Flight Centre Foundation (FCF), does much to support vulnerable children and their families.

“We have a holistic range of educational, community outreach and social enterprise programs,” Marnie says.

CCT’s community outreach work includes youth centres, family support, daycare, a medical program and a reintegration program.

The youth centres enrol the children in school, provide supplementary education, nutritious meals, clean drinking water, shower facilities, medical treatment and counselling. They also provide crisis intervention services, preventing children from being trafficked, subjected to child labour or from ending up in orphanages.

“We're working with close to 200 of the most vulnerable children in Battambang,” Marnie says.

“We try to provide them with all of their needs – health care, social work, dental, nutritional – while still having them based in a family,” she says.

 Time for a check-up. Picture: Cambodian Children's Trust

“Our work is based on the premise that there are three tiers of support that people need to get out of poverty. Having your basic needs met – we make sure that the kids we’re working with have access to clean drinking water, medical care, nutrition, a safe home, protection from abuse, the real basics of life.

“Then the next stage is really education – once people have their basic needs met, we believe that people need education before they can improve their own lives to break the cycle of poverty. We provide support for all the children in our program to attend public school.”

In Cambodia, children go to school for half a day. The children in CCT’s programs then go to supplementary classes with CCT.

“If children don’t show up, we’ll go out and work with the families and see what’s going on, if there’s anything wrong,” Marnie says.

 The preschool benefits older siblings as well. Picture: Cambodian Children's Trust

“One of the the main reasons kids weren’t coming to school was that they had to stay home and look after younger siblings while their parents worked. So we set up the preschool, which operates six days a week, and there are 25 children there aged three to six.”

CCT’s educational programs are far-reaching – from the School in the Cloud classroom to Information Communication Technology (ICT) classes, academic classes, life skills, physical education and cultural activities.

“The third step – people need good jobs. That’s where we’re really excited about our social enterprise – we run a restaurant which is usually rated No.1 on Tripadvisor in the city that we live,” Marnie says.

The Jaan Bai (Rice Bowl) Restaurant in Battambang provides skills and employment for Khmer youth.

 Check out Jaan Bai restaurant on your travels. Picture: Cambodian Children's Trust

“There’s really quite a wide range of programs that all fit together but with the focus really being on helping children break out of the cycle of poverty without removing young people from their families.”

FCF has provided support for CCT’s crucial medical outreach program, which provides healthcare to the children in CCT's programs and their families.

“We’ve been really excited to have Flight Centre Foundation supporting CCT this year,” Marnie says.

“You’re looking at more than 300 people that have access to medical care through this program. That includes vaccinations, emergency treatment for children or adults who have accidents. It also includes supporting a number of people in our programs who have long-term illnesses like HIV, and it also includes a lot of preventative healthcare workshops.

“And there are two full-time nurses that Flight Centre Foundation support enables us to provide – teaching pre-schoolers about handwashing, dental hygiene workshops, tooth-brushing, and providing first aid training to the staff.


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“When I first came on board in 2010, we were working with all these street children. About 120 of them would come to our centre each day for help. They weren’t in school because they were having to go out during the day and collect rubbish to sell to help their families. They all had head lice, most had infected scabies, impetigo, were really underweight, a lot of sinus infections and bad coughs, parasites, tummy bugs. Five years later after the development of our intensive medical outreach program, it’s really quite amazing – they are incredibly beautiful, healthy, happy kids.”

 A brave Flight Centre staffer undergoes waxing to raise funds.

FCF General Manager Anita Russell says that in addition to the 100KidsbyXmas prize, the foundation had committed $30,000 a year, which funds about half of CCT’s medical outreach program.

“We are incredibly proud to be able to help such a vital CCT program,” Anita says. “Good health is fundamental, underpinning the effectiveness of CCT’s other programs – if a child is fed and healthy, they can learn, grow and develop to their full potential.”

Flight Centre staff also help in other ways.

“Our team in South Australia recently held the Shave or Wax Challenge,” Anita says. “Brave volunteers either shaved or waxed their hair to raise funds towards vaccinating kids via the medical outreach program. There were some very interesting new looks and some pain thresholds severely tested!”

The Flight Centre technology team also reconfigured some superseded laptops for CCT, and groups of employees regularly visit CCT’s operations in Battambang.

“Seeing firsthand how (CCT Managing Director) Tara (Winkler) and the team are working together with the community to build brighter futures for the kids is a life-changing experience for anyone lucky enough to visit them," Anita says.

What’s Next

CCT is growing its School in the Cloud program, which draws inspiration from Sugata Mitra’s pioneering TED Talk on the self-directed learning revolution. It now has a dedicated classroom where children use computers to explore big questions such as “Will robots be conscious one day?”, developing language and IT skills along the way.

 The ICT classes are a hit with students. Picture: Cambodian Children's Trust

CCT has also completed a pilot phase of its ICT program, which introduced about 330 children to computer and programming skills at Battambang’s largest public school. “Our goal is for this program to be implemented into the entire Cambodian public school curriculum and teacher training curriculum within five years.”

Get Involved

If you want to help Cambodian children break free from the cycle of poverty and become educated, ethical and empowered leaders, here’s how.

  • Sign up as a sponsor for the #100KidsByXmas campaign. “Last year Flight Centre helped us out fantastically – we actually ended up getting 125 new sponsors,” Marnie says, “but the Australian dollar is low and our budget has been hit hard – we really need to meet our goal and get 100 new sponsors; so far we have 14.”

  • Make a gift to the Flight Centre Foundation. All of FCF’s operating costs are covered by Flight Centre Travel Group, maximising the impact of your donation. Donations support CCT and similar key programs at the foundation’s five other charity partners.
  • Educate yourself and others about the unintended consequences of orphanage ‘voluntourism’, which can include exploitation of vulnerable children, and harm to the local economy. CCT says most children in Cambodian orphanages are not orphans – they come from poor families, where parents place them in care in the hope they will have a better life, contributing to family breakdown.
  • Engage with CCT on social media. “Reading what we’re up to and sharing things online is a really great way to help us share important messages and help people learn about our work,” Marnie says.
  • Become a School In The Cloud ‘granny’. Register as a granny and talk children through their lessons via Skype.
  • Visit the Jaan Bai restaurant on your travels, supporting local employment, while enjoying fantastic Cambodian food.

* Prize terms and conditions apply. Visits to CCT are conducted in line with CCT's Child Protection Policy.

Renae Spinks

Travel for me is about conversations and connections. There’s nothing like setting foot in a new land and meeting people a world apart. From talking to North Sea fishermen in Norway’s Lofoten Islands to breakfast chat at a B&B in my own back yard, there’s always a story to share and a tale to tell.