:: Difference Makers are those using what’s in their hand to make a difference in this world ::
Sam Cooper is the founder and president of the Cambodian Kids Foundation (CKF), a not-for-profit, non-political, + non-religious organization, empowering the future of Cambodia.
CKF aims to eduate + empower the people of Cambodia through a number of projects to ensure maximum sustainability + success. They believe that in order to change the future for the better, they must nurture + empower the youngest generation; the next leaders of Cambodia.
And this all started with Sam when she founded the organization in 2006 at 16 years of age….
// Who are some of your inspirations + why?
I’m most inspired by the people that I work with both in Cambodia + Australia.
In Cambodia it’s the everyday people who are working two jobs, caring for their children, looking after their parents + grandparents, + trying to give their families the very best they can. Those people inspire me to keep working hard.
In Australia our team is amazing. Everyone is young, motivated, dedicated + loads of fun. It’s so refreshing to work with a group of people that encourage the ideas of young people + really do believe in the work we are doing. Young people have it tough. A lot of older people don’t think that young people have much to contribute to society + our world, but I know young people have the power to do anything. Anyone who agrees with this statement also inspires me!
// When did you first become interested in Cambodia + this field of work?
Working in Cambodia was not really planned. It was kind of thrust upon me by the world, but I’m glad it was. I was travelling around South East Asia with my mum, who is my biggest support, + when we got to Cambodia it had such an effect on me that I felt like working there + helping the people was just something I was supposed to do with my life.
I know a lot of people say it’s luck where you were born, that it’s all up to chance whether or not you are born above or below the poverty line, but I like to think that there is a reason for our life + a purpose. And I think there is no better purpose for a person’s life than to help others. Helping other people is not limited to helping in third world countries of course; making anyone’s life easier, better + more beautiful is the very best thing anyone can do.
So now this is my life. Cambodia is where most of my heart is + that’s where it will stay.
// What is it that keeps drawing you back there?
The People. They are so grateful, inspiring and kind hearted.
The reason why our projects are so successful is because of the Khmer People; our projects are set up so that families can get as much as they give.
If they work hard to make their lives better, then their lives will improve through our programs.
We don’t give hand outs, we give hand ups + it’s the responsibility of the families we work with to use their hand up in a way that will benefit their families. Seeing people working hard to keep the work we started going is really amazing. It makes us want to help more + offer more opportunities; which means working harder + fundraising more here in Australia. But when you know it’s all worth it + it’s working the way it’s supposed to, you really don’t mind how many hours you work for the foundation.
// What’s one lesson you’ve learnt from doing this so far?
Oh gosh, what haven’t I learnt? I guess some of the most important things that I have learnt are:
That people have the power to do everything + anything they want.
That dreams can + do come true.
That working hard brings good things.
That judgments and prejudices only narrow our minds + make us smaller people.
That the smallest acts of kindness can cause ripple effects + create something amazing in people.
// If someone has a dream, or wants to step out + make a difference, what would you say to them?
I say go for it. You have no idea how many negative people there are in this world until you start doing something positive. Negative people are a challenge, but you have to just ignore them, you just have to go with your heart and your dreams + not look back.
When I founded the Cambodian Kids Foundation in 2006 I was 16 years old. Everyone said it couldn’t be done + that it was naive + stupid of me to even try.
To date CKF has built 2 schools, 2 kindergartens, a medical clinic, a women’s run beauty salon + training centre, a number of sustainable income projects for families + so much more. On a day-to-day basis we work with over 2000 people.
If I’d listened to negative people back in 2006, CKF wouldn’t exist, all these people wouldn’t have the opportunities they now do, + maybe not all the people we work with would be here today. CKF has made a difference in so many peoples lives + it makes me proud to know that this all happened because someone had a dream, someone believed in themselves + didn’t back down to negative thoughts and ideas.
[Photos via the Cambodian Kids Foundation Facebook Page.]