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Once Upon a Rubbish Heap

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This is not the story of a successful film executive who stumbled upon a scene more horrific than any from Hollywood's most graphic blockbusters and decided to move there. Actually, that is the opening chapter -- but only the first -- in powerful ongoing tale of unexpected outcomes.

In 2003, Scott Neeson visited Cambodia. He had planned to see Angkor Watt. But, he had not planned to see infants and young children living on one of the world's most toxic trash heaps, foraging for scraps to sell for food. He returned to Los Angeles, but found he couldn't make himself stay. He traded a booming career and luxurious lifestyle to make a safe home for the kids. Today, his Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF) provides food, housing, quality education, medical/dental care and cultural enrichment to over 700 children in five centers. Extending far beyond that, however, CCF is building community self-sufficiency and leadership by offering maternal care, well-baby support, women's empowerment and vocational training, and job readiness and placement.

In a country where about one woman every minute dies in pregnancy or childbirth and where nearly half the kids suffer from malnutrition, a fresh vision of self-worth seems a tall order indeed. But, there is much that is remarkable about CCF's holistic approach to empowerment. Vivid illustrations of its smart, successful, innovative programs leap from the pages of www.cambodianchildrensfund.org.

One to single out is the EnGender Program, which tackles the destructive influence of widespread domestic violence, alcoholism, debt, and drug addition, by targeting the dignity and security of mothers. The moms learn to see beyond the brutal confines of life in the shadows of a garbage dump. Vocational education, paired with monetary security, gender equity training, and legal advocacy align to support the family unit as a whole. With real alternatives, the mothers become advocate for themselves, their children and their communities.

It holds true that a society, which fails its mothers, can never nurture its children. That is a fact in Cambodia, in the United States and throughout the globe. Miracle makers like CCF show us how and they give us a way to be a part of the next chapter. If you like happy endings, please contribute, sponsor a child, spread the word, follow them on Twitter and join them on Facebook -- you can even visit the CCF centers. You can also honor moms around the world by encouraging your local legislator to support quick passage of the International Violence Against Women Act.

What will be the story of your life? Live a little.