About Our Organisation
Sunshine Cambodia is an organisation with a strong vision for the future of Cambodia, and we've developed a mission, strategy, and structure to accomplish that goal. Read about each by clicking on the tabs below.
Sunshine Cambodia is a Christian organisation working toward the holistic development of poor children and their families living in Cambodian communities.
Focusing solely on the children's needs is not enough to guarantee them a better future. It is essential to work for change in the home environment as well, developing and assisting families to stay intact; to function more effectively and to work together for a better, brighter future.
In Cambodia it is not uncommon for children from poor families to be sent to an orphanage in the belief they will be better off there. However, in accordance with current best-practice in developed nations, and in line with Cambodian Government policy, Sunshine favours a community-based approach, believing the children are best cared for by their families, extended families and community networks - no matter how poor - rather than being placed in an institutional setting (see the first question in our FAQ). Our strategy therefore is to work with whole families, in the community in which they live.
There are 2 key components to our approach:
Sunshine Cambodia has a Board of Directors (expatriate and Khmer) based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which meets on a regular basis to provide governance and guidance. The Sunshine Director is responsible and accountable to the Board and, in turn, the Board is accountable and responsible to Global Development Group (providing tax deductibility in Australia), Global Giving (providing tax deductibility in the U.S.A.), other donors and the Royal Government of Cambodia.
Sunshine staff are qualified and experienced in child and family development, education and management. To read more about our staff, visit our staff page. To see an organisational flowchart of Sunshine's leadership structure, click here (PDF).
Sunshine Cambodia is a Christian non-profit and non-partisan non-governmental organization (NGO) working with families toward the holistic development of poor children and their families in the context of community. We recognize that families rather than institutions are the best place for children to develop and grow, so we work with families to enable them to function more effectively. We also work directly with children, especially around education.
God values all people equally, regardless of age, race, gender, or any other difference. God sent His son Jesus so that all people could have life in abundance; therefore we work with people so that they can move towards a fuller and better life. As Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and people, so our ministry will focus on the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and educational needs of children.
Education is recognized as a basic human right and childhood is a crucial time to receive education. It's an important factor that can help people improve their quality of life and Cambodian parents often tell their children "try to study hard when you are young."
"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."Proverbs 22:6
We understand that we should work with people rather than for people. So we will try our best to build up the confidence, capacity and self-esteem of participating parents and children, and to advocate with them on their behalf. We will not just be giving them things or doing everything for them. As the proverb says, "Give a person a fish, and they have fish for a day. Teach them how to fish, and they will have fish for a lifetime." We believe that for families to develop independence and grow in caring responsibility, Sunshine must find creative ways to increase the commitment and contribution of parents to their own children's development and to overall family well-being.
In a large and complex society, we cannot work alone to fulfil our vision. Therefore we intentionally partner with other relevant organizations and stakeholders in order to achieve our goals.
Sunshine Cambodia was originally known as The Sunshine Centre for Children.
It was opened in July 2000 by a lively, retired couple from Melbourne, Lorraine and Ian Webber (pictured).
They were working on a short-term assignment in Phnom Penh with Christian Care for Cambodia when they noticed many young children and teenagers working as scrap collectors on the streets of the city.
The Early Centre
The children would spend their days sorting through piles of stinking garbage, looking for recyclable material. Any finds were loaded onto a cart and then hauled off to a recycle depot for a small payment at the end of the day. The children were an integral part of their family's income generation. There was no opportunity for them to attend school or to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood. As full-time working children, in a street environment, they were also very vulnerable.
Lorraine with the children around the Russian Market
Lorraine and Ian's hearts went out to these youngsters. In an attempt to alleviate the danger and drudgery of their lives, they opened a small drop-in centre, near the Russian Market. Initially it was to provide some relief from the heat and dirt of the streets - a refuge and a safe haven. It was clean and cool and the children could get a snack and enjoy being children for a brief moment.
Although the program was simple in its infancy, the children experienced a new sense of belonging, acceptance and love, and numbers grew quickly as word got around via the street network.
Lorraine and Ian were both teachers - Ian, a former school principal. Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before they introduced an educational component to the program. For most of the children, this was the only education they could receive.
Sunshine children outside the original Centre with their rubbish collection carts
Ian sadly passed away in 2015 after a long illness. He is remembered fondly for the many humanitarian acts of service he undertook over his lifetime.
In mid-2006, under the leadership of Maaike Prins, an energetic CMS missionary and former school principal in South Australia, the program underwent some dramatic changes. This included moving to a more spacious venue away from the market and busy roads and enrolling the children into public school - many of them, for the first time in their lives.
In November 2006, another energetic CMS missionary mum, Bonnie Lepelaar (pictured), took over the leadership and with increased support and interest from Australian churches and donors, the Centre's program and numbers saw further growth.
First Cambodian Director
25th February, 2010 was a significant milestone in the history of the Sunshine Centre. After a succession of expatriate directors over the 10 years of its existence, Mr Nop Channy (B.Ec and MBA) was appointed as the Centre's first Cambodian Director and he has brought new energy and vision to the work. To read more about Mr Channy, visit the staff section of our community page.
For 6 years, the Sunshine kids attended school for half a day and the Centre for the other half a day for tuition and other extra-curricular activities. They also ate breakfast and lunch at the Centre. Our family development program ran concurrently and today most of our families have made some emotional, social and economic progress.
It was time for our families to take another step towards self-reliance. Today the program supports around 300 children, from 6 - 20 years old who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools. However, the children no longer come to Sunshine for daily meals or classes, but like most other Cambodian students, receive extra tuition from their school teachers who must supplement their low salaries by offering private classes. However, the kids still attend Sunshine for weekly clubs covering all the extra fun things they love like games, art and music lessons. Sunshine's support also continues in the form of a monthly subsidy paid to parents to cover food and health care costs. Sunshine continues to pay the schools directly for school fees (see our programs page for more information).