Executive director Melissa Theesen writes, “Sophisticated, loving, trustworthy, and generous – these are words that come to mind when I think about our staff in Cambodia. Our team of 40 staff members works tirelessly day and night to ensure that the wellbeing, safety, and education of 230 students is achieved. I witnessed our team in action for a few weeks this month and I give nothing by my highest praise and deepest appreciation to each of our dedicated staff members and student interns.

Board Member, Sue Shalley, accompanied me to the Children’s Future Learning Center for part of my visit. She saw firsthand how comprehensive and intentional our staff are in their work. We spent time visiting families in the village, playing UNO with students living in the Children’s Future group home, laughing with young adults who are part of our independent living program, watching 7 to 10 year olds practice their English pronunciation, staring in awe as teenage girls learned digital design, and learning how to play Othello with young students in the library. Despite numerous challenges in their daily lives, we saw how the students continue to grow, learn, and develop.

Witnessing the programs in action offered a very in-depth look at the effectiveness of our model, and spending quality time with our staff gave me insight into the systems and compassion behind all of our progress. We discussed developments in staff’s daily work, I spent a day working on the strategic plan with a small team, and I worked with each department to create a refreshed set of core values for Children’s Future. In each conversation, I gained a deeper and richer sense of how our team works together and what makes the Children’s Future community so special. This depth is found in the holistic way in which our services are offered, and in the collaborative fashion in which our team works. In every direction of the organization, trust is deeply rooted and compassion is widely spread.

With an abundance of pride in our work, I visited 20+ potential nonprofit partners and funders in Phnom Penh. Not only did several organizations express interest in partnering, but many want to learn from our social work team regarding their use of the Child Status Index (a child wellbeing assessment tool) and from our teachers about their development of our behavior management system that reinforces positive behavior at our Learning Center. Not only are we able to begin learning from large entities, such as Save the Children and Friends International, but can offer our expertise and become part of a larger movement to ensure child protection and meaningful education.

As said goodbye to everyone at the Learning Center, I felt a renewed sense of pride, a much deeper connection, and an even greater sense of commitment to the truly life-changing work of Children’s Future. I look forward to meeting and speaking with you about my visit in the coming months.”