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Monday, June 04, 2007

Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation Awards $500,000 Grant to the Cambodian Children's Fund

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., June 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Sumner M. Redstone today announced a grant of $500,000 to the Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF), a non- profit program that provides a wide range of critical health and educational services to impoverished and abused children in Cambodia's capitol city of Phnom Penh.

Founded in January 2004 by Scott Neeson, then an L.A.-based film executive, the CCF currently serves more than 250 children through three facilities that provide shelter, food, in-house health services, cultural classes, and a range of educational and vocational training, including English and Cambodian language training and computer studies. The majority of children served by the CCF lived and worked at Steung Meanchey, Phnom Penh's notorious garbage dump.

Sumner M. Redstone, said, "Until very recently I was unaware of the horrible conditions under which multitudes of children live in Cambodia. I am hopeful that, just as Scott has raised my consciousness about this intolerable situation, my contribution will bring awareness to others who may also seek to contribute to the important lifesaving mission of the Cambodian Children's Fund. This initial donation, which is the maximum amount that the CCF can currently absorb from one donor, is just the beginning of what I expect will be an ongoing program of support from the Sumner M. Redstone Foundation."

Mr. Neeson said: "Mr. Redstone's remarkable generosity brings an immediate new future to nearly one hundred of Cambodia's most impoverished and at-risk children. These children will now have what every child deserves: shelter, food, health care and education, all in a caring and secure facility. They will be provided with the chance of a productive, healthy life. Equally important, the children that pass through the Sumner M. Redstone Child Rescue Center will possess the ability to stop the inter-generational cycle of abuse, impoverishment and illness for their family and community, an issue that has plagued Cambodia since the reign of Pol Pot."

Funding provided by the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation will be used to establish and fund The Sumner M. Redstone Child Rescue Center, a new stand-alone facility for children aged 5 to 16 that will provide a new life and home to nearly 100 of Cambodia's most impoverished, at-risk and abused children. The Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007. In addition, the CCF will purchase land and create a "passion for life" child development center to be named after Sumner M. Redstone. This center will provide residence and meals for the children, as well as a range of vital services including modern agriculture techniques, state of the art vocational programs, multi-level English and Cambodian language classes and advanced computer studies.

CCF's Star Bakery opened in November 2006, providing children with professional baking training and producing nutrient-enhanced bread that is given to the districts poorest families. The CCF also has a number of community-based programs that provide health care and nutrition to the families at Steung Meanchey.

Mr. Neeson, who is Executive Director of the CCF, spent most of his 26 year career in the film business and was involved in the release of such films as Titanic, Braveheart, Star Wars, Independence Day, Minority Report and Ice Age. In July 2003, while on a five week international travel holiday between his former position as president of 20th Century Fox International and a similar new position with Sony Pictures International, he was struck by the plight of the impoverished and abused street children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capitol city. Mr. Neeson ultimately spent 4 weeks in Phnom Penh and started the process of creating the CCF. In January 2007 Neeson received the Harvard School of Public Health and Quincy Jones "Q Prize" for his work in child advocacy.

CCF's first facility was opened in July 2004, while Neeson was still at Sony Pictures. In December 2004, he quit his position at Sony, sold his belongings (Brentwood house, motor yacht, cars and other belongings) and moved to Cambodia, where he now lives and works full-time on behalf of CCF.

The Sumner M. Redstone Foundation announced in April a commitment of $105 million in charitable grants to fund research and patient care advancements in cancer and burn recovery at three major non-profit healthcare organizations. Cash contributions of $35 million each were pledged to FasterCures/The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions, based in Washington D.C.; the Cedars-Sinai Prostate Cancer Center in Los Angeles, California; and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation

CONTACT: Carl Folta, Sumner M. Redstone Foundation, 212-258-6352; or
Scott Neeson, CCF, 310-694-6334
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Cambodian prime minister lashes out at UN envoy

Phnom Penh - A UN human-rights envoy who visited last week was unnecessary, unwelcome and bent on destroying Cambodia's international reputation in the interests of collecting his own salary, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday.

In a speech broadcast on national media, Hun Sen reiterated earlier promises that he would never agree to work with Yash Ghai, the UN human-rights envoy to Cambodia, telling the Kenyan he should get his own country's human-rights record in order before daring to criticize Cambodia.

'You said the Cambodian government violates human rights systematically. This seems to me a very strong term,' Hun Sen said at a series of bridge inaugurations in Kandal province just outside the capital.

'This guy comes from a country which completely violates human rights,' the premier added. 'You can come here, but I do not need you. If I live to be more than 1,000 years old, I will still never meet with you, so please do not come to see me. The prime minister is not obliged to meet you.'

Ghai's visit was meant to gather additional background before he presents his report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva later this month.

In it, he accuses the Cambodian government of systematic human-rights abuses, derides the country's notoriously inept judicial system as a tool of oppression wielded by the government and laments wide-scale land grabs by the rich and powerful.

He was snubbed by all members of the government during his visit except for Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

Hun Sen said Ghai's report could be compared to a Cambodian proverb that says the dog barks, but the ox cart still rolls forward.

'However, I will not compare you to a dog,' he said, referring to Yash Ghai. 'They try to destroy us from Geneva, but we strengthen human rights ourselves.'

The Interior Ministry on Friday issued a press release that did not deny human-rights abuses existed in the country but claimed Ghai's report was unfair, biased and failed to acknowledge any progress the government had made, focusing instead only on negatives.

Ghai has been consistently critical of the Cambodian government's human rights record during three visits to the country since he took over the position from Peter Leuprecht in 2005, and Hun Sen's speech Monday indicated that his relationship with the government would not improve in the foreseeable future.

Hun Sen said Monday that he had told former UN secretary general Kofi Annan personally that he never expected to hear a good report on Cambodia's human-rights record while the human-rights envoy worked for a salary.

'If you say good things about the government's human-rights efforts, you will lose your salary,' he said, adding that he viewed UN human-rights officials as tourists.

'But do not worry. I will not close your office because you rent out the homes of Cambodian people and they pay the government 10-per-cent tax. Bring 500, 1,000 more to work here,' he said.
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Lack of awareness of HIV infections makes controlling AIDS difficult, says UN

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Fewer than 10 percent of the Asia-Pacific's estimated 8.5 million people who are living with HIV are aware of their status, the United Nations said Monday, calling on the region's governments to boost access to health services.

«With so few people aware of their status, efforts to prevent new infections and treat those who are positive are becoming more difficult,» said a joint statement from the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund _ UNICEF _ and the U.N.'s coordinating body against the disease _ UNAIDS.

Lack of testing and counseling are major obstacles in the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region, they said, calling on the region's governments to boost access to health services.

The U.N. agencies released the statement at the opening of a three-day conference of health experts, scientists and community activists about the HIV/AIDS situation in the region. The meeting is being held in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

WHO regional director Shigeru Omi said in the statement that awareness of a person's HIV status is a public health and human rights imperative. It leads to life-extending treatment, care and support services, and serves as evidence for prevention interventions, he said.

There are an estimated 64,000 children living with HIV in the region who need treatment, but only one in five of them are receiving it, the statement said, adding nearly all them are in three countries _ Cambodia, India and Thailand.

«By increasing access to early diagnosis of HIV in infants and children, we are in a better position to improve the quality of life for children who test positive by providing better care, support and treatment,» said Anupama Rao Singh, director of UNICEF's East Asia and Pacific Regional Office.
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CFHS club reaches fundraising goal early


By JON ERICSON, Courier Staff Writer

CEDAR FALLS --- When the Cedar Falls High School Amnesty International club started raising money for a school in Cambodia, they figured they'd reach their goal by January 2008.

They finished before the school year ended.

The club raised $15,050 to go toward building a school in Cambodia. The club's donation will be matched by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

The Cedar Falls High School club started up just three years ago and this was its first major fundraising project. They began their fundraising on Valentine's Day.

Senior Sheila Moussavi founded the club. She said they were inspired to work on the project after watching the documentary film, "Born into Brothels." Moussavi and other club members developed a serious concern about child trafficking, and then came across the Cambodia program.

"One of the main ways to prevent child trafficking is education," Moussavi said.

Club members started fundraising by getting other groups involved. They brought in sports and arts organizations.

An exhibition basketball game between students and faculty proved a money-making venture, as did a night of one-act plays done by the high school's drama students.

They had bake sales and garage sales, and accepted donations from other high school clubs.

Pablo's Mexican Grill helped out on four occasions by sponsoring Amnesty International days. On those days, the restaurant gave half of the profits to the club from any customers who mentioned Amnesty International.

"Without the community we wouldn't be anywhere near the $15,000," Moussavi said.

The Cambodia schools program requires a $13,000 initial commitment to start up a school. It is also recommended that donors bring in another $1,000 to $2,000 every couple years to keep the school updated. The Cedar Falls club figures its $15,000 commitment can keep their school going for several years.

As a reward for its efforts, the Cedar Falls club will be able to name the school.

"We're thinking some pretty simple names that would incorporate Cedar Falls," Moussavi said.

While Moussavi graduated last week, the Amnesty International club will continue on at the high school.

In the future, the club may be able to communicate with students at the Cambodian school.

Journalism teacher Brian Winkel serves as adviser to the club. He said reaching the fundraising goal so far ahead of schedule shows how motivated the students have been.

Contact Jon Ericson at (319) 291-1402 or jonathan.ericson@wcfcourier.com.
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Redstone to help Cambodian kids

Mogul offers grant of $500,000 to charity

By PETER GILSTRAP

After meeting a 13-year-old named Lyda, Sumner Redstone has turned an entire country of in-need children into one of his most personal causes.
Redstone has made a grant of $500,000 to the Cambodian Children's Fund, a nonprofit program that provides a wide range of critical health and educational services to impoverished and abused children in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

Org was founded in January 2004 by Scott Neeson, who as president of 20th Century Fox Intl. was involved in films such as "Titanic," "Braveheart" and "Ice Age."

In 2003 Neeson became head of Sony Pictures international marketing; he left shortly thereafter to start the charity after witnessing the Cambodian situation during a vacation. Neeson, who now acts as full-time CCF executive director, covered all initial costs for the establishment and operation of the CCF facility.

"From Hollywood to Cambodia was a really tough transition," Neeson said from his Phnom Penh headquarters. "The biggest was how little power you have here to help people. In Hollywood you can get most things fixed; here there are limitations to what you can do," he explained.

"I was intrigued that Neeson quit his job and sold everything and went to Cambodia to help these kids," Redstone told Daily Variety. "I had no idea what went on in Cambodia. When I met him, he had with him a little girl named Lyda. She had been abandoned by her parents like tons of kids. Scott found her at a dump where countless poor (children) lived, scrounging for food or something to sell. She had a back deformity."

In addition to his donation, Redstone is making 13-year-old scoliosis victim Lyda a personal priority.

"I've given big money to big charities, but you never get in touch with the actual person, even though you help a lot of people," said the philanthropist. "But I met this little girl, and I've arranged to have her operated on by a top pediatric surgeon at Cedars-Sinai."

Currently, the CCF aids more than 250 children through three facilities that provide shelter, food, inhouse health services, cultural classes and a range of educational and vocational training.

Among other projects, Redstone's contribution will be used to create the Sumner M. Redstone Child Rescue Center, a stand-alone facility scheduled to open this fall for children 5 to 16.

"The amount I gave was very small for me, and I will give more, but it was the maximum amount he can accept without losing his status as a public charity," said Redstone. "My real motive in getting the story out is to inspire others to help."
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