Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Some questions for actress Heather Graham

Will the day ever come when it will be deemed unacceptable for Cambodian based non government organizations involved in the 'orphanage industry' to refer to children that have mums and dads as 'orphans' in order to open the hearts and wallets of sponsors and donors?

Dear Heather Graham

The banner headline reads:

'The girls are known as my Cambodian daughters':

Australia's richest person Gina Rinehart reveals she has NINE adopted children

Gina Rinehart has been supporting nine orphaned girls from Cambodia

The 61-year-old said she sent them to prestigious Asian universities

The nine girls are often treated to overseas trips and black tie events

The article written by  Sally Lee for Australia’s Daily Mail, was published on 25th April 2015

Lucie Morris Marr wrote a similar article 5 days later, 30th April, for the Herald Sun with the banner headline:

“Gina Rinehart opens up on ‘Cambodian daughters’ saved from life of extreme poverty.”

In it Morris Marr makes reference to the:

 “special bond” she (Rinehart) shares with nine Cambodian “daughters”, all orphans she rescued in 2007 from the sordid backstreets of Phnom Penh.”

There is a problem with both articles. Gina Rinehart’s ‘Cambodian Daughters’ are not orphans.

Is this merely sensational tabloid journalism? Or have Gina Rinehart and Scott Neeson deliberately mislead the journalists who wrote the stories?

How did these clever but materially poor students come to be re-branded as :

“orhpans rescued in 2007 from the sordid backstreets of Phnom Penh?”

It is impossible to know the answer since the journalists, Neeson and Rinehart refuse to comment.

In the absence of clarification this ‘orphan story’ will become ‘the truth’.  Future potential donors and sponsors to the Cambodian Children’s Fund will be able, through Google search, to learn of Neeson and Rinehart’s heroic rescue of these ‘orphan’ girls, just as they will be able to find the following story about Scott Neeson’s “1500 orphaned and disadvantaged children.”

I have written to you before, Heather, with information that would, I hoped, induce you to ask a few questions of Scott Neeson before you lend your name any more to his money raising activities.

Here are two more questions to add to the list:

“Are any of Gina Rinehart’s 9 ‘Cambodian Daughters’ orphans?”


“How many of the Cambodian Children’s Fund “1500 orphaned and disadvantaged children” are orphans? Five? Ten? Fifty?”

Given that Neeson is obliged, in accordance with Cambodian law, to enter into contractual agreements with the parents of the children in institutional care at CCF the answers to these questions should be but a phone call away.

As you know, Scott Neeson was a marketing person in Hollywood.

Scott knows that rescuing orphans from the ‘sordid back streets of Phnom Penh’ is a much more compelling story, and more likely to assist in his money-raising activities, than is the story of CCF and Gina Rinehart simply assisting clever students from materially poor families?

It is not merely a lie to refer to these young women as orphans. To do so in a country in which 75% of ‘orphans’ in ‘orphanages’ are not orphans feeds into the myth, perpetrated by unscrupulous NGOs, that Cambodian families are incapable of taking care of their own children.

The truth is that tens of thousands of Cambodian families are so poor that it is difficult (often impossible) to feed and educate their children. The answer is not to remove the children from their homes and put them in institutions but to help these materially poor families and their communities fed, clothe and educate their own kids.

Regardless of the obvious humanitarian reasons for not extracting children from their families to become pawns in NGO money raising initiatives, it is not a cost effective way of solving the problems associated with extreme poverty. It costs between 5 and 9 times as much money to support a child in an institutional setting as it does to assist that child in a family and community context.

Please start asking questions, Heather, and take Scott Neeson’s public relations spin with a grain of salt.