PHOTOS

Fundraiser for Stepping Out Support Program in Wellington

The organiser of an upcoming fundraiser that aims to support young adults in Cambodia is hopeful the Wellington community can get behind the important cause.

Wellington's Clare Sorn (née Holman) is organising the event at Hermitage Hill on November 30, where all funds raised will go towards Cambodia's Stepping Out Support Program.

Mrs Sorn first travelled to the country many years ago with the aim of teaching English at an orphanage that her parents had discovered while on a holiday.

In just two months, Mrs Sorn became close to the kids and was only in Australia for nine months when she decided to go back.

The initial idea was to stay for 12 months, but Mrs Sorn ended up living in Cambodia for 10 years.

Through volunteering at the orphanage she discovered that once Cambodian children turn 18 they are forced to leave the institution, despite the fact that they don't finish school until their 20s.

"One day I just rang mum and we set up a half-way house ," Mrs Sorn said.

In 2011 the halfway-house was set up for six boys who were forced to leave the orphanage. Mrs Sorn, who lived at the house, said they just wanted to finish high school.

"They know how important education is. That's they're only way out," she added.

Friends and family, many from the Wellington community, have sponsored the children since it was first set up.

The community's donations and word of mouth, has allowed the half-way house to survive and helped those in the program to graduate from high school and tertiary education in courses such as nursing, pathology, I.T, dress-making, agriculture, electrical engineering and tourism.

Two young Cambodian's in the program are currently studying medicine, tourism and business management.

Mrs Sorn has since moved back to Wellington, but the halfway-house is continuing to help Cambodian's with the assistance of 'house parents' who live at the halfway-house.

She said it provides a safe and loving home for underprivileged, young Cambodian's in the Stepping Out Support Program, which is a registered charity.

"When we first opened the house, the kids said to me it was the first home they've ever had," Mrs Sorn said.

The fundraiser will help keep the half-way house running and provide educational support.

"If we don't have this fundraiser, it (the half-way house) will only last a couple of months," Mrs Sorn explained. "That means the kids won't have anywhere to go."

Because the drought has taken a huge financial toll on the community, she understands just how tough things are, but said any funds raised would help.

The fundraiser aims to be a social evening and a chance for locals to catch up or for a workplace to host a work Christmas party.

Mrs Sorn said leaving Cambodia was one of the hardest things she's had to do.

"But I talk to them regularly and get messages from them everyday. I'm very much still in their lives," she explained.

Mrs Sorn visits the young Cambodian's as often as she can and plans to go back soon.

While some people may think of her as giving up her life to help others, Mrs Sorn doesn't see it that way.

"I didn't give anything up, they made my life," she explained. "They're like my children."

The young adults part of the program are now giving back to others less fortunate in Camdodia, by hosting their own fundraisers.

They raised enough money to purchase 216 bikes for a village and also provided another village with 430 school packs that included notebooks, a uniform and stationary.

"We wouldn't be able to do this without Wellington's support," Mrs Sorn said.

She also gave a special mention to her mother, Diane Holman, who has a lot of behind-the scenes work and took over running the program when Mrs Sorn had her child.

Stepping Out Support Program are also looking for more sponsors.

For anyone wishing to find out information on the fundraiser, should visit 123tix.com.au or call Clare on 0490 885 661.