ACT News

Cambodian orphans to benefit from fundraising might

Two women known for their trademark hairstyles as well as their dedication to do good in the world have joined forces to house and educate some of Cambodia's most at-risk children.

Lucy Perry, who sports a hot pink mohawk, has joined Geraldine Cox, AM, with her trademark red top knot secured with a chopstick, to raise millions of dollars in donations each year to continue Ms Cox's groundbreaking work supporting Cambodia's orphans.

After a long career with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which included a posting to Phnom Pen in the 1970s, Ms Cox founded Sunrise Cambodia in 1993, to provide residential homes and education for the country's most marginalised children.

Ms Cox could not have children of her own and was drawn to care for a group of abandoned children she came across in the jungle near the Thai border after the fallout of the Pol Pot regime.

She relocated permanently to Cambodia in 1996, and her organisation now reaches four regions of the country.

Now aged 70, she has been "mother" to more than 1000 impoverished, disabled and trafficked children, working with local communities to provide education opportunities and break the cycle of poverty.

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Ms Cox has appointed Ms Perry as chief executive of Sunrise Cambodia to ensure her legacy continues.

Before accepting the position, Ms Perry led the fundraising for expatriate Australian Doctor Catherine Hamlin and her fistula hospital in Ethiopia, raising $7 million over three years and significantly boosting Dr Hamlin's profile in Australia and awareness of fistula injuries through childbirth.

She met Ms Cox in August, accepted her job offer, and is currently in Cambodia.

"I have known of Geraldine's work for years and it blew my socks off when she asked to meet me. I can only hurl myself at a cause I adore, and Geraldine's Sunrise had me at hello," Ms Perry said.

Ms Cox said that "living in the backwoods of Cambodia with my kids, I do not link up much with the outside world and had never heard of Lucy, until a couple of Australian friends suggested that I put her on my list of people to contact when I was in Sydney in August, as she was known as a bit of a fundraising whiz".

After meeting Ms Perry, Ms Cox said "she was exactly what me and the children of Cambodia needed to champion our financial needs. Lucy has spent the last week with us in Cambodia, where I can see first-hand that Cambodia is spinning its web of magic around her as it had around me."

Ms Cox, who recently underwent a double mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer said Lucy was her "saviour for taking over the burden of fundraising which we need so desperately".

Sunrise Cambodia chairman Kevin Tutt said the NGO needed to focus on sustainable communities in order to align with the United Nations' shift away from the orphanage model.

"Some kids, especially the disabled, will always need residential care," Mr Tutt said.

"We need to raise big money to fund crucial humanitarian work as we move into giving health, education and sanitation to some of the poorest people in the world."

"Geraldine and Lucy really are birds of a feather," he said. "And I'm not just talking about their wild hair! They're both rule breakers and have enormous hearts for the people of Cambodia."

On a recent episode of Australian Story, Ms Cox said that with more than 400 at-risk children in her care, the charity needs to raise $4.28 million a year to continue its operations.

The work of Sunrise Cambodia is funded almost entirely from Australian donors.

Cambodia has a population of more than 15 million people in a land area the size of Victoria, with more than 80 per cent of the population existing in rural areas on less than $2 a day.

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