Introducing Kharona: Pop star in the making!

At Flame we have some spectacular staff... I would like to introduce Kharona, one of our case work team to you, and let him tell you his story.


I grew up in a Christian family, and even though we were poor, my parents wanted us to get a good education. It was tough growing up as the neighbours looked down on us. Money got even harder to come by after my father became so ill he couldn’t work anymore.

Kharona loves his job coming alongside our Flame clients  

Kharona loves his job coming alongside our Flame clients  

It was a miracle that I was able to do a short course in social work at Royal Phnom Penh University, and now have been here at Flame for almost one year. 


I love write songs and I believe that God put in me what it takes to make melody and song. I have currently released one song with two more in progress. I love music :)


In the future, I would like to continue working with poor children but would also like to have my own family. I want to encourage the children to go and get an education like me.

I also dream of having my own band one day!


When you give to Flame you give to our staff.

Rithy Visiting NZ

First, a massive thanks to our supporters. We cannot do this alone. Whether you give of your skills, time or tithe, or as part of your corporate CSR, you are an integral part of our core business of identidying, growing and launching leaders.

Everyone who attended one of the Stories from the Slums events we held in New Zealand last year would have seen the video of Rithy, the young doctor who leads our Flame Mobile Medical Tuktuk. If you missed seeing the video, it’s available for viewing on

Next month Rithy will be speaking at different locations around NZ. 


Rithy’s story is a clear demonstration of the Flame Full Circle. As a child he was orphaned and wanderered the streets. As a doctor now, he is committed to providing basic healthcare for the slum dwelling communities around Phnom Penh. He has recently been accepted into the surgical specialization program at International University here in the capital. His entire degree was funded by a kind hearted GP in NZ.

We simply cannot do what we do without your support!  Please keep an eye out for the different times and places where you can meet Rithy next month. We will be posting details on Facebook.

We need new sponsors for our emerging Flame young leaders. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to be part of the team. 

Again, thank you.


Support Flame and support a new generation of leaders who are making sustainable change in their communities.

Chailee's Story:

Many of our staff have led extraordinary lives. Chailee is our HR and Admin Manager. This is his story:

Chailee grew up in a family of poor farmers in Northern Cambodia, in one of the first provinces to come under Khmer Rouge control in 1970. The Khmer Rouge closed schools and Chailee’s education ended abruptly when he in grade 5.


Between 1970 and 1979 Chailee worked as a nurse and it wasn’t a bad time for him, he was unaware of the horrors of the Killing Fields and the other atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge until he fled from the Vietnamese Army. It was during this three month flight that he saw dead bodies and learned the truth. It was on this arduous journey that he met Rith Ngoun -the Flame catch-up class teacher. They have been fast friends ever since.

Life in the refugee camp from 1979 to 1983 on the Thai-Cambodia border was the most harrowing Chailee had experienced. It was frightening on the border, with shelling and landmines and little food. In 1983, he moved to another refugee camp and because he knew about medicine was given a job with the International Red Cross. He worked with an interpreter between him and the medical team and when work was over for the day the interpreter would teach Chailee English. For three years following, he worked in the medical clinic in the morning and studied medicine in the afternoon. He gained a United Nations Certificate as a Physician’s Assistant which he was proud of until he found out that the certificate was not recognised by the government and therefore he couldn’t work in medicine.

Chailee also worked as an interpreter for the United Nations, and for other organisations using his strong communication skills. After many years working for NGO’s in Cambodia he retired. He raised 6 children,  and currently has 6 grandchildren. 

Chailee had previously worked with Sue Hanna and when he heard about Flame, he said ‘I’ve retired, but if you have a need, just let me know!”. Initially, the Flame ‘Full Circle’ seemed strange to Chailee but when he saw slum living children who had grown into leaders, it all made sense.


Chailee finds it exciting to share his ideas and love for children in a new way. Not having a formally recognized education hasn't held him back from helping others. Everyday Chailee prays that God will help Flame help these children become all they can be. He prays for wisdom to speak the right words to the kids and he asks God to bless them.


Chailee with his friend Mr Rith

Flame iNGO application successful!

Today amid cheers and laughter, Flame received the successful application of our iNGO application! This is the final outcome of well over one year of paperwork, interviews and pile upon pile of documents and some serious headaches!  

Thanks to our staff for their relentless hard work ... and for Maria Thyda who came alongside and really helped us get this over the line. Thanks also to the Ministries of Social Affairs and Foreign Affairs who approved our application. 

This is significant day in the life of Flame!   


Flame's impact on the young adults

These are quotes from some of our young leaders about life before Flame:-


"After [my father] died we only had my Mum  -we had no one to help us find food.  We all stopped studying and climbed palm trees to get the juice to sell. The rest of my family decided that I should go to school and they all went to Phnom Penh to find work. I stayed alone in Kampong Cham. I was only 6 years old. My parents died because there was no medical care, now I'm working on the Flame Mobile Medical Clinic once a week, giving free medical care to people living in the slums."


"I don’t ever remember my mother being nice to me. I desperately wanted to hear her say something nice to me but I never did. She loved my younger brother, but not me and I don’t know why. She would beat me and hit me and I never knew why she hit me. Now I am teaching little kids about photography in the exact slum where I grew up and I love it!"


This is why we love the work of Flame - we are giving these young people opportunities to study at university, to work towards a future they never dreamed possible. Please consider giving to Flame and be part of the story.


Makara Graduates from Flame

Makara has been with Flame since 2015, and is now ready to leave the Flame Leadership Academy and be launched into a new phase in her life. She started her Biology degree at the Royal University of Phnom Penh but had to drop out when her sister became terribly unwell and needed her alongside to help with her care. As orphans, these family relationships are very important. Makara has been volunteering at the Flame Activity Centre in Sensok and has enjoyed her time teaching younger slum living kids.

Makara has recently been accepted into an elite cooking school here in Phnom Penh run by Pierre Tami, a Swiss entrepreneur. The Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia offered Makara a full scholarship, and she will be attending the course for two years, with six months of the course in house, and six months in a placement. 

She is super excited already about what she has been learning, and will be able to live off site with her younger sister and younger brother. We celebrate families and are so happy that she will be able to be with her siblings. We wish her all the best in this new adventure!! 


Makara the up n coming chef!  

Exhibition from Esther Flame Photographer 18-30 Sept CHristchurch

Full Circle

Immerse yourself in the experiences of life as a child in the slums of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, through the loving eyes of Esther So. Esther is an emerging photographer who has come full circle herself and now works as a leader at Flame. This exhibition is a celebration of Esther's talents, the work of her charity Flame and of Cambodian culture.

Full Circle is curated by Vera Hegedus-Gaspar 

Presented by Krama & Co. and Events for Good .

Your are welcome to come and enjoy this exhibition within the Exchange opening hours for free.

We will run three events during this time;

20th Games afternoon from 4pm (free)

25th Movie night from 8pm (free)

30th Meet | Share | Celebrate exhibition celebration ($25) to buy tickets click here

Flame is a charity with strong NZ ties and Cambodian roots. At their heart, they work in slums to help and educate children and inspire leaders. They intention is to grow an organisation that is run by Cambodians for Cambodians. They call the process of slum child becoming young leader - “The Full Circle” – kids emerge as confident leaders in their communities, inspiring others in education, service and leadership. The ultimate.


Graduation Celebration

Deth is one of our youngest at the Flame Guy's Leadership Academy. He is 20, and last week graduated from high school!! This was a huge achievement, and we were all waiting with baited breath for his exam results!! The photo above is him jumping for joy :) He's a really fun guy!

He is now deciding exactly what he would like to do, what he would like to study ... and has a broad, broad horizon of hope stretching out in front of him! 

We are looking for a sponsor to walk with  Deth, please let us know if you'd like to partner with us on this exciting journey!

Young adults away together this weekend. Photo creds (selfie) by Yuhan Brang

Young adults away together this weekend. Photo creds (selfie) by Yuhan Brang

Mobile Medical Expansion

At Flame, it's not just what we do,    but who does it

Let me introduce you to Sothy... (Soh-tee) the current leader at our guy's leadership academy.   He is dreaming of running a second mobile medical Tuktuk, bringing free medical care into the slums of Phnom Penh.  

        Would you consider helping him?

Sothy's Story

When I was a child, my dad suffered from mental illness, he wanted to kill us kids. He took his own life when I was a just little guy and I was the one who found him hanging. My siblings left school to help support the family after he died, climbing palm trees to get the fruit used for juice, but then it was decided that I should go to school.  So, at 6 yrs old I was left alone in our family home, while everyone else went to Phnom Penh to find work. I couldn't cook or look after myself but I took care of the neighbour's animals, and in return they helped me. I was really scared of ghosts, I would hide under the covers at night. I was so alone.

My mum got sick and life took another turn. I remember looking at her sad face and feeling sad too, knowing I couldn't help her. I remember thinking to myself that if I knew about medicine, I could help her and could help other poor people too.

We had to sell our family home to pay for my mother's medicines. The money only lasted 3 weeks and 2 months after it ran out, my mother died. I was 7, and my little brothers were 2 and 3 years old.

I went back to living alone, and still had no idea how to cook for myself. I begged the neighbours "I will do anything for you, if you just give me something to eat!!" I stayed with them for one year until at 8, I was taken away with someone to live with a family. I remember staring out the window of the car as we drove away, trying to memorise the road because I was sure that I was being sold and would need to know how to get home again. 

It turned out to be a foster home situation and my sister and brothers joined me there and lived with the family for 7 years. We knew that we weren't really their kids, they loved their own children more than us. 

Now I am living at the Flame Leadership Academy and have just finished my 6th year of medical school. I have 2 more years of interning at local hospitals here in Phnom Penh before I can continue with my 4 year specialisation in paediatrics, which is my dream. I want to provide free medical care in rural Cambodia to children so that kids like I was are able to get medicines and the care they need. 

A second Tuktuk and motorbike have already been donated,  but Flame still needs ongoing costs of US$100 per week before we set this expansion in motion.  Would you be able to help us? 

Sothy has been working alongside Rithy for a year now, and will have our volunteer ER Nurse Alister accompanying him to the slums. We can't do this without your help. 

Sothy has been working alongside Rithy for a year now, and will have our volunteer ER Nurse Alister accompanying him to the slums. We can't do this without your help. 

Book Tuktuk

At Flame we believe that a tough childhood should not mean a tough future... that each kid we work with has the potential to become a leader in their community. 

I shot a quick video today of the Flame Book Tuktuk... check it out, it's shirt but cute! 

The Book Tuktuk is similar to Mobile Medical but instead of medicines, it brings BOOKS to kids who either aren't in school, or who are -but still need extra help. Read to a kid and a kid will read... great concept if the family are literate or if there are books at home, but with our families this isn't often the case. 

Sokann reading to the kids today

Sokann reading to the kids today

One of our case workers, Poeurn had the idea of bringing books to the slums. He remembers when he was a kid, that there just weren't any books at home and now as a Flame case worker he visits our families, and saw he same thing. He asked if Flame could do something ... and with a huge thanks to St Paul's Collegiate, the Book Tuktuk was born, 

Poeurn meeting with one of the families, with five young kids, none were in school... and they had lost their mother

Poeurn meeting with one of the families, with five young kids, none were in school... and they had lost their mother

Sokann is our book Tuktuk staff, otherwise known as the book Tuktuk star!!  He drives the Tuktuk and teaches the kids. The original idea was more like a mobile library but Sokann quickly found that even kids up to grade 4, were simply unable to read. So, responding to the need, he has turned this into a little mobile school, reading to the kids and teaching them their letters. The kids who attend the Book Tuktuk are often responsible for their younger siblings, so Sokann arranges a clean tarpoline for the littlies and today's activity was colouring in.  


If you like projects like this, please help us! We need regular monetary support to continue our work with these kids, to identify ones who should be in school and then help overcome the obstacles and break the poverty cycle. Check out our website and see what else we are doing!


Book tuktuk