Esther So Photographer - Melbourne Exhibition, 01 Sept 2018

IMAGINE 2018 Exhibition
01 Sept 2018

Melbourne Meat Market
3 Blackwood Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051

Sat: 10am – 4pm

Esther, the Flame photographer, will have her photos featured in the Have A Heart For Cambodia IMAGINE 2018 exhibition on 01 Sept, 2018 in Melbourne's famous Meat Market. They are part of a awareness-raising campaign about Flame and the urban poor of Cambodia. Esther will be there in person, and her work will be on live auction, with other items for sale. Come along if you're in the area and have a look at her latest work.

For more information click here

Below is Esther's video, a heartbreaking account of her life as a child subject to the hardship of living in poverty. Esther graduated in June from the Royal University of Phnom Penh with a degree is sociology and works full time between Flame and another project among the urban poor children in the community where she grew up. 

We need your help to support young people like Esther.  Go and see her work being displayed and join in the celebration of her success story. 

Flame Graduation


In June I attended the graduation ceremony for the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered the keynote speech so security was tight -the military and police presence blatantly obvious. My water bottle was emptied and my bag was x-rayed as I entered the huge facility. This was a major national level deal! I excitedly took my seat among the throngs.

Of the over 3600 graduates, two were from the Flame Leadership Academy:  Esther So (estherso_photographer on instagram) our Flame Photographer graduated with a sociology degree. You'll be hearing a lot more about Esther next week as she is heading to Australia and New Zealand to exhibit her photography... watch this space!

 Esther will be exhibiting her work at The Meat Market, Melbourne, 01 Sept, 2018 in collaboration with  Have a Heart for Cambodia and IMAGINE 2018

Esther will be exhibiting her work at The Meat Market, Melbourne, 01 Sept, 2018 in collaboration with  Have a Heart for Cambodia and IMAGINE 2018

The other student was Longdy Chhap, graduating with his psychology degree. The crowds were so large that there were multiple mounted television screens around the hall so that everyone could see the President hand out the degrees...  except only 10 graduates were chosen to receive their degree on the stage -shake with the right,  receive with the left! 

 Longdy is outstanding, and of the 10/3631 ... what a privilege to shake hands with the President!

Longdy is outstanding, and of the 10/3631 ... what a privilege to shake hands with the President!

Longdy was one of the ten. Maths isn't my strong suit but even I could tell that this is a huge achievement, and a testament to Longdy's hard work and commitment. Longdy has been accepted into the Masters of Clinical Psychology program and will start that next year. In the meantime he's working and continues to come to the Flame Leadership Academy and helps with translation and counselling of our young leaders.

Thank you for your support to put these young people through university and to help the families of the kids in the poorest urban communities of Phnom Penh. 


We need your help to get more kids into school, and to give them the chance of being university graduates like Esther and Longdy. Please give discerningly and  generously to something that really does work. 

Maria’s Story

My parents couldn’t give me an inheritance, but they could give me an education.
— Maria (Flame Case Management Team Leader)

When people are deprived of an education, how do they read or negotiate work contracts? How do they understand the wider digital world that we live in without computer literacy? Before I came to Flame, I worked with survivors of human trafficking. I saw for myself the clear link between low education levels and increased vulnerablity to human traffickers and exploitation. People without basic literacy are simply more easily cheated and taken advantage of. They have less choices in terms of what they can do, where they can go and what capacity they can function in work-wise. 

  “Give a child an education, and they take it wherever they go.”

 “Give a child an education, and they take it wherever they go.”


My job as isn't easy, but it is rewarding. I have decided to put aside the difficulties I face daily, the horrid smells, behavioural issues, harsh language and generally tough environment and focus on the positive. To be honest, I love working with kids, and I really want to bring love into their lives as well as giving them the opportunity to go to school. They are so in need of care and encouragement.


I believe that the heart is so very important... if we don't have compassion, how will we serve our communities?


When I help slum living kids, I feel super excited, it's like my soul is filled -I'm so happy. I love the fact that I am not only able to find out what's going on at the time, but am able to follow up, day by day and step by step to really help them attain sustainable change. Without an education, these kids will only ever be able to work using brawn not brains. They will stay begging at the traffic lights, without a chance to change their future.

   I love being part of the solution. 

 This is a new Flame student, happy to be able to attend school instead of collecting plastic bottles. 

This is a new Flame student, happy to be able to attend school instead of collecting plastic bottles. 


My team and I are thankful each day for the supporters who make an education possible for kids like this. Please consider partnering with us to help more kids. 


Kids on the night shift


You’d never guess that Pich is 13 years old. He is in grade 3, and until recently, worked nights collecting plastic alongside his younger siblings and parents. Pich was hit by a motorbike late one night and his family approached Flame for financial assistance to pay for his hospital bills. He had a suspected concussion and his front teeth were knocked out. The accident occurred while he was on the job, but there is no compensation for a child like Pich.

The entire family have been collecting bottles at night when the temperatures drop,  so despite the fact that the children are enrolled in the local school, and the youngest is enrolled in kindergarten, they’re just too tired to go.


Pich’s Dad works days also as a Moto-taxi driver, shown here with Pich’s youngest brother Thy who is 5.

A kiwi Flame supporter had stepped up to help this family, so  now the kids are attending both public school and the Flame Activity Centre daily - and no longer need to work at night. A Flame case worker has been assigned to the family and we are looking at practical solutions to their desperate situation. With both mum and dad willing and keen workers, there must be a way for them to become sustainable.

If you want to help families like this, partner with us. We can’t do this without your help.


These kids can now go to school ... let’s try and help the whole family out of poverty  

A Baby Is Born!

Flame recently celebrated the birth of a new baby: Thai Theraka! Thai and Chanthy are long time Flame mentors who give and give and love the Flame Leadership Academy young adults.


Thai has been a significant influence in the lives of many of our young guys, playing soccer regularly and meeting intentionally to share hearts, laughter and coffee! Chanthy has been deeply involved in mentoring the young women at the Flame Leadership Academy and is now a mother for the first time!

Please join us as we welcome their sweet, new baby :) An interesting twist is that the baby was delivered by Rithy!! We love the Flame Full Circle!!


The Flame young adults are the “top end of the Full Circle”... in university or vocational training, leading or participating in their initiatives in local slum communities. If you want to help young adults reach their potential, you can give easily using the donate button below. 

Fishing Boat Boy Becomes Community Leader

Read the story of Wandy Long - Flame Activity Centre Leader at Steung Meanchey

 Wandy (Photo creds Esther So)

Wandy (Photo creds Esther So)

I grew up on a boat in a fishing family right by the Killing Fields. My father caught fish and my mother sold it in the market. My family wanted me to go to school, but I didn’t actually start until I was 9 years old. Then, instead of attending school, my friends took me to the Russian Market to go begging and “fanning foreigners”. Back in the day, foreigners in the market would be so hot they would pay my friends and I to fan them! All the while, my parents thought I was at school!

 Life on a boat

Life on a boat

I remember being so excited when someone gave me $1 - it was so much money! I only went to school erratically and spent most of my time begging or stealing which was easier than being in class. One time I crawled under someone’s chair at a wedding and stole a whole case of beer from right under the seat!  I stole shoes from the old ladies praying at the Pagoda, and looted the collection money from the offering box too. It’s hard to believe I was so naughty.

One day, I happened upon some kind American people who asked why I was not at school. They took me to church and found a family to sponsor me to go to school. I still might have gone begging except they kept a close eye on me and made sure I was actually going to school. To this day I am so very thankful for these people. 

When I finished high school I didn’t go to University but I got a job teaching Khmer to foreigners. Despite the fact that I found this job very stressful and difficult, I ended up sticking with it for seven years. I then became a social worker and taught maths and English at another NGO before working for Flame. I currently lead the Activity Centre, I teach and encourage the kids.

I’m now married with a little boy. My wife sells sugar cane and I love her very much. I play the guitar with my young son and he sings his heart out! 

The fun people at Surfside Christian Life Centre in Raglan New Zealand, have been supporting my position at the Flame Activity Centre at Steung Meanchey. They have invited me to go to NZ next month to meet them in person, share my story and attend the 2018 Life Conference in Auckland. This is such a cool opportunity for me, I can’t wait!

I will be at Surfside on both the 22nd and 29th April if you would like to come and meet me, and hear me share my story. Please contact for more info.


There are now 45 kids at the Flame Steung Meanchey Centre

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!