World Famous in New Zealand - our founder Sue Hanna

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Growing up on the family farm in the Waikato, Sue Hanna’s passion for helping people was heavily ingrained from her childhood, which led to her current venture - helping Cambodian children living in slums complete their education - from primary through to university.

With more than 25 years in leadership and ministry roles, Sue founded Flame Cambodia in 2015, alongside another fellow Kiwi, Nicola Palairet from Auckland, who is the current communications manager.

Flame was created to connect with slum-dwelling children and inspire them to leave begging or rubbish collecting and start school or re-engage in education. The goal is that each child reaches beyond their potential.

Currently, Sue facilitates foundational leadership training to young adults. She also mentors, motivates and encourages the staff who work in the centres with the children to help them to be able to do the work that they do.

They have a team of 33 staff members throughout the different Flame programs such as three activity centres, a residential university scholarship program, leadership training and more.

Sue calls the process of the children becoming a young leader “the full circle” and it involves three stages – identify, grow and launch.

The activity centre staff work with children and their families to identify why they’re not in school. Often that’s due to low income or perhaps the parents are illiterate, so they can’t fill out the forms or the kids don’t have a birth certificate. 

‘Grow’ is about keeping the kids in school, motivated, and passing their grades. The kids go to school for half a day, and the other half they go to one of Flame Cambodia’s three activity centres to do any catch-up work with staff to help them stay on track in school.

As part of their ‘launch’ stage, Flame has university scholarships available and a leadership programme, so they strongly encourage the university students to come up with mini projects of their own that they would like to happen to help their people or the communities they came from.

“Those kids are the future generation, and this enables them to learn a new skillset while giving back to their community. They emerge as confident leaders in their communities, inspiring others in education, service, and leadership,” Sue said.

“We launch them off to help Cambodia because they’re the ones who will change it.”

It was “wandering around the planet” on her OE and seeing poverty throughout the world that lead Sue to where she is now.

“It had a huge impact on me and made me realise that I had the ability to make a significant difference in somebody’s life even if I didn’t know them,” Sue said.

Upon her return, she worked for World Vision for 10 years as a territory manager in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, King Country and East Coast.

It was in this role that she visited Cambodia several times to see the work that World Vision was doing and collect stories to take back home and raise more money.

“Cambodia got more and more under my skin every time I went, to the point that in 2004 I took some annual leave, went to Cambodia and decided I was going to find a Sue-shaped hole, because I knew there was something I could do there which was linked into those moments I had when I was travelling on my OE,” Sue said.

Sue’s passion has always been to stand alongside the poor and disadvantaged, who have been written off by their own communities, and to help them.

Her parents also held a desire to help people, so growing up, they always had extra people coming to stay in their family home. Sue said they would have people out of prison who would stay often for six months at a time, as well as missionaries who were overseas and had just come back to New Zealand.

“As a child, I would just immerse myself into other people’s stories. I also read a lot of autobiography books, and I would imagine myself exploring and thinking this is what I want my life to look like,” Sue said.

Sue has been living in Cambodia for the past 13 years, helping families through Flame Cambodia. However, they also have a New Zealand board, which includes Brian Trebilco from Te Awamutu, as the board chair; Greg Stocker from Pirongia as trustee; and Meredith Brocklebank from Auckland, who is the secretary treasurer.

The name Flame comes from a biblical passage, where it talks about a flame which is nurtured and then it eventually comes to a point where it’s a fire on its own.

“That’s where the identify, grow and launch comes from – at the start we need to do a lot of protecting, encouraging and inspiring, but then it becomes a point where the fire will keep going, and then it’s a well-burning fire and those people can then go off and start other fires, to give back to their communities.” 

 27/Aug/2018  by Shontelle Campbell