Geraldine Cox always knew she wanted to be a mother but, when she was in her 20s, she found out that she could not have children. She decided to embark on a career with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1970 where she was posted overseas and saw the hardships and struggles of people in other countries.
Ms. Cox’s first posting was to Phnom Penh, where she experienced life in a country at war when the Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodia. The country left a huge impression on Ms. Cox and, after subsequent postings in Manila, Bangkok, Tehran and Washington, DC, and a stint with The Chase Manhattan Bank in Sydney, Ms. Cox returned to Cambodia in 1996 and co-founded Sunrise Children’s Villages.
Today, Ms. Cox is mum to more than 400 children who live on the premises. Sunrise Children’s Villages is a nonprofit organization that provides education, medical care, and a home for orphaned, abandoned, vulnerable and disadvantaged Cambodian children. Many of the children have HIV or have been shunned by society. Sunrise Children’s Villages offers these children a safe and nurturing environment where the receive care, love and education, as well as explore their individual talents.Ms. Cox now understands why she could have not children of her own. Her destiny was to become a mother to hundreds of children who have nowhere else to turn.
She is the recipient of many Australian awards and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2000. Pan Macmillan published her autobiography, “Home Is Where The Heart Is” in 2000 and Hollywood bought the rights to make a feature film based on her book. The documentary on her life, My Khmer Heart, won the 2000 Hollywood Film Festival Documentary of the Year Award and has been screened extensively. Ms. Cox’s story also has been featured on Australian television over the last few years on Australian Story, The Sunday Program, This Is Your Life, Four Corners, Today Tonight, The 7.30 Report and 60 Minutes, Talking Heads and the 7pm Project.
Ms. Cox would like to have access to the philanthropy sector, which will give her access to money and religious groups. She currently spends half the year with the children and the the other half traveling to raise funds. She does all the fundraising herself and has raised more than $1 million U.S. per annum to support the work in Cambodia. Ms. Cox wants to continue expanding the orphanage’s reach, and needs funds in order to support the children. She prides herself on not taking no for an answer and being persistence in her search for donors.
From her website:
“When they walk through the Sunrise gates they are suspicious and afraid with no power over their lives. I am just another adult who will hurt them as every adult in their life has done. To watch the fear and trepidation dissolve over ensuing weeks through the love and attention of our staff and the other children is a reward that cannot be expressed. When a distrustful abused child finally finds trust in their heart and limbs into your lap for a cuddle there are no words to express the joy I feel.
As a woman who could never have my own children, to experience the unconditional love of these vulnerable children brings me the joy and contentment in my life that nothing before could satisfy. I know that I am living the life that I was put on earth for and am just annoyed that I had to wait till I was 50 before I got the plot!
While you are reading this, helpless children are being sold into prostitution, slave labor in factories and fishing boats and in the homes of the rich as unpaid housemaids.
When they are old enough to understand we tell them that anything is possible and this has certainly been true for those who are now working and married with their own families in Cambodia. We have graduates in careers as such as dentistry, hospitality, IT, insurance, car and generator maintenance and repair, banking, sales and advertising to name a few. We even have Sunrise graduates studying in Australia who will return to Cambodia and use their degrees to make Cambodia a better place.”