VICState RecipientYoung Australian of the Year2009
At just 23 years of age Leigh Mathews founded the Future Cambodia Fund, an organisation working with disadvantaged children and their families in Cambodia. After travelling the world she was struck by both the beauty of Cambodia and the tragic circumstances of its people. She made the decision to stay in Siem Reap, volunteering for charitable organisations until her money ran out and she returned to Melbourne to set up her own charity.
Over the last four years she has worked seven days a week in her determination to help Cambodia’s children, and in a short time has made an enormous difference. Programs delivered by the organisation include remedial education; health and dental support; and activities for children including sports, recreation, dance and drama. They also run a water, sanitation and health program to educate women, and have built a children’s centre which now has 160 children in attendance. Despite devastating setbacks and enormous hurdles to overcome Leigh has never wavered in her vision and commitment. She demonstrates that when you truly believe in what you are doing you can achieve anything.