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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO arises from a dark past

NGO arises from a dark past

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090702_sr01c.jpg

SIEM REAP

Family Care Cambodia emerged from a notorious American cult, but the

NGO has helped to develop and fund one of the best schools in Siem Reap

province.

Photo by: Kyle Sherer

Children at the Phum Thnarl Primary School in Siem Reap.

A SCHOOL that was highly rated this year by the provincial education department as among the best in Siem Reap is sponsored by an NGO that spun off the infamous Children of God cult.

Ann and Alex Soldner are the project managers of Family Care Cambodia, which has helped the Phum Thnarl Primary School over the past six years by providing three new classrooms and 30 computers, funding six staff members, and supplying students with uniforms, bags and books. Em Bunthoen, the Siem Reap representative of Family Care Cambodia, told the Post that in a routine inspection in January, representatives of the provincial department of education said that the school is leading other primary schools in the fields of environment, hygiene and discipline.

Ung Sireidy, the director of the provincial department of education, told the Post that the school "is not the best, but is better than a lot of schools".

Family Care Cambodia is an arm of the Family Care Foundation, which is coupled with The Family International - formerly known as Children of God - an organisation founded in 1968 in California and made famous for a slew of child sexual abuse scandals and a recruitment method dubbed "flirty fishing", where some women members were prostituted out to raise funds and gather converts.

Ann Soldner was a high-ranking "first-generation member", with the Children of God through the controversy, but said the troubled history of the organisation is irrelevant. "I don't see why that's so important," she told the Post.

"Those problems have nothing to do with Family Care Cambodia."

Family Care Cambodia is listed by the exfamily.org Web site as a pseudonym of The Family International. The Web site is compiled by former members of Children of God.

The Family International was formerly known as The Family, and before that the Family of Love, and before that the Children of God.

The Soldners founded Family Care Cambodia in 2002 and began working with the Phum Thnarl school in 2003. In addition to the Phum Thnarl school, the organisation works with a protection shelter in Phnom Penh for children recovering from sexual abuse.

On its Web site, the Family Care Foundation, the parent organisation of Family Care Cambodia, claims to have distributed more than 2 million Bibles and pieces of "gospel literature" around the world. Ann Soldner said that while other Family Care Foundation projects may emphasise Christianity, hers does not set out to convert. "We're not about Bible distributing, we're not about Children of God. We're about us. Many of our volunteers are Christians, but that's just their personal beliefs. I do this to serve our fellow man and, yes, that comes from a belief in God."

Soldner said that "there isn't a direct link, per se" between Family Care Cambodia and The Family International, which is led by Karen Zerby,

the former wife of the Children of God founder. Zerby is most well known as the mother of the boy featured in The Story of Davidito, a 762-page book printed in 1982, which contained pictures and descriptions of her infant son engaging in sexual activities with adults.  

The mission statement on the Family International Web site states four aims. One is to provide humanitarian aid to "those in need" and three are concerned with spreading religion and the message that the "Great Tribulation" and "Second Coming of Jesus Christ" are "soon to come".

In a document titled "Introducing FCC" authored by Ann and Alex Soldner, Family Care Cambodia is described as "a pioneer project of The Family International" and one of its stated projects is to "Offer Character Development, Community Services and Christian Study courses".

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