Education First Cambodia was founded by Annette Jensen and Neil Weinstein, a couple that lived and worked in Phnom Penh for over five years.
During most of that time, Annette was the Executive Director of a 100-child residential center that gave new lives to children who had been garbage pickers at the local dump. The project was very successful during her tenure, over doubling in size and truly making a difference in children’s lives. One student graduated with a degree in law from a special English-language program at one of Cambodia’s top universities. Another won a five-year scholarship to Singapore’s finest international school. A third was selected to represent Cambodia in a major U.S. documentary, “Girl Rising,” about the importance of educating girls. Although other students’ achievements may have been less newsworthy, Annette’s dedication to the children placed in her charge made an incredible difference to all of them. Annette also volunteered with a Cambodian nonprofit organization focused on providing education, arts, and athletic opportunities to underprivileged children in Phnom Penh, worked as Project Coordinator for a Ugandan nonprofit focused on providing young adults with entrepreneurial skills, and served as the Director of Volunteering for a Bay Area nonprofit focused on improving health and preventing chronic diseases in underprivileged teens and their families. Annette also supported a leadership program for young women at a nonprofit in Myanmar during the year she and Neil lived there. In addition, Annette supported international and local NGOs in the Republic of Georgia to improve their residential programs for troubled youth.
Annette grew up in rural Denmark on a farm that had been in the family for five generations. Prior to coming to Cambodia, much of her professional career was in the business world. She was the Chief Operating Officer of a multi-million dollar export company based in California. She also served as an Assistant Manager in the International Division of a major Danish bank. Annette is a graduate of the Copenhagen School of Economics and Business Administration.
But it was Neil’s job that brought the couple to Cambodia. A lawyer by training, Neil’s career is now focused on improving the legal systems of developing countries and their human rights records.
After having two short-term assignments with human rights organizations in Phnom Penh, Neil accepted a position as the first U.S. advisor to the Cambodian government. He served in that capacity for several years before transitioning his work back to human rights and law reform organizations in Cambodia. He has also worked on U.S. government and European Union-funded law reform projects in the Republic of Georgia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Uganda, and is admitted to practice law in California.
Neil served as an advisor to the children’s organization that Annette worked with in Cambodia, and taught a class on current events and critical thinking to the top students there. He also taught a year-long class on current events and critical thinking to young adults in Myanmar.
Neil attended Cornell University, and received his law degree from Harvard Law School. His first job was as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. He then worked for many years as a partner in a San Francisco law firm before transitioning his career to international development.
In 2012, Neil and Annette, together with friends, funded the construction of a much-needed three-room primary school in a remote area of Prey Veng province, Cambodia.