Phymean Noun was commended by the World’s Children’s Prize 2015 and named Child Rights Hero of the year for her thirteen-year struggle for the children who scavenge garbage dumps in Cambodia, and their right to education.
When Phymean was little, all education was banned in Cambodia, and her whole family was at risk of being killed. She dreamed of being able to go to school one day, and in the end she did manage to get an education. When Phymean realised that there are still children in Cambodia who have to fight for their lives, she quit her well-paid job to help them. The children that she helps live in the garbage dumps and slums of the capital city, Phnom Penh. They risk their lives by working as waste pickers, and many children have lost their lives through being run over by garbage trucks or being buried alive in the mountains of trash. Phymean fights for children to be able to go to school, and for their basic rights to be fulfilled.
With her organization, People Improvement Organization (PIO), she has built three schools and children’s homes next to the garbage dumps and slums. Over a thousand children go to school there, and get food, water and healthcare. PIO also provides vocational training and support to families.
Phymean and PIO want to
• Help children find their dreams: Many of the children on the garbage dump don’t have faith in the future. At school, Phymean and the teachers encourage the children to have dreams and to develop their interests.
• Give children hope: By seeing the children’s progress and creating opportunities for them to display their talents, Phymean and the teachers show that the children’s situations can change.
• Give children love they can depend upon: Phymean and PIO stay in touch with the children for many years. “They are like my own children,” says Phymean. “I want to see them be successful and happy.”
People Improvement Organization’s work for children
• Three schools at the old garbage dump and in the Phnom Penh slums.
• Education in Khmer and English, focusing on languages and IT.
• A children’s home, where orphaned and abandoned children can grow up in a safe environment.
• Support for families so that they can send their children, especially their daughters, to school.
• Clean water for all the children in the school, and the children and adults in the area.
• Vocational training for teenagers, for example, in hairdressing or tailoring.
• Access to nurses, doctors and dentists.
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