Cambodia’s Noun Phymean has won this year’s World’s Children’s Prize, chosen by children from around the globe, and the accompanying $50,000 award for her work offering free schooling and vocational training to some of Phnom Penh’s poorest young people.
Ms. Phymean picked up her award at a ceremony in Sweden on Wednesday, joining the ranks of the prize’s 40-odd past laureates of the “Children’s Nobel Prize” since 2000, including last year’s winner, internationally renowned girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai.
“Phymean Noun is being honored for her fight to give education and a better life to children living in extreme poverty on the garbage dumps of Phnom Penh,” a statement from the World’s Children’s Prize said. “When the [Khmer Rouge] dictatorship fell, Phymean fought to get an education and a good job. But when she saw how hard life was for the children on Phnom Penh’s garbage dumps, she gave up her career and used her own money to build her first school for the garbage dump children.”
Ms. Phymean started the People Improvement Organization in 2002 with a focus on girls, orphans and street children at three outreach centers around Phnom Penh, including one next to the city’s Stung Meanchey dumpsite.
Hul Hoeun, part of the NGO’s administrative team, said the organization was grateful for the award and would put all the prize money into a second school that is currently being built at the Stung Meanchey site.
“We are very happy after I heard she got the award and the money because right now we need the money to build the school building at Stung Meanchey,” he said.
Mr. Hoeun said the five-story school was projected to cost at least $170,000 and that construction had already begun. Once complete, he said, the school will be able to serve 1,000 children.
The NGO currently works with 1,350 children and young adults across the city.