Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MY PHNOM PENH: Phymean Noun, social worker




MY PHNOM PENH: Phymean Noun, social worker

Phymean Noun is the founder of the People Improvement Organisation, which for nearly 15 years has connected homeless children to education.
Phymean Noun is the founder of the People Improvement Organisation, which for nearly 15 years has connected homeless children to education.

MY PHNOM PENH: Phymean Noun, social worker

Phymean Noun is the founder of the People Improvement Organisation, which for nearly 15 years has connected homeless children to education. Phymean was born in Kampong Cham in 1971. She dreamt of pursuing higher education but instead suffered under the shadow of the Khmer Rouge. Before her mother passed away in 1987, she told her: “Although you are poor, you have to finish school.” This week, she spoke with Vandy Muong about the places and things in Phnom Penh that remain important to her dream of helping young people and where she escapes to clear her head

The riverside

The riverside

The riverside is my favourite place in town, and I always used to pack lunch to eat there to see the river view. In 2002, I went to riverside in front of the Royal Palace for lunch. Suddenly, I saw a lot of young people who sleep on the street, and some of them were asking for money from tourists. While I was eating there, they asked me for my food, but I told them to wait until I had cleaned my hands. When I threw my leftover meat in the rubbish bin, many of them came to take it to eat. I felt so bad for them and tears came to my eyes immediately because I was reminded of the Pol Pot regime when people were starving. I told them to sit and bought food for them as they told their stories. Their families came from the provinces to work as scavengers and asked for money from tourists. Today, there are not many of them at the riverside, but there are still poor people.

Stung Meanchey dumpsite

Stung Meanchey dumpsite

I always heard about Stung Meanchey dumpsite, which is called “Trash Mountain” by local people, but back then I’d never been there. The homeless children told me that their parents were working there to get some money. I asked those children how to help, and they told me to visit the dumpsite to see that a lot of people were working in a risky environment. I was touched that those homeless children wanted education. My dream was to finish school since I was poor, so why not help them to achieve their dreams as well? Then, I tried to work hard and save money to help them without free time. I also invited some relatives to study in the house. After I quit my job, I created the People Improvement Organization in 2002, which has done a lot of work focusing on the struggles in Stung Meanchey.

Areyksat

Areyksat

I never get tired of meeting children, but I also need time to relax, and Areyksat [across from Koh Pich] is one of my favourite places to stay. I mostly go there every day because I like to relax along the riverside. The environment and landscape are nice, fresh and quiet, and it is naturally windy. It is not far from the city but being there gives me a different feeling. Now, I have a house there, so I can drive around to look for poor children who could not attend school. If I can help, I will help them. I want to see how it changes from day to day, and from what I can see now, there are not many children who beg or sleep outside like before. It only takes a half hour to drive without traffic from Areyksat ferry at Diamond Island (Koh Pich) to my workplace in Stung Meanchey.

Royal University of Fine Arts

Royal University of Fine Arts

Students at PIO have different backgrounds from students who study in state or private schools. They used to live in dumpsites or on the street, and they never had a chance to visit different places in Phnom Penh or the provinces. Therefore, we often organise field trips to the provinces and Phnom Penh, such as to the Royal Palace, National Museum, Tuol Sleng and RUFA, because we want them to learn from new places and to do research after they graduate. RUFA has many things to offer, and the children can research about history; at the same time, it improves their knowledge through the trip.

PIO souvenir shop

PIO souvenir shop

PIO shop was created to empower poor women and children who attended vocational training and make souvenirs and recycled products such as bags, wallets, necklaces, clothes and so on. Eight years ago, we were selling them in Russian Market, but we have only one shop now at PIO Stung Meanchey, because we didn’t want to spend much on rent. We get money to help more than one thousand students in our organisation because we offer everything for free, such as study materials, bags, clothes, health care, food and shelter for some children.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • Cambodia, CRF win rice battle in EU Court

    The European General Court has rejected the European Commission’s (EC) request to reject a complaint submitted by Cambodia and the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) regarding the EU’s reintroduction of tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia. A court order uploaded to the European

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,