Education of Destitute Children Honoured

Congratulations to Phymean Noun and the People Improvement Organization (PIO). Everyone at Dharma Care was delighted to learn that Phymean Noun, Founder and CEO of the People Improvement Organization, has been awarded the 2022 Education 2.0 for Outstanding Leadership in Education.

How it began …

In 2002, Phymean had an encounter with some grimy, near-starving children on the now-defunct Stung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump just outside Phnom Penh. To her horror, the children hungrily started gnawing on the leftover chicken bones which she and her friend had discarded. These and many children like them were eking out a subsistent living by picking through the enormous mountains of smoking toxic waste to find things to sell to supplement their families’ income. They were living in shacks cobbled together from materials found on the dump. Their parents had clothed them in discarded garments which had become garbage to more fortunate families. They were eating what they could find among the rubbish. Needless to say, these children were denied any opportunity to go to school, and thus had no future prospects.

Recalling her mother’s wise words, “the key to a better life is education,” Phymean started a free school on the garbage dump. The school began with just 20 kids, but over the years, it has grown as more and more parents bring their children to be educated at PIO.   It has become a nationally and internationally recognised school, offering world-class education to over 1500 boys and girls from low-income families. Full-board and shelter are provided for the most destitute of these students in a section of PIO known as “The Shelter”.

When times are hard, such as during the Covid pandemic, PIO staff visit the poorest of the children’s families to deliver daily necessities such as rice and cooking oil, and words of encouragement.


Phymean’s tireless work to rescue children from a life of back-breaking work and her devotion to educating children from poverty-stricken families have been recognised through many awards.

2008 CNN’s Heroes Award for rescuing child labourers and giving them a chance to thrive
2015 The Queen of Sweden presents Phymean with the World’s Children’s Prize
2015 Special Humanitarian Award from the Canadian Multicultural Council
2015 PIO students celebrate after Phymean was awarded Cambodia’s Medal of Honor

Dharma Care’s Srey Lak Program for Girls

In 2018, Dharma Care founded the Srey Lak Program for Girls to educate some of Cambodia’s most destitute girls at PIO. Without education, such girls are destined to remain marginalised, vulnerable to all manner of abuse and injustice. It is our hope that the education which they receive at PIO will transform their lives. There are currently 13 girls in SPG, 6 of whom have completed high school and are furthering their education at universities (please also see “Han Phally’s Journey from Rubbish Dump to University”).

Dharma Care depends on the generosity of our supporters to enable us to give more girls a brighter future than they were born into. Big or small, all donations help the children at PIO. AU$1000.00 a year for tuition and full board will transform the life of one girl. Please visit to make a donation.

Miyako Armytage