Archive for the ‘Eradicating Poverty’ Category

Uplifting Children from Poverty

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Phymean talk's with a kid at dumpsite

Phymean talks with a kid at a dumpsite

If you had it all – money, home, car and the comfort that comes with these things – could you trade them in to help poor children? That’s what Phymean Noun, a Cambodian woman voted one of the Top Ten CNN Heroes in 2008, did some years back to launch the People Improvement Organization in 2002.

But let’s back up a bit. Things have never come easily for Phymean. She knows what it’s like to face life’s cruelties. She was just four years old, when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Phymean and her mother survived, but as the Khmer Rouge lost power, Phymean’s life didn’t get any better. As Cambodia lay in ruins all around her, she came face to face with new personal challenges and responsibilities. Her sister was lost, and her mother died of cancer, leaving a 15-year-old, to care for her 2-year-old niece, Malyda.

Besides caring for Malyda, Phymean earned money to support the two of them by working at a nearby electricity plant by day and attending school at night and learning English from a private teacher. After school, she worked copying documents by hand.

By 1991, life turned for the better. Phymean entered a refugee camp to locate her sister and found work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There, she found her sister. A year later, she returned to Cambodia and landed a job with United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). She worked as a training officer and in financial administration. In time, she was earning top dollar, owned a house and a car, and had $30,000 in the bank. Compared to most Cambodians, many of whom live on less than $1 a day, she was well off and had everything she needed. Life was good.

But as the saying goes, life is what happens when you’re getting ready to do something else. One day, while eating BBQ chicken at lunch with a friend in a riverside park in Phnom Penh, a group of street children approached, and asked for money to buy something to eat. Phymean told them to return after lunch time had passed. The children withdrew, but kept their eyes glued to Phymean and her friend.

After she and her friend finished lunch, they threw the chicken bones into the trash. In a split second, the children who had approached her earlier rushed to the trash, grabbed the leftover bones, and began sucking on them to get whatever meat and fat was left.

Phymean watched in shock and horror as the little children tried to eat what was, in fact, her garbage. As she spoke with them, she grew acutely aware that they lived in abominable conditions. When she asked them to come closer, she could see that they suffered from malnutrition.

Phymean talk with kid that never been to school

Phymean speaks with a child who’s never been to school

Shortly after her conversation with indigent children, Phymean’s life rose to a new level. “I new then that I had to do something,” she said. And she did. In 2002, she resigned from her job and poured all $30,000 of her savings into launching People Improvement Organization (PIO) without any outside funding. Some of her friends thought she had lost her mind. But this sort of feedback doesn’t hold back people like Phymean when they are in the state of Junoon, an unyielding obsession to achieve a lofty goal.

To bring her vision to reality, Phymean naturally applied a level of concentration that is so intense that you almost create a gravitational pull where people, events, and opportunities naturally come close to you. In our book, Driven: A How-to Strategy for Unlocking Your Greatest Potential, we describe this as Fanatic Focus:

You are hyper-focused on doing whatever you need to convert your vision to a fait accompli. To all outward appearances, you seem to be caught up in an hypnotic trance. Not surprising, since nothing has ever engulfed you with such immense feelings of pleasure … You know with a doubt that you’re on the right course. The pressure of life’s daily distractions fade to insignificance. You become consumed with your drive to achieve your impossible goal … Fanatic Focus arranges circumstances that open you to critical synchronicity and makes it possible for you to meet them when they occur. You sense that the universe is connecting you with people, situations, and events that convey knowledge in support of your vision. You see and hear things that support your desire to achieve your goal that you would otherwise overlook. You live and behave as though on fire, bursting with unbounded passion to complete what you set out to achieve, and you are ready to give up your worldly possessions for the fulfillment of your vision. Nothing and no one can deter you.

Phymean serve's food to kids

Phymean serves food to kids

Today, the People Improvement Organization educates more than 800 children each day in three schools and with vocational training in Information Technology, dress making, and beauty-salon training. Education and food are free and have plenty of community support. The children come from poor families, and many are orphans, street children, and young people affected by AIDS and HIV.

Phymean’s future plans are to create foundations for the People Improvement Organization in Europe, Canada, Australia, and the United States and to continue her work helping children in these countries.

“My Junoon,” she says, “is to help kids have a better life and to give them hope, like Mother Theresa.”

To find out more about Phymean and the People Improvement Organization (PIO), log onto

And if you are interested in understanding the power of Junoon check out our book on Amazon

David Schweidenback Uses Bikes To Lift People Out of Poverty in Underdeveloped Countries

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Working to eradicate poverty

Working to eradicate poverty

For those who have not read this blog before, I will introduce you to a new concept called JUNOON. This is an Arabic/Persian word that defines the hypnotic zeal of extraordinary people such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Madam Curie, and others who have influenced and dramatically changed the lives of not just of hundreds, or thousands, but of millions of people.

Every time I think I’ve seen it all, someone comes along to shake me out of my complacency. Someone like CNN Hero, David Schweidenback. For the last 18 years, he’s devoted his life to sending used bikes to people in underdeveloped countries tolift them out of poverty. .

I know what you’re thinking. Bikes eradicating poverty? No way. That’s what I thought, until I had the pleasure of talking with him recently. Believe it or not, Schweidenback rescues bikes, many of them like new, that would otherwise be headed for garbage dumps and gets people to donate bikes to him.

As word has spread and people have begun giving him bikes, his organization, Pedals for Progress, has grown beyond anything he had expected. In 1991, the first year of operations, Schweidenback shipped 2,400 bikes. The second year, he shipped 4,800 bikes. And by 2009, Pedals for Progress had shipped more than 124,724 bikes to impoverished people in 32 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

If he sounds like a child of the 60s to you, you’re right. In a surge of altruism, he completed a stint in the Peace Corps back when John F. Kennedy was president. Schweidenback worked in the tiny, poverty-ridden town of Succua as a land surveyor for the Federacion Shuar, an organization of the Shuar Indians in the Amazon basin of Ecuador and Peru.

He noticed that everyone in Succua walked wherever they went, except for one man, a carpenter, by the name of Cesar Peňa. He had what nobody else in Succua had – a bicycle. In fact, he had the only one within 500 miles.

He saw how well off Cesar Peňa was in this backward town. He was a land owner, and compared to everyone else in Succua, he was Donald Trump. Schweidenback realized that besides having a solid work ethic, the secret to Peňa’s success was his bike. He had wheels to get to and from where he wanted to go.

If the other townspeople wanted to go somewhere, they either had to walk or wait for the buses that rolled through town only twice a day.

This was a spark of Pure Inspiration. Here’s how I describe such an experience in my book, Driven: A How-to Strategy for Unlocking Your Greatest Potential:

It’s as if your entire brain sparks with illumination. You become changed with energy as this revelation from the universe hits you completely and captures your mind. You’re instantly able to see the solution to a problem with which you have been wrestling; it comes to you in wordless form, and you perceive the entire package as it’s laid out to you in the depths of your being. You undergo a transcendent moment of creation as this inspiration enters your consciousness, and you comprehend what you must do and all the ramifications. The solution is complete, non-debatable, and irrefutable. This is the stuff of great discoveries — from scientific and technological advances to extraordinary forward leaps in philosophy, logic, art, music, and ethics.

As is typical of someone in JUNOON, Schweidenback developed a total obsession with sending bikes to poor people. “I thought that if I quit my job,” he says, “I could turn this little idea into a functioning entity. Instead of helping just a couple of hundred people, I could help thousands,” he says. Eventually, that’s what he did.

From the very start of his JUNOON, he knew in his heart of hearts that he could radically change entire towns for the better by helping people there to create wealth for themselves, by providing with mobility.

I have to say that Pedals for Progress works. A good example is the tiny, coastal town of Rivas, Nicaragua, to which Pedals for Progress has shipped more than 16,000 bikes. Everyone there rides one.

“While the rest of Nicaragua is experiencing staggering economic problems and high unemployment, Rivas is a booming metropolis with full employment, because everybody has a bicycle,” he says.

How does he keep getting the bikes he needs? Simple. The supply of bikes is endless. “People in the United States,” he says, “buy more than 22 million bikes a year and dump more than 5 million into landfills, often because they’re the wrong color.”

Most important, Schweidenback’s JUNOON keeps him motivated to continue his love affair with getting bikes into the hands of impoverished people. “My JUNOON,” he says, “is to enable people to get out of poverty by giving them the ability to get to work with the pride of self-sufficiency.”

Want to know about finding your JUNOON? Then be sure to pre-order – Driven: A How-to Strategy to Unlocking Your Greatest Potential, published by John Wiley & Sons on July 13th, 2010. Advance sales on Amazon have already started.


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Peter Roman

Peter J. Roman

Director of Global Accounts-Eaton Corporation

"It is rare when you find a formula to bridge the business and academic worlds. Razi Imam's Driven; A How-to Strategy to Unlock Your Greatest Potential accomplishes the task. This is a love story. The love of and application of positive obsession. The love of the hunt for and continued pursuit of success. I have known Razi for years, and he is a living example of his work Driven. He is a gifted communicator that will have a life long impact on you."