Archive for March, 2010

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 www.peopleimprovement.org.

And if you are interested in understanding the power of Junoon check out our book on Amazon http://bit.ly/8Yf8Hr.

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Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson

Best Selling Author of
"Three Cups of Tea"

"My Junoon is to help the world in not only recognizing the ill effects caused by illiteracy but also to eradicate it."