Ponheary Ly believes that education is important for the future of children, of families, and of the nation. Ly lives in Cambodia, an Asian nation on the Gulf of Thailand. Her father was a teacher, and she became a teacher, too. She didn’t earn a lot of money, but she and some other teachers used their pay to help create libraries and support extra educational programs for children.
When Cambodia opened its borders to tourists, Ly, who speaks Khmer, Russian, French, and English, became a licensed tour guide. Tour guides make more money than teachers. While conducting tours, she noticed many children spent their days selling souvenirs to tourists instead of going to school. Even though Cambodia provides free education for its children, parents often do not have the money for school uniforms and supplies. Ly began using her tips to help children go to school. She recommended that tourists donate to education programs rather than buying trinkets from the children, as school would give the children a better future.
Lori Carlson, a tourist from Austin, Texas, was so impressed with Ly’s work that she went home and started the Ponheary Ly Foundation to help Cambodia’s children go to school. Carlson became so involved that she quit her job, sold her home, and moved to Cambodia.
The Ponheary Ly Foundation buys uniforms, shoes, and school supplies for children in need. The Foundation also provides a healthy breakfast, medical care, and bicycles for children who need transportation. Teachers in Cambodia are not paid well, so the Foundation gives a stipend to teachers who work hard.
People who like to travel to foreign places and volunteer are welcome to come volunteer with the Ponheary Ly Foundation and help teach English.
In June of this year, Ponheary Ly became a CNN Hero for her service to Cambodia’s children. Ly isn’t out to win awards. She serves for the love of children and in honor of her father, who inspired her love of learning.