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Muoy You, who escaped Cambodia's killing fields, now teaches self-respect and integrity

Muoy You has opened Seametrey Children's Village in Phnom Penh to help restore Cambodia's culture.

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Muoy You has expanded the small school she founded in her native Phnom Penh, Cambodia, after returning from exile. Her mission: to help restore the country’s professional class, ravaged by Pol Pot.

Tibor Krausz

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For Muoy You, "the power of education" isn't an abstract concept. She's seen it transform the life of her family.

Her father was a bicycle repairman, and her mother an illiterate street vendor. Yet her four children are all university graduates. "They're high fliers," Ms. Muoy says.

One of her sons teaches aeronautics at the University of Washington in Seattle; another is working on a PhD in particle physics at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva.

Muoy grew up poor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during the Vietnam War. "We lived in a squatters' shack, but I loved learning and I did well in school," she recalls.

In 1972 she won a scholarship to study in France. It would save her from Pol Pot's killing fields, where her parents and siblings were among the 2 million dead. She spent the next two decades in exile, raising a family and working as a teacher in Africa and the Middle East.

Now Muoy wants to transform the prospects of other Cambodian families by giving children of low-income cleaners, laborers, farmers, and tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaw) drivers a high-quality education.

"I don't just want to teach them to read and write," she stresses. "I want them to become professionals, writers, thinkers, artists – to make their country proud."

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