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National Honoree

Photo of National Honoree Sayumi Ohta

Sayumi Ohta

Japan

Sayumi Ohta, 18, of Nihonmatsu City, a senior at Fukushima Prefectural Fukushima High School, organized the “Thank you Cambodia Project,” translating and donating picture books to Badak, a small village in Cambodia. When Sayumi’s hometown, Fukushima, was damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, Fukushima prefecture received a donation from the village of Badak, where a fierce battle took place during Cambodian Civil War and people are still experiencing poverty. Sayumi, at the age of 9, was moved by the kindness of people in Badak and determined to give back to them in the future.

Soon after enrolling in high school, Sayumi and her cousin started to consider the way to repay their kindness and decided to donate picture books, as she learned there was a shortage of them in Cambodia. For the first year, with encouragement and help from peers and neighbor schools, she collected and translated more than 150 picture books from Japanese into Khmer. She visited Badak, entertaining 50 children with the picture books, drawing or just conversation. For the second visit in next year, in addition to translating of Japanese picture books, she made an original Khmer picture book named “Badak 1.2.3” to help children learn numbers and work on their reading skills. She also collected small music instruments and held a concert with the children. Sayumi now works with 10 members on her initiative. Her next goal, she said, is to expand her project by introducing new activities such as a Japanese festival, sports and arts and crafts.