Manin Keo traveled around the world before coming to Methodist University, a small, liberal arts school in the state of North Carolina. Her experience and education at the university led her to intern at the United Nations Foundation, where she worked with the Every Women Every Child Private Sectors Engagement Team after graduating in May 2016. Her inspirational story and efforts to help others don’t start in New York City, however, but in Cambodia, where she was born.
When Manin was 10 years old, her parents passed away from HIV/AIDS. She and her four siblings were left to live with their grandmother and a drug-addicted uncle. Life under this roof was not easy. Every morning, Manin and her siblings woke up at 5 a.m. to go work at a garbage dump, where she picked through the trash for recycling, a job that paid $1 or less per day. Ideally, Manin used the money she earned to buy food, but sometimes the money was taken by her uncle. A few months after her parents passed away, she went to live in an orphanage, Center for Children’s Happiness, in Phnom Penh. There, Manin learned English, how to sew and use a computer, and most importantly, she learned to be independent. In an effort to give back to the community, Manin worked to educate other disadvantage children about human trafficking, read them stories, and taught them how to fold origami every Sunday.
In 2010, Manin got a full scholarship to United World College (UWC) of the Atlantic. For a special project week through the school, she travelled to Jordan, where she taught English to Somali and Iraqi refugees for 10 days. Also, one summer she was at the UWC, she led a group of students from various other United World Colleges to teach sports, art, music, and read stories to indigenous children in Cambodia through an organization called United World School.
After graduation from United World College, Manin enrolled in Methodist University on a full merit-based scholarship. She chose political science as her major, with a concentration in international relations and a minor in accounting. She was also involved in extracurricular activities such as Model United Nations and Amnesty International. While she was at Methodist University, Manin was awarded the Outstanding Political Science Student Award from the Government Studies Department.