HomeNewsAsia’s highest honor given to four individuals for ‘transformative work,’ ‘inspiring lives’

Asia’s highest honor given to four individuals for ‘transformative work,’ ‘inspiring lives’

"Asia is a region teeming with seemingly ordinary people who are capable of doing extraordinary things"

This year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awards recognized the “transformative work and the inspiring lives” of four individuals from various disciplines at the Awards ceremonies in Manila on November 30.

A mental health advocate from Cambodia, a sight-saving humanitarian from Japan, a children’s rights crusader from the Philippines, and an anti-plastic pollution warrior from Indonesia are this year’s winners of what has been dubbed as “Asia’s Nobel Prize.”

“Their remarkable achievements are testament that Asia is a region teeming with seemingly ordinary people who are capable of doing extraordinary things. They are leaders who can truly change the world,” said Aurelio R. Montinola III, chairperson of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

He said this year’s awardees have “challenged the invisible societal lines that cause separation and have drawn innovative and inspiring ones that build connections.”

This year’s laureates are Sotheara Chhim, a Cambodian mental health advocate and a known voice in trauma syndrome; Tadashi Hattori, a Japanese sight-saving humanitarian; Filipino children’s rights crusader Bernadette J. Madrid; and Gary Bencheghib, an anti-plastic pollution warrior from Indonesia

In his acceptance speech, Chhim said that as a young doctor in Cambodia’s remote areas, he saw “the great need for psychosocial health.”

“I realized that this is perhaps my calling to provide much needed psychosocial care to my countrymen,” he said, adding that he will be donating the award money to a project that provides psychosocial care.

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Japanese Hattori, who was presented with the award for being an embodiment of individual social responsibility, said: “If there’s anything that I can do as an ophthalmologist, it is bring the light to such people, so that they will turn their despair to hope and live a better life they deserve.”

Filipina children’s rights crusader Madrid said that in her line of work she learned that “there are no quick fixes, that we cannot do this alone, that we need the system to work, that ordinary people need to do their job with purpose, compassion and skill.”

“Unfortunately, I also learned that ending violence against children will not happen on its own. We need to fight for it. It needs planning, commitment, resources, persistence and leadership,” she said.

“The Ramon Magsaysay Award has made me realize how much people care and that I am not alone,” said Madrid.

French Bencheghib, who has been on the forefront of the fight against plastic pollution in Indonesia, stressed the need “to let our planet rest and heal.”

“The little boy inside of me would have never imagined I would become a garbage man. But here I am, very proud to be cleaning – river by river – on this mission for a plastic-free world,” he said.

Established in 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s premier prize and highest honor. It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the seventh Philippine president after whom the award is named, and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.

Ramon Magsaysay 2022 awardees Tadashi Hattori from Japan, Gary Bencheghib of Indonesia, Filipino Bernadette Madrid, and Sotheara Chhim of Cambodia pose with Awards officials during ceremonies in Manila on Nov. 30, 2022. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

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