(7/9/2014): The SOS Children’s Village in Bhubaneswar, India is still buzzing with excitement ever since Maya Dhal, one of the village’s former children, won the female category of this year's Hermann Gmeiner Award. Maya, 24, was working when she heard the news of her win. Full of happiness and excitement, she left her office to be with her SOS family who gave her a bouquet of flowers and hosted a dinner party complete with a celebratory cake. Maya is a hard-working lecturer at a hotel management college. She earned the support of voters around the world with her determination to help school dropouts return to the classroom. Maya made sure to visit the children she worked with to tell them about the award. “They were happy. I also told them when I was nominated and they wished me the best of luck. I made sure when I visited them that they are still going to school regularly,” Maya said. Rakesh Jinsi, Secretary General of SOS Children’s Villages India, said there was no need for a big campaign to canvas votes for Maya. Her nature, behavior, and achievements touched the hearts of SOS Children’s Village co-workers and their friends in the community. Maya used her nomination to raise awareness for SOS Children’s Villages. “I didn’t say vote for me. I said people should read all the nominees’ profiles and vote for whom they think should win. Even so, I knew I had a lot of supporters and am glad that they voted for me.” Maya was awarded nearly $7,000 that she plans to to help children in slums receive an education. She also hopes to use some of the money on her SOS Mother, Susama Manjari Dhal, who has always dreamed of travelling to well-known religious areas in India. Maya also recently celebrated her marriage to Bharat Ranjan Parida on July 4. Her SOS Children’s Villages family helped her prepare for the wedding and she invited the children she teaches to celebrate with her. “My wish is that children and adults are motivated through my work to also work hard and contribute positively to their communities,” Maya said. Enjoy this story? Get more updates like this one sent straight to your email inbox!