There are many disabled living in Cambodia; they can be seen around the capital city, in the streets and out in the country villages, struck down by war, landmines, accidents and diseases.
There is always more that can be done for the unfortunate people, young and old, men and women, who struggle to regain their lives and self esteem and support and provide a living for their families.
There are many people and local organisations who are trying to make a difference, to help these people begin a worthwhile and meaningful career for which many of them strive and get their place back in society.
Local NGO the Khmer Association for Vocational Training and Vocation (KAVTV) in Phnom Penh is one hard-working well supported organisation at the forefront of those helping many of our disabled.
KAVTV, an NGO established in 1998, is a training school that teaches landmine victims and other disabled adults, both men and women in Cambodia, what it terms two particular skills: hard and soft.
On the hardware part, through the vocational training, students learn how to repair electronic and electrical equipment and run their own repair shop.
On the software part, graduates are transformed from utter dependency to employees or employers of electronic companies or owners of their own repair shops. They learn small business management, problem solving and other skills with the ultimate purpose to offer a life-changing solution and show their ability to other disabled people and all Cambodians.
Each training course lasts six months and there are 30 students chosen for them, studying in Phnom Penh and given free accommodation and food at the organisation’s school campus until they excel in their selected skill and are qualified to run their own repair shop at their hometown or for similar employment.
The six-month courses are run through scholarships supported by Cambodia Supported Group (CSG) from Canada, the ANZ Royal Bank (Cambodia), the WoodFall-Nix family in Canada and other private donors.
KAVTV has good local and international relationships with related institutions and organisations and NGOs such as the National Centre of Disabled People (NCDP), Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation (CDPO) and the Cambodia Trust and participates in all activities related to disabilities.
It also works closely with local authorities so that repair shops can be opened up in places where the disabled students live so they can gain more practice in work situations after their KAVTV training and generate income to support their daily living.
The following stories of two men, among the many, are moving ones, and say much for the dedication and unstinting work of KAVTV.
Executive Director Hem Phang talks about the two men, whose ages are 25 years apart, who have succeeded in building a new career and start in life. Both took part in the KAVTV Training School last year.
The men, said Hem Phang, are Heng Dy, 48, a former soldier whose right leg was blown off by a landmine, and Sek Chea, 23, who had both legs affected by polio.
Heng Dy lost his leg in 1986 in Kampong Speu province.
“I felt so devastated after waking up from being unconscious to such a deep loss of losing my leg. Worst of all I felt hopeless believing that I could not do anything for my living in the future,” he said.
But a year later he married hoping for some happiness in the devastation, but his wife could not cope with all the ups and downs associated with his changed life and abandoned him, leaving behind four children to be cared for.
It took him five years to fight the poverty to support his children and help with their schooling, working as a coolie in a blacksmiths then in a concrete works and then in January last year he was awarded an ANZ Royal Bank-KAVTV scholarship for people with a disability.
With accommodation and food expenses paid, he did a six-month skills training course on repairing electronic household appliances in a program designed, implemented and managed by KAVTV, said executive director Hem Phang.
Last July he graduated from the activity program and was assigned as a leader of a KAVTV repair shop in the Sa-Ang district of Kandal province and since then has been able to support his family and his children have been able to continue their studies at school.
“Now he will not face any living nightmare in his life, with no more discrimination and his living will go on getting better,” said Hem Phang.
The other man in our story is Sek Chea, just 23, who was born into a family of five children in Kdey Run village in the Traing district of Takeo province.
He is the third child, had both legs affected by polio and abandoned school study in Grade 3.
Contracting polio when just one year old he walked independently until aged 14 when he lost his mobility and moved around jut using his hands.
“I get serious trembles due to the loss of mobility of my legs and it is really difficult moving around by hand. The world seems completely dark for me,” said Sek Chea.
He just stayed at home, never expecting any happiness until his brother-in-law told him he had found an organisation that provided a vocational training course for people with disabilities in repairing electronic appliances.
That organisation was KAVTV and all his family urged him to attend and in January last year he was awarded an ANZ Royal Bank-KAVTV scholarship as well.
After graduating he became the leader of a KAVTV repair shop in Taing Roinaeam village in the Dangkor district of Phnom Penh and since then has not only earned money for his own living, but to support his widowed mother and especially his younger brothers in going to school.
He is also hoping in the future to open his own repair shop.
“I am very proud of my life and express my highest thanks and gratitude to the ANZ Royal Bank and KAVTV for providing me with the scholarship to study skills so I could have access to a career and build up my future,” said Sek Chea.
With people like these, KAVTV aims to take the disabled from struggle to success, from despair to dignity.
As its name tells us, Vocational Training and Vocation, KAVTV, envisage people with disabilities to be fully integrated into society and able to unlock their potential to fully engage in social development.
To find out more about KAVTV or help donate to their cause in helping the disabled their contact details are:
Khmer Association for Vocational Training and Vocation ( KAVTV).
# 12EF0, Street 614&295, Sangkat Boeung kokII, Khan Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Telephone: (855) 12 850 649, (855) 12 508 219.
PO. Box: 701