The United Nations has recognized the efforts of a local NGO using sport to integrate
landmine survivors back into society.
The Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) or CNVLD, the country's only
professional sports program, earned "best practice" status after a worldwide
review in 2005, the International Year of Sport.
"More than anything, it shows that Cambodia can provide solutions to burning
international issues like the consequences of landmines and past civil conflict,"
said CNVLD General Secretary Chris Minko. "That is the unique power of sport."
Seventy percent of CNVLD athletes are landmine amputees, while others are victims
of polio or traffic accidents. To avoid encouraging dependency, athletes are given
subsidies on training and transport instead of salaries.
"Sport is a means to improve one's personal life and well-being," said
Minko. "When that happens, the athlete's self-esteem is restored enough to get
out there and find work. Over 60 percent of our athletes are now employed."
UN Development Programme Cambodia spokesperson Dain Bolwell said his organization's
report on the International Year of Sport highlighted the importance of sport in
reaching the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to reduce worldwide poverty
"In Cambodia, CNVLD is a wonderful and inspiring example of how this can be
done," he said.
Since its inception in 1999, the league has evolved into a 16-club nationwide training
and competition program with an elite team currently ranked fourth in the world.
It has also spawned a female wheelchair-racing league.
The volleyball league is now entirely managed by Cambodians, and Minko says too few
foreign organizations are following that example, with 60 percent of foreign aid
being spent outside Cambodia on "technical support."
"I think INGOs have to look at themselves and ask why they haven't localized
after being here, in some cases, for 15 years. The reality is that many of them feed
off Cambodia's poverty; it is their marketing angle, their capital base."
This week, CNVLD will sign a memorandum of understanding with the government, which
will enable the construction of more provincial disabled sports facilities and help
secure Cambodia's reputation as the ASEAN center for disabled sports development
"Cambodia is the logical home for disabilities sports within the ASEAN region
because it has the highest ratio of disabled people in the world," Minko said.
The memorandum will also give CNVLD the right to tour the exhibition To be Deter-mined
- At Arms Length internationally in 2007.
The exhibition, to be launched in Canada, uses essays, photographs and installations
to show how Cambodia is coping with landmine and rehabilitation issues. Featuring
new work by photographer Al Rockoff, it will tour countries that have known civil
conflict, like Ireland and Kosovo.
By working closer with the government, Minko hopes CVNLD'S practices can rub off
on Cambodia's "corruption-plagued able-bodied sports system."
"CVNLD has received international recognition as a role model for cost efficiency,
transparency and impact with disabled people," he said. "I will recommend
the government link with international sports governing bodies and start to implement