Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN gives volleyball NGO thumbs up

UN gives volleyball NGO thumbs up

UN gives volleyball NGO thumbs up

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

by 2015.

"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

programs.

"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

international standards."

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