Hout Thoeung, a 22 year old girl, was affected with polio when she was six months old causing both her legs to become paralyzed. She faced limitations in moving around, performing normal daily living activities, and she also faced discrimination from other children in the village. She has been living with her parents in Chhveang Village, Pratheat Commune, Kampong Traberk District, Prey Veng Province where they are subsistence farmers.
Her life was very difficult, she could neither walk nor go to school, which kept her home most of the time and inside the house. Her only way of getting around was by crawling, causing her mother to spend most of her time taking care of her.
This continued until 2003, when her parents learned about the Veterans International Cambodia (VIC) program through VIC community workers and brought her to Prey Veng Physical Rehabilitation Center, a VIC center. At the beginning, the clinical staff treated her with physiotherapy but unfortunately this physical condition could not be reversed and she was prescribed use of a wheelchair for her mobility. At the start of the program Thoeung was closely monitored by a VIC CBR team at home for device follow up and to ensure she was getting the proper physical rehabilitation, school, and social integration. Since the start of the program VIC has provided her with 3 normal wheelchairs and 2 tricycles to help her get around efficently. In addition to her physical rehabilitation VIC provided her with support and encouragement, school supplies, and other assistance each year so that she could attend school.
After receiving the rehabilitation services from VIC, Thoeung does not spend her time alone anymore. By using her wheelchair she can go outside to see her neighbors, go to school, and play with other children. . Hout Thoeung is now studying in grade 12 at a secondary school in Prey Veng province. She is a bright girl and has chosen to study computers and the English language in addition to her regular classes. She is commited to finishing her secondary school this year and will continue studying in a university with the hopes of getting a good job in the future. She wants to be an accountant and work with other NGOs to help Persons with Disabilities.
Thoeung’s neighbors, friends, and family are very proud of what she has done and encourage her to study until she gets a bachelors degree. Thoeung is delighted to be able to study at a high school level, and has expressed her deepest gratitude to VIC and its donors for supporting her with rehabilitation and school support. “I feel very happy and thank you VIC and its donors. I will never forget the generous support and assistance,” she said during a visit of the project manager.
Her model has inspired people to think of the rights of persons with disabilities and she can now see the ability rather than the disability. Thoeung articulates to the communities about lessons learned from her experiences and commitment to overcome obstacles.