Cambodia: Finding Love & Success after Landmine Accidents

Tirean and Navea were born and raised in villages on opposite sides of Cambodia. Under normal circumstances, they would probably never have met. One day in 1986, Tirean’s boss sent him and some friends to another town on business. At the time, Cambodia was still littered with antipersonnel landmines. Tirean stepped on one of them. One of his friends died in the explosion, while Tirean's left leg had to be amputated.

That same year, Navea, 18 years old, set out with some neighbors to gather bamboo. She too stepped on a landmine and had her left leg amputated. “I was lucky,” she explains. “Initially, I thought I would not be able to walk any more. But, one of the doctors at the hospital in Phnom Penh, took me under their wing. It was because of him that I received a prosthetic leg!”

Years later, in 1993, Tirean and Navea met at a vocational training center for people with disabilities in Phnom Penh. “We started talking and then fell in love,” says Tirean. They now earn their living from a small shop and laundry service they run together.

The couple relies on Handicap International for new prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation. Navea will need to go to the Handicap International rehabilitation center soon. "I wear out my prostheses fast. There are a lot of stairs here. I lose track of how many steps I go up and down to wash the laundry and hang it up to dry."

“It took me three months to learn how to use my prosthesis. My husband took less time, but now he prefers to use a crutch, while I still wear it and walk faster than someone with both their legs,” says Navea.  Her husband laughs, “Yeah, you even sleep with your prosthesis on!”

“We have three boys," says Navea. "They are currently 22, 18, and nine years old. The youngest two are still studying, but the eldest is married and we will soon be grandparents." Tirean adds, “I use my prosthesis more when we go out, to the market for example. Years ago, people would look strangely at us. We really felt discriminated against. But now, we no longer feel this uneasiness. Yes, I can say that we are happy.”