Cambodia: Kanhara's Second First Steps


Ten-year-old Kanhara looks at you solemnly. It is the look of someone who has not been sheltered from life and has had to fight to survive, despite her young age. This little girl had her right leg and arm amputated after being hit by a truck when she was barely four years old. She has been receiving support from the Handicap International rehabilitation center in Kompong Cham since 2015.

She speaks little about her accident, having only a hazy memory of it. It is no surprise, given how young she was the day she was struck by a careless truck driver. However, her mother remembers it vividly: “How could I forget it? It was the day of my sister’s wedding. She was playing alongside the road with the others. Then a truck came down the road. The impact almost tore off her arm and leg. She was first taken to the hospital in Kompong Cham, but Kanhara was in such dire condition that the doctor who examined her did not want to admit her. So, she was transferred to Phnom Penh.”

In Phnom Penh, she underwent major operations. Some of the skin from her left leg had to be taken to treat the injured shoulder. She stayed in the hospital for six months. For those six months, Kanhara’s mother and father took turns staying at her bedside. “We didn’t know if she would survive. She was so badly injured, but she did not cry,” says her mother.

But Kanhara fought. And Kanhara survived. Eventually, she was able to return home, where she and her family had to adjust to a new reality. “She was very alone and could go virtually nowhere,” recalls her mother.

All that changed when one day in 2015, Davann, a social worker at Handicap International's rehabilitation center, came to the village. She met Kanhara and sent her to the center to receive a prosthetic leg, allowing her to take her first steps for the second time in her life.

“Now she can go to school,” her mother exclaims. “She has friends. At the beginning, it was of course difficult as the other children did not accept her. That changed when someone from the center came and explained that you shouldn’t reject others just because they have a disability.”

So Kanhara is growing up, and every day she becomes more independent. Her mother can now rely on her to help with her younger siblings: "She gets dressed and puts on her prosthesis all on her own. And she also looks after her little brother and youngest sister. I can do other things around the house without any worries when I know she is with them.”

Kanhara walks to school, where she is one of the best pupils in her class. “I have six best friends, we always play together," says Kanhara. "Our favorite game is hide-and-seek." In the future, she hopes to become a singer, like her father.