A young girl named Kimhouy is fitted for artificial legs at a rehabilitation center in Cambodia

Requiring amputations as an infant, Kimhouy is determined to stand tall

Kimhouy, 8, was born with limb differences. For the past two years, she has received care from Humanity & Inclusion and has learned to walk with artificial legs. 

Kimhouy was born with dysmelia, a congenital abnormality that causes missing, shortened or other limb differences. As an infant, doctors amputated both of her legs, her left arm and some of her fingers.

Until the age of 6, unless someone carried her, Kimhouy would just sit on the floor. She didn’t know what it was like to walk. And it was almost impossible for her to take part in family activities. Born with a serious disability and into an extremely poor family, Kimhouy has experienced a lot of hardship, but she maintains a positive outlook on life. 

Barriers to routine care

Kimhouy's parents are both day laborers in Cambodia. Her mother works on farms and her father on construction sites. They hire out their labor when they can and barely earn enough to support Kimhouy and her three siblings. The family experiences regular spells of unemployment. Because of their irregular income, Kimhouy does not get continuous care. Even though the family lives only an hour from Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, where she receives follow-up care, her parents struggle to arrange for her to get routine treatment. Humanity & Inclusion’s team has visited her at home to provide follow-up care, but encourages regularly visits to the rehabilitation center because it is vital for Kimhouy to have her prosthetics repaired or be fitted for new ones as she outgrows them.

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“We’ve been providing Kimhouy with follow-up care since September 2019,” says Vimean Srun, head of the physical therapy unit at the Kampong Cham center managed by Humanity & Inclusion. “Unfortunately, she is not always able to come to her appointments because of her family’s situation. Last November, the last time she visited the rehabilitation center, her prostheses were too small because she’d grown so much. At that age, you need to change them regularly."

Still, Kimhouy’s mother tries her best to ensure her daughter keeps making progress.

“I would like to thank Humanity & Inclusion for covering the cost of our accommodation, transport and food when Kimhouy needs to visit the center for rehabilitation or new prostheses,” her mother says. “We couldn’t afford to help our daughter otherwise. I hope Humanity & Inclusion will continue to support people with disabilities for a long time to come.”


Determined to stand tall

Kimhouy loves visiting the rehabilitation center, which her mother heard about from a friend who lives with a disability. The first day she met Humanity & Inclusion physical therapists and orthopedic technicians, her life changed. She wants to keep improving and become more self-reliant.

"My daughter has been so happy since she was fitted with her prostheses,” her mother adds. “She can walk, get out of the house, ride her bike and play with friends. She stays clean because she can stand instead of always having to sit on the floor. I’m extremely grateful to Humanity & Inclusion and the donors who have made this possible.”

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At the rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, Kimhouy channels her enthusiasm into her goal of walking better. 

“Kimhouy is a bright girl and extremely determined,” explains Srun, the physical therapist. “She’s always in a good mood and willing to do the exercises we suggest. She really enjoys her physical therapy sessions and knows the whole team. She has a smile for everyone. We also give her advice on her day-to-day life. We are proud of her and glad her prostheses mean she can go to school now.”

After she was fitted with her artificial limbs in 2019, Kimhouy started school, but getting there sometimes proves challenging. Her school is one-and-a-half miles away from her home, and it’s hard for her to travel alone. Her older brother or friends usually go with here, but–too often for her liking–she misses class when no one can help.

"I like going to school,” Kimhouy says. “Sometimes it's hard for me to stand up. Sometimes I fall down when I'm too tired. Some of my classmates make fun of me because of my disability, but I try not to take it seriously. I like to play in the playground with my friends and I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”

Header image: A young girl named Kimhouy sits on a bench while a physical therapist fits her for artificial legs at a rehabilitation center in Cambodia. Her mother sits nearby. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI
Inline image: Kimhouy smiles from inside a toy car at a rehabilitation center in Cambodia. Her left arm, which is amputated, rests on the toy car's door. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI