A Cambodian woman sits in a wheelchair and smiles over her shoulder. On a table in front of her is a sewing machine and a swatch of blue and yellow fabric

Living with paralysis, Srey finds success as a seamstress

Srey Nuch has been living with paraplegia since she was 13. Humanity & Inclusion has helped her set up her own sewing business, but she doesn’t plan to stop there!

Srey was picking pods for a family meal from the top of a tamarind tree—a common fruit tree in Cambodia— when she fell to the ground.  The accident  left Srey unable to walk, and her family went into debt paying for her treatment. Her parents sold their belongings and borrowed money from village moneylenders. Srey's two older brothers dropped out school to find work. Since Srey was unable to stand, she also had to stop attending classes.

Unable to climb the seven steps into her family’s stilt house, Srey moved into a small outbuilding nearby. During rainy season, it was almost impossible for her to move around on the muddy floor.

“It was an awful experience, and it left me disabled, and with my family we went through a lot of pain and some really tough times," Srey explains. “It was hard. I couldn't move around, and that made me feel sad. But since I’ve been able to access rehabilitation services, I feel a lot more hopeful about the future.


A budding entrepreneur

Srey lives in a village near Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, where she has received rehabilitation care since 2015. The team also gave Srey a wheelchair and leg braces.

"Srey Nuch's condition has really improved,” says Vimean Srun, a physical therapist for Humanity & Inclusion. “To begin with, she couldn't move her legs at all. So I began by doing physical therapy exercises with her and showed her mother so they could do them at home. We also gave her with a wheelchair. Initially she found it hard to move from the chair to her bed or the toilet. But she put in a lot of practice and now she moves around with her crutches and braces.”

Staff from Humanity & Inclusion’s socio-economic inclusion project also helped Srey put her plans to become a seamstress into action. She was given a sewing machine and material to get her business up and running. She also joined an inclusive community investment program, which taught her how to sew. Today, Srey’s an accomplished entrepreneur who makes beautiful clothes.

“I earn an income from my sewing skills, which helps my family,” Srey says. “I’m really grateful to Humanity & Inclusion and everyone who wants me to be part of the community."

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When she’s not working, Srey is active in her village, does chores, and enjoys hobbies.

“With my braces, crutches and wheelchair I can move around the house, go out, and visit my neighbors” she says. “I can do a lot of things without help, like washing myself and my clothes, and cooking. I love cooking! I can even go into the garden and pick lemongrass to make my favorite dish!”

Srey ’s aspirations don’t end there: “As well as sewing, I am going to start raising chickens to earn more and help my younger brother go to school,” she says.

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Top image: Srey sits in her wheelchair at her sewing machine in Cambodia. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI
Inline image: Srey sits at a table while preparing one of her favorite meals at her home in Cambodia. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI