Cambodia | In 1982, Emilie received her first artificial leg made of bamboo
Emilie Pin Vath was 6 when she lost her foot in a landmine explosion in Cambodia. She was one of the very first people to be fitted with an artificial limb by HI after its founding in 1982.
Emilie was born in Battambang, Cambodia. She fell on a landmine in 1982 when she and her family were fleeing the Khmer Rouge. After arriving at Khao I Dang camp at the Cambodia-Thailand border, Emilie crossed paths with HI’s team and was fitted with an artificial limb made of bamboo. Today, Emilie is 48 and living in France. She tells her story:
At the time, there was a war in Cambodia. Because of the Khmer Rouge's hold on the country, my family had to flee their village, which is why I found myself on the road between Thailand and Cambodia.
One day as we were traveling, we stopped at a refugee camp near a pond. We had come a long way and, like the other children, I was eager to make the most of the cool water. I waited until my parents fell asleep and snuck out to go for a swim.
On the way to the pond, we passed some men running in the opposite direction. As they went by, one of them pushed me and I fell onto a landmine. There was a deafening bang. After that, all I remember is a black veil descending. Everything went dark. When I woke up, I saw that my left foot was gone. It had been torn off in the mine explosion.
Arriving at the refugee camp
I received emergency first aid, but for proper treatment, I had to go to another refugee camp in Thailand. It was a long way away and my family carried me through the forest on a stretcher for 15 days. I had no medicine, no painkillers—nothing. When we arrived at Khao I Dang camp, I saw many people with missing arms or legs, most of them children.
I was taken to the clinic, where they took off my bandages. It took at least five minutes and I remember very well how the white cloth suddenly turned red. Once the bandages were removed, the doctors could see that gangrene had started to spread up my leg. They decided to amputate.
A month later, I came out of a medically-induced coma. Before the operation, I thought they would amputate below the knee, which would have made it easier to walk again. But when I lifted the sheet, I realized that the amputation was in fact higher up, mid-femur.
HI’s first bamboo limbs
There was a workshop making a lot of noise in the camp, and as soon as I could get around on my crutches, I went to see what was going on. In the workshop, there were hammers, pieces of bamboo and iron rods. One of the workers saw me and explained: "We are making bamboo prostheses for children like you. They will be used for people who have been amputated because of landmines.” I ran back to my parents, shouting: “Mummy, there’s a workshop where they are making legs! For children like me!”
That’s when I met the founders of HI. They came to support us and, despite the language barrier, they were training refugees to make artificial limbs from bamboo.
I had to wait for my leg to heal before I could try my first artificial leg. It hurt a lot at first. You have to remember at the time, there was nothing to reduce the pain. But as soon as I put my prosthetic foot on the floor, I said to myself, "At last I can walk like everyone else!” Six months after my amputation, I was standing on two feet again. Despite the pain, I wore my artificial limb every day. I played soccer in flip-flops, played with marbles and bungee cords, danced in the rain... and, like children everywhere, I got up to all kinds of mischief!
Living without limits
Thanks to the Red Cross, my family was able to move to France in September 1982. The early days were very hard. We came from a country with a totally different culture and, at only 6 years old, I had witnessed the indescribable horrors of war. Those memories have stayed with me ever since.
Growing up, I saw my artificial limb differently. I would meet children who had never seen an amputee before and they fixated on it. They always saw me as the girl with the prosthesis and that really affected me.
Fortunately, my parents always encouraged me not to worry about what other people said and to live my life as I wanted. So I never limited myself. For example, I played a lot of sports: eight years of badminton, table tennis, tennis, soccer and diving.
Now I live and work here, and I have even become a French citizen. But, the more time goes by, the more I miss my other country. Today, my dream is to go back to Cambodia and settle there.
Cambodia | Sreyka fitted with new artificial limb after outgrowing her first
After outgrowing her first artificial limb provided by Humanity & Inclusion's team, Sreyka was recently fitted for a new one.
Sreyka was walking home from school in May 2019 when she was hit by a speeding driver. Seriously injured, she was rushed to a nearby health center and then to the nearest hospital, which lacked the equipment needed to treat her. Sreyka was taken to a pediatric hospital in Cambodia's capital city, where doctors saved her life by amputating her left leg.
Seven months after the accident, Sreyka visited Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, an hour from her village. Our team of experts immediately took good care of her, providing her with a custom-fit artificial leg and teaching her how to walk with it. She also participated in physical therapy and mental health counseling sessions, boosting her confidence for her return to school.
Having outgrown her first artificial leg, Sreyka recently returned to the center to be measured and fitted for a new one. With donor support, Humanity & Inclusion's prosthetic technicians repair and replace artificial limbs when users need them.
40th Anniversary | Gneip's story: From landmine survivor to policy advocate
In 1982, two doctors working in refugee camps in Thailand started helping survivors of landmine explosions who had been injured fleeing across the heavily mined border. There they met Gniep, a young girl who had lost her leg after stepping on a landmine. Gniep was one of the first children ever supported by Humanity & Inclusion. This is her story.
I was 5 years old, living under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, four long years in absolute darkness of uncertainty, anguish and fear. In 1979, fleeing misery and hunger, I left my village with my aunt, leaving everything behind, believing that it was temporary.
Antipersonnel landmines were all over Cambodia. To this day they still kill and mutilate an alarmingly high number of people. At the time, we were not informed about the risk they posed. While in the camp, I went to fetch water and that’s when it happened: I stepped on a mine.
I remember it as if it were yesterday; the violence was such that I was thrown in the air. Stunned and dizzy by the shock of the explosion, I did not know that I had just stepped on a mine. I tried to get up and walk three times before understanding that my right leg was torn off at the calf, and that the left one was badly affected, too.
By instinct of survival, probably, I moved myself to a path, where two soldiers passing by found me and brought me on their motorcycle to a makeshift dispensary. There, the analgesic I was given was a stick that I had to bite on when the pain became too much.
Then, I was transferred to a refugee camp in Thailand commonly known as Khao I Dang. I had to undergo 17 operations because the surgeon wanted to preserve the joint, but my leg was gangrenous and I fell into a coma for a month.
Not long afterward, I met the founding members of HI. They were a small group of young people, who were friends, husbands and wives, full of enthusiasm, their heads full of dreams and ideals, animated by a crazy desire to help people like me who had been stripped of everything. With great humanity and respect, they put me back on my feet again.
My first prosthesis was very simple, made of recycled materials like wood, car tires, and resin. I admit that I had a hard time accepting it because it was heavy and hard to put on.
It's hard to believe that was 40 years ago. Today, despite my disability, I lead my life like everyone else. I am a night nurse, working for young people with multiple disabilities. And I am a mother of a young and beautiful girl. I am so very grateful to those women and men who helped me all those years ago. They gave me back my smile and dignity, which everyone should have!
Cambodia | Training weapons clearance specialists in landmine-free quest
Humanity & Inclusion has launched a 5-year plan to train the Cambodian Self-Help Demining (CSHD)—a local mine action organization—to take over residual contamination actions after 2025, when Cambodia aims to be landmine-free.
Contamination is considered massive in Cambodia with more than 270 square miles littered with landmines or cluster munitions, remnants of the Vietnam War and civil war in the 1970s and 80s. Over 1 million landmines and almost 3 million explosive ordnances such as cluster munitions, grenades, and mortars have been removed in Cambodia since 1992. But clearance efforts must continue to reach the designation of mine-free.
Under the International Mine Ban Treaty, a country is declared "mine-free" when all "reasonable" efforts have been made to ensure the country's decontamination, but sporadic explosive ordnance may remain in overlooked areas. In those instances, international mine action leaves the country and passes the responsibility to local organizations.
CHSD was officially founded in 2007 by Aki Ra, a Khmer man and former child soldier. CSHD works in rural villages throughout Cambodia with a group of approximately 25 mine clearance specialists. Since 2008, the organization has cleared weapons from nearly 3 square miles of land.
Training mine clearance experts
How are surveys implemented to identify contaminated areas? How are former battlefields cleared? How can organizations intervene immediately after an explosive ordnance has been reported by a resident? Humanity & Inclusion has been training a dozen CSHD mine action specialists in these tasks since January 2021, including procedures of intervention, planning, and security rules. Humanity & Inclusion is also training the CSHD experts to conduct sustainable and cost-efficient operations and to ensure quality management with technical supervision.
“Humanity & Inclusion supports the clearance experts in their current mine detection and disposal operations," explains Julien Kempeneers, Humanity & Inclusion's Regional Armed Violence Reduction and Humanitarian Mine Action Specialist. "The proposed training is largely dedicated directly to clearance and survey with a target of 8.7 million square feet cleared in target areas this year. We also focus on the cost efficiency of the operations. CSHD estimates that the cost of clearance is about 35 cents per 10 square feet.
"Humanity & Inclusion is supporting CSHD in becoming an autonomous key player within five years," Kempeneers continues. "The local organization will remain in the country after 2025, when other international organizations will be leaving. This is our main goal of development: to empower local actors to take on this responsibility.”
The training started in January and will end in December.
Landmines threaten communities
With an estimated 4 to 6 million explosive ordnances left over after conflict, Cambodia is considered to be among the most affected countries. Explosive ordnances severely affect civilian security and rural livelihoods by impeding access to productive resources, markets and broader development, such as building schools, hospitals or wells.
Civilians collect items of ordnance for their value, as scrap metal, or the explosives they contain. If not disposed of safely, the consequences are often fatal or lead to lifelong disabilities. Given the magnitude of contamination and the country’s current response capacity, the threat remains a major safety and development obstacle for Cambodians in nearly half of its 14,300 villages.
The partnership with CSHD focuses on the Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, where an estimated 12,300 residents will benefit from safer access to their environment and improved access to resources. The goal is to hand over cleared land to local communities, so they can use it for housing and farming.
These mine action activities are funded by the U.S. Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (WRA).
Covid-19 | Rehabilitation in Cambodia continues thanks to innovative methods
Despite a daunting economic crisis caused by restrictive measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 in Cambodia, Humanity & Inclusion continues providing in-person and virtual rehabilitation care.
While many regions around the globe may be seeing a drop in Covid-19 cases, Cambodia is experiencing its first wave of infections. Largely spared by the pandemic in 2020, the country began seeing a rise in positive cases in February 2021. Numbers steadily rose until May, and have remained mostly stagnant since.
“We have hundreds of new cases a day, and now it’s spreading to the provinces,” says Edith Van Wijngaarden, Humanity & Inclusion’s country manager for Cambodia. “The rates haven’t decreased over the past few weeks, and the real numbers may be even higher than the official figures.”
Strict government restrictions were put in place to prevent more infections, but efforts to stifle one crisis have fueled another. Following the mandatory closure of businesses, travel and social gatherings, people found themselves in the midst of a serious economic crisis, with no means to make a living.
“The situation has been really difficult,” Van Wijngaarden explains. “People in the high-risk, or ‘red’ zones could not even access food. Many people have lost their jobs. There is no more tourism, so everyone in that industry is struggling. There were outbreaks in the garment factories. The entire economic situation is degrading.”
While the pandemic situation appears hopeful with a promising vaccination plan in place, the government opted to prematurely lift restrictions to provide some economic relief, renewing risks posed by the current wave of cases.
Work continues despite challenges
Despite the difficulties imposed by both the pandemic and economic crises, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams have continued to support the population’s most vulnerable people.
In addition to providing Personal Protective Equipment to reduce Covid-19 infection risk, staff members are distributing food kits to those affected by loss of income. Teams continue to provide rehabilitation services to people living with disabilities. Since February, staff have implemented in-person care as well as tele-rehabilitation to ensure accessibility. Using dolls as demonstration tools, parents are learning how to practice physical therapy exercises and continue care for children with disabilities at home.
“Our rehabilitation center is still up and running,” Van Wijngaarden says. “It has had to open and close a little, but it hasn’t impacted our ability to support the community. When we have no other option, we follow up and support them remotely. We are currently training five other centers to do remote rehabilitation as well.”
Global response to Covid-19
Amid the health crisis, Humanity & Inclusion specialists continue to provide vital rehabilitation care for people with disabilities in physical therapy units and alongside local partners. This is increasingly important, as overworked medical facilities and government restrictions limit access to other care services. Teams are also providing mental health and psychosocial support to assist frontline healthcare workers, people with disabilities, vulnerable people and their families.
Humanity & Inclusion teams around the world have been responding to the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020. Donors helped launch more than 170 Covid-19 projects in dozens of countries to protect and care for the people that others overlook. Between March and August 2020, staff have reached 2.2 million people with care and aid to keep Covid-19 at bay.
Image: A Humanity & Inclusion physical therapist uses a doll to demonstrate rehabilitation exercises a mother can practice at home with her son who has cerebral palsy. Copyright: HI
Cambodia | 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."
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.
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
Cambodia | After motorcycle accident, two life-saving amputations
After losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident, Kuch, 8, quickly learned to walk again with an artificial limb made for him by Humanity & Inclusion.
After visiting family in Cambodia’s Takeo province in April 2019, Kuch and his parents crammed onto the seat of their motorcycle for the long drive home. Motorcycles are a common method of transportation throughout Cambodia.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang, then silence. A speeding motorcyclist hit them head-on. In the blink of an eye, their lives had changed forever.
Cambodia has the third-highest motorcycle death rate in the world. In 2019, 30% of new patients at Humanity & Inclusion’s physical rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham were victims of road accidents.
Two life-saving amputations
As Kuch’s parents regained consciousness, they realized with horror that their son was in a critical condition. His right leg was broken and caught in a wheel. For young Kuch, this marked the start of a terrible ordeal. After being pulled from the wreckage, he was rushed to a nearby hospital. The next day, he was transferred to a hospital in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh. When they arrived, Kuch’s parents were shocked to learn he needed an amputation to save his life.
Six months later, Kuch’s family visited Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center so the boy could be fitted with a prosthetic leg. Unfortunately, Kuch’s stump became red and infected, and he experienced high fevers. When medical staff examined him, they made a disturbing discovery: unless Kuch had another amputation, he would likely develop sepsis. Kuch returned to the hospital in Phnom Penh, where he spent months in recovery and experienced a serious drop in morale.
Back to his old self
Once Kuch’s stump had healed and after numerous rehabilitation sessions helping to strengthen his muscles, Kuch was finally ready to be fitted with his prosthesis in June 2020. Determined to heal, Kuch enthusiastically practiced his walking exercises and became comfortable with his artificial leg in no time at all.
"After his leg was amputated, my son couldn’t walk anymore,” explains Kuch’s mother. “He even found it hard to use crutches and he couldn’t go far without getting tired. Everything was an effort. He even had trouble getting up when he bent to pick things up. And our house doesn't have a toilet, so we have to go outside. It was all really complicated for him. Fortunately, since he was fitted with his prosthesis, Kuch has changed a lot. He can help me with the housework, go shopping for food, visit and play with his friends and go to school.”
Kuch continues to visit the rehabilitation center, which is a 90-minute drive from his family’s home, for follow-up care and repairs to his prosthetic. Humanity & Inclusion donors cover the family’s food and transportation costs during these routine visits. The team also checks in with Kuch at home. Kuch will continue to receive new artificial limbs as he outgrows old ones.
"I would like to thank Humanity & Inclusion and donors for making it possible for my child to receive the help he has,” adds Kuch’s mother.
After months of waiting, Kuch returned to school, walking nearly a mile each way. He enjoys studying and making friends.
"I love playing football with my friends,” Kuch says with a big grin on his face. “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.”
Header image: A young boy named Kuch grins outside a rehabilitation center in Cambodia. Inline image: Kuch, whose right leg is amputated, sits on a padded table at a rehabilitation center in Cambodia. He's wearing a mask. Copyright: Stephen Rae/HI
Cambodia | New U.S.-funded project will clear mines from contaminated land
Three decades after the end of conflict, landmines and other explosive weapons continue to contaminate parts of Cambodia–making it unsafe for people to live and farm and limiting access to resources in some regions. These weapons remain an obstacle in more than 6,400 of Cambodia’s 14,300 villages.
To protect civilians, Humanity & Inclusion has teamed up with the local organization Cambodia Self-Help Demining (CSHD) to launch a new project to remove explosive weapons, teach locals how to stay safe and avoid explosive remnants of war, and create long-term mine action plans in Cambodia’s Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.
The 12-month, $500,000 project is funded by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Humanity & Inclusion’s team will support CSHD in surveying land, removing landmines and explosive ordnance, and raising awareness among residents. The ultimate goal is to see CSHD build its own capacity to manage an autonomous mine clearance operation in Cambodia by 2025.
“We are excited to take on such an important project working alongside local villages to ensure people can live and work safely, without fear of losing their lives or limbs to explosive weapons,” says Emmanuel Sauvage, director of the Armed Violence Reduction unit at Humanity & Inclusion. “We are grateful to the U.S. government for recognizing the danger these leftover weapons pose for civilians in their everyday lives and for the support to develop sustainable local mine action capacities.”
In recent decades, organizations like Humanity & Inclusion have assisted the Cambodian government in its efforts to become mine free. With support from the U.S. government and other donors, organizations have removed more than 1 million landmines and 3 million other explosive remnants of war from approximately 700 square miles of land. But civilians are still in danger in another 772 square miles of land that is contaminated by such weapons.
Humanity & Inclusion counts more than 25 years of experience in mine action and first started clearing weapons in Cambodia in 1994. CSHD is a local organization that works to remove weapons in rural villages. The organization was founded in 2007, by a former Khmer child soldier.
This new project will support at least 35 staff in mine action activities, directly benefitting at least 500 people and indirectly helping more than 12,000 people across the two provinces have safer access to their land and resources.
Image: A man wearing protective gear kneels on the ground in a Cambodian village in 2012. He's placing a sign that warns of explosive remnants of war. Copyright: Eric Martin/Figaro Magazine/HI
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.
“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.”
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
Cambodia | Sreyka recovers from car accident that took her leg
Sreyka was walking home from school in May 2019 when she was hit by a speeding driver and had to have her left leg amputated. She's returned to school after Humanity & Inclusion fitted her with a prosthesis.
Sreyka, 8, was skipping along the road after school when she was knocked down by a large speeding vehicle just 55 yards from her home. Seriously injured, she was rushed to a nearby health center and then to the nearest hospital, which lacked the equipment needed to treat her. Sreyka was taken to a pediatric hospital in Cambodia's capital city, where her left leg was amputated to save her life.
Sreyka's family lives with her maternal grandparents in a village in the Tbong Khmum province. The family lives on a limited income, made by her father who works in construction. Sreyka’s mother takes care her, her 14-year-old sister and their home.
Putting her prosthesis to the test
Seven months after the accident, Sreyka visited Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham, an hour from her village. The team of physical therapists and prosthetic technicians immediately took good care of her, providing her a custom-fit artificial leg and teaching her how to walk with it.
"I'm so happy that my daughter can walk to school again with her prosthesis and do so many things on her own," says Sreyka's mother. "She was really unhappy. And it was difficult for me too, because I had to carry her a lot and help her with everyday chores, lift her from room to room, and take her outside or to the toilet or bathroom. I am grateful to Humanity & Inclusion for their work because it means my daughter can be fitted with prostheses!"
Sreyka and her mother visit the center regularly for adjustments and replacements of her artificial limb - she's already on her second prosthesis and will only need more as she grows! They also learn tips to care for Sreyka's stump. For instance, it's really important to change the girl's socks (on her stump) as often as possible. Her stump could become infected if they don't tend to it.
"In addition to regularly providing her with prostheses and teaching her to walk with her prostheses, the team at the rehabilitation center also does physical therapy exercises with Sreyka and gives her counseling,” explains Mr. Doung Chetha, the coordinator of Humanity & Inclusion’s Kampong Cham Rehabilitation Center.
A bit of a daredevil, Sreyka is putting her new leg to the test.
"I like to play with my friends at school, I pretend to be a ghost,” Sreyka says. “I always enjoyed running around the house with my cousins and friends. And now I can do what I love again! Sometimes I try to ride my bike and even skid in front of my grandparents' house.”
Back to school
Sreyka is gradually overcoming the trauma of her accident. Her confidence is growing and she is engaging more with her family and friends.
When she first returned to school, the second grader felt shy at first and wore long skirts to hide her legs, but now she wears the same uniform as her classmates. Sreyka has definitely taken to her new leg.
"My school is quite far away, a half-mile from home, but I often walk there. I really like school,” Sreyka says with a beautiful smile, adding that her favorite subject is Khmer, Cambodia’s primary language.
When she grows up, Sreyka hopes to train to make orthotics and prosthetics.
The Humanity & Inclusion team in Kampong Cham is right to be proud of her!