Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Seventeen-year-old Khied (pictured above) remembers the haunting sound of people crying in pain after a devastating flood destroyed her village this year.

The teen from Attapeu Province, in southern Laos, was getting ready for bed when everything suddenly turned dark and water came gushing into the house.

“I heard a sound like wind and the power in the whole village went off,” Khied says. “I woke my younger brother and sister up and prepared to leave.”

For Khied, the flood – which resulted after the collapse of a dam in Attapeu in July 2018 – was the “most terrible nightmare imaginable”.

After their home was destroyed, she remembers being dragged out with her brother and sister by the force of the water, to the forest.

It was five days before they saw their parents again.

“During the flood, I told my sister and brother to hold onto a tree so we would not float away,” Khied recalls. “There was so much debris like roofs, and logs and rocks that hit us.

“I had to stay alert and take care of my brother and sister so they wouldn’t be scared.”

The siblings ended up on a mountain in the forest, where they stayed overnight.

The next day, Khied saw the extent of the devastation. Debris was floating everywhere and there wasn’t a house in sight.

“I could only hear the sounds of people, injured and crying,” she says.

“I tried looking for my parents and calling out for them, but I didn’t see them anywhere.”

People with disability in Cambodia are often marginalised, and not given the opportunity to fully participate in their communities.

This can lead to high levels of unemployment and exclusion, and leave children and families trapped in a cycle of poverty.

ChildFund Cambodia’s  Community Voices project is giving people with disability the opportunity to have a say about the challenges they face in their daily lives, and how these obstacles can be tackled.

In turn, this improves the accountability of village authorities and drives change at a grassroots level, with community members working collaboratively to find innovative solutions to the problems raised.

In rural Svay Rieng, the lack of work and livelihood opportunities was found to be a major issue for people with disability.

Working together, the village decided to provide motorcycle mechanic training to help people with disability find meaningful and stable employment.

Motorcycles have become extremely popular in Cambodia, and there is a long-term need for skilled mechanics.

Ratha, who cannot use his right leg, is one of many parents in Svay Rieng who took part in a mechanics apprenticeship. This is his story.