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Empowered families bring new hope for children with disability

Six-year-old Samnang is funny, outgoing and loves to play. However when she began school a couple of years ago, the other children teased her because she was born with one arm and one leg.

Due to the stigma she experienced at school, Samnang stopped attending. She was left in the care of her grandparents during the day while her mother, a single parent and sole income earner in the family, had to travel long distances from their remote community in Cambodia to work in a rubber plantation. Unfortunately, Samnang’s grandparents did not treat her well, and it became unsafe for Samnang to keep living in their home meaning there was nowhere for her to go while her mother worked.

In remote and rural communities in Cambodia like Samnang’s there is often a social stigma around people living with disability. Studies show that children with disabilities are at least three times more likely to be abused or neglected than their peers without disabilities. They are also more likely to be seriously injured or harmed by maltreatment.

ChildFund Cambodia is helping to support families and communities like Samnang’s to change their views about people with disability, by training caregivers, young people and children about child protection and positive parenting. ChildFund is also helping to build the capacity of local social services to connect children and families to the support they need.

Samnang’s mother Sat says she used to feel helpless and upset about Samnang’s situation. Like all mothers she wanted to support her child and provide her with the best opportunities in life, however she was not sure who she could turn to for assistance or if anyone would be able to support her.

“I didn’t know where to get help,” Sat says. “I just tried to save money in the hope that I could one day take her to a hospital in the capital.”

Sat with her daughter Samnang, who received support from a social worker trained by ChildFund. Samnang is now living with her mother again and has a prosthetic leg, which allows her to walk.

After attending a community session run by ChildFund, a neighbour of the family reached out to Sat and helped her to connect to a social worker.

The community social worker, whom ChildFund had trained on how to manage child protection cases, worked with Samnang and her mother, and referred Samnang to a hospital where she received an prosthetic leg and learnt how to walk.

“I am very happy to be able to walk normally,” Samnang says. “I can do things on my own.”

Now that Samnang is walking and has more independence, the family was supported so Samnang could move into a small house with her mother on the rubber plantation. This means that Sat is able to work and care for her child.

“I am happy to see my daughter be able to walk and do things on her own,” Sat says. “I used to would worry about her when I went to work.”

Samnang is now looking forward to going to school. Her social worker will help her transition into the school environment.

“I want to go to school and I want to be a make-up artist when I grow up,” Samnang says.

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