Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Mai (pictured above) has a new friend that accompanies her to school: a green and silver wheelchair that rolls through the dirt and hills of her village in rural Laos with ease.

Before the wheelchair, it was just Mai and her father Win. The trek to school was a little more challenging: Win would carry his daughter on his back to her class each morning.

“I love my daughter,” Win says. “I want to see her have a good future and a good life. That’s why I carried her to school every day for years.”

Mai, who is a funny and friendly 10 year-old, was born with a disability that limits her mobility. Her legs and fingers are paralysed and she is unable to walk without assistance from her family and friends.

“All my life I spent my time at home,” Mai says. “I have my parents and brother but they on their own could not fulfil all my needs.

“I wanted to gain more knowledge, I wanted a chance to study in school and play with many friends.”

Children with disability like Mai are among the most vulnerable groups in their communities, especially if they live in remote and rural areas. They often face many challenges, including access to education because schools are far from their homes or do not have the facilities to support them.

After seeing how much his daughter wanted to go to school, Win began carrying his daughter to class.

However, on mornings when Win had to work, Mai missed school because there was no one else who could carry her.

With the support of ChildFund and the Australian Government, child delegates from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia took part in the 2019 Asian Children’s Summit in Bangkok in November. The summit focused on four main themes: violence against children; children’s rights and the environment; children’s rights in the digital environment; and children on the move.

The delegates – Phanomphone and Phoukhao, both age 16, from Laos; Cuong, age 13, from Vietnam; and Sotheavy, age 15, from Cambodia (pictured below) – were chosen to represent children in their countries because of their leadership skills and passion to make a difference to children’s lives in their communities.

The trip to Thailand was a unique opportunity for the children to learn from, and collaborate with, other children from different countries and cultures. It was also an opportunity for them to speak to leaders about the problems that are affecting children in their countries, and possible solutions to these issues.