Vicheth is a 15 year-old boy with a disability in Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia. He now lives with a foster family, who deeply care for him. Both of his foster parents are farmers and they own one hectare of rice fields and crop plantation. Despite his school being in front of his house, Vicheth gets up early in the morning to get ready. Sometimes, his friend pushes his wheelchair to go to school and to go back home.
Two years ago, he was abandoned by his parents because they did not like his disability. He had also experienced abuse as domestic violence in his previous household was frequent. He added, “When I met my second family, I felt happy that they encourage and help me to go to school with my friends”. Although his foster parents are one of the poorest in the community, they still wanted him to go to school. They said, “We wanted to send him to school like the other children”.
Before getting his wheelchair, Vicheth had to crawl to school. He said, “Other students were disgusted because I sometimes had to crawl to school because no one was able to help me. When my foster parents were working, they were not available to help me”
Through Terre des Hommes’ Early Child Marriage (ECM) project and youth volunteers, Vicheth was identified in his school. TDH field staff often visit his school and engage with teachers and other students to raise awareness about early child marriage. Vicheth was later interviewed for TDH staff to learn more about his struggles as a child with a disability.
The ECM project provides educational materials to the poorest students in various villages in the Mondulkiri Province to reduce the prevalence of child early marriage. In November 2019, TDH provided such materials to 100 poorest children in 17 villages, including Vicheth’s.
In addition, TDH staff engage with local authorities such as the Commune of Children and Women Committee through monthly meetings. One of the project field staff often visits Vicheth at his school and home to provide additional care. Vicheth feft warm and loved by everyone around him.
Due to these initiatives, Vicheth said, “My classmates learned more about my real situation which changed their attitude towards me. My classmates started helping me go to school, teaching me how to learn how to walk without a wheelchair, and also assisted me with my speaking skills”.
“I am happy to have this kind of support. It shows that people are helping each other in difficult times. I would like to see other children with disabilities to get this opportunity. I will encourage other families, villagers, and communities to stop the discrimination of children with disabilities and respect their rights,” he added.
Vicheth’s perspective of his future became more positive. He said, “I want to be a teacher so I can help children to read, write, and have the ability to have other skills necessary in their life. I would also like to repair phones, so I can earn money to help my parents. At the moment, I will continue using my parent’s money wisely and hopefully, I will be able to have some savings for them”.