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New limbs, new lives.

Thirteen-year-old Samnang Yem acts like any other young boy his age. He studies at school, plays volley-ball with his friends and helps his mother at home. Yet one year ago, none of this would have been possible because Yem's leg had been blown off by a land mine. `One of my friends picked up [an] object. We didn't know what it was but we started playing with it...when it fell to the ground, it exploded.'

Dr Peter Carey, modern history tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, has set up a project to provide free, high-quality limbs to amputees. Yem was fitted with an artificial limb at one of the clinics set up by the Cambodia Trust.

In a country which has one of the highest disablement rates in the world and where one in every 236 persons is an amputee, the need for rehabilitation is great. Around 10 million land mines have been laid during the ongoing civil war between Khmer Rouge and government forces.

The limb project, part of The Cambodia Trust, was conceived in 1989 when Carey and two friends set up the Trust to help broker a peace process in Cambodia through low-key talks which would then be taken up at an international level.

John Pedler, one of the three, met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that year and asked what advice he would give to a western NGO that wanted to help Cambodia. Hun Sen answered, `If you want to do something for my country, first implement adequate demining, and second set up modern rehabilitation services.'

Through a series of what Carey calls `fateful' events, The Cambodia Trust received a [pounds sterling]25,000 grant, raised an additional [pounds sterling]90,000 and obtained prosthetic and orthotic equipment at low cost.

Since then the Trust has established three clinics in various parts of the country to fit amputees with free artificial limbs and provide them with physiotherapy. The clinics have so far treated over 5,000 patients--one seventh the total number of Cambodian amputees.

The Trust has also set up the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics which trains Cambodians as professional prosthetists. This core will form the National Rehabilitation Service and be fully `Cambodianized' by the year 2000.

`We want to seed in Cambodia a new profession and to provide a firm financial base so it won't dissolve when the expats leave,' says Carey. `We're creating an island of purpose, dignity and values in a society which has been profoundly disturbed by war.'

Kristen Tiedje

The Cambodia Trust can be reached at PO Box 14, Oxford OX20 1SM.
COPYRIGHT 1997 For A Change
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Tiedje, Kristen
Publication:For A Change
Date:Feb 1, 1997
Words:434
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