Eight-year-old Channa’s face lights up and then breaks into a big smile, revealing the playful little girl inside. But between bouts of laughter, a more serious Channa all too easily takes her place. This little girl’s life has not been all fun and games.
Born premature at nearly 2.5 pounds, Channa's mother Sokra remembers the joy of seeing her adorable little face for the first time. When she realized that her baby had been born with deformed fingers and a left leg almost detached from her body, a chill ran down her spine. The doctor immediately decided to amputate. Shocked, the young mother took a long time to adjust.
Deep in her native village in Cambodia, Channa grew up under the helpless gaze of her parents. Sokra was overprotective of her daughter and suffered in silence as the other children in the village took their first steps. Her daughter would never be able to walk. Or so she thought. “The first time Handicap International’s social worker came to explain that my daughter could walk with a prosthesis, I felt so relieved,” she explains. “It was wonderful to hear that Channa had a future too! It really upset me to see her drag herself along the floor at an age when most children were taking their first steps.” At 18 months, Channa took her first few steps with her new leg.
Channa visits our orthopedic center in Kampong Cham when she needs to be fitted with a new prosthesis, better adapted to her growing body. She can’t imagine life without her faithful companion: “I love my prosthesis,” Channa exclaims. “It changed my life. Now I can walk and play jump rope!”
The girl and her little brother live with their many cousins. Enrolled at school for the last two years, she had to repeat her first year. Channa had problems learning to write because of her deformed fingers, but she persevered and now she can write like her counterparts. The most difficult challenge for Channa: fitting in at school. “When I started school, it was really hard. Some of my classmates would beat me and laugh at me. I didn’t want to go anymore,” she confides. “I didn’t say anything. It was my cousin who spilled the beans. Mom was very angry. She went to see my teacher and they had a chat. The teacher talked to the children who were hurting me and since then, the problems have stopped. Now, I have lots of friends.”
Although Channa loves learning, her favorite time of the school day is recess, when she can play jump rope. That’s when she becomes the star of the playground, as light as a feather, her face beaming with a smile!
Handicap International in Cambodia
Our organization was founded in 1982 to provide the survivors of Cambodian landmine explosions with prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation—a task we're still carrying out today. HI also clears mines, educates the public about the risks posed by these weapons, and runs a number of other disability prevention and inclusion projects in the country. Learn more about our work in Cambodia.
All photos are credited to Lucas Veuve and Handicap International.