A life transformed – Having spent most of the past five years lying in bed, Srey Leang’s attendance at a KPF Day Centre has now transformed her life. Read more
I feel normal now – Worn out by constant discrimination and misunderstanding about his cerebral palsy, 23 year old Makara had withdrawn from his community. But the opening of a KPF Day Centre gave him the chance to start again, build his confidence and help others. Now he’s working hard to make his dream of becoming a farmer happen.
Now she loves to help us! – Seven year old Socheat’s challenging behavior and intellectual disability have always kept her isolated at home without friends. Until she started at a KPF Day Centre, where she has learnt to communicate and be with others. Read more
Before I used to worry so much – Before learning about KPF, Sray Mom was finding it impossible to balance her need to earn a living, with the demands of caring for her intellectually disabled teenage son. Read more
No longer stranded at home – After 23 years of lying at home, unable to speak, use his hands or sit up Soksan is now loving being able to get out and about. Read more
A life transformed
When six year old Srey Leang was a baby she contracted meningits. Her doting parents and three older siblings did their best to care for her, but Srey Leang was left with permanent brain damage, unable to even sit by herself. Like many rural Khmer families, Srey Leang’s family owned no furniture, forcing her parents to either carry her constantly or lay her on a mat in their small home. For five years Srey Leang lay at home, her mum staying close by to care for her, unable to go out to work.
In January 2011, KPF opened a Day Centre in a village near Srey Leang’s home and she began attending five days a week. Both her family and teachers were amazed to see how quickly the stimulation and therapy she received there transformed her life. Having spent five years lying down at home, Srey Leang quickly learnt to hold her head up and is now sitting by herself and standing with support.
KPF teacher Somphuos explains: ‘At first Srey Leang could understand but couldn’t speak at all. We played games to encourage her to speak and she started to improve, month by month. Now she talks so much more, and can tell us when she is hungry or if she wants something.’
With Srey Leang happy and thriving at school, her mum has been able to go back to work again, starting up a cake making business in her village as well as working as a part time cook at the Day Centre. The future suddenly looks much brighter for this family.
I feel normal now
Makara is a 23 year old man from rural Kampot province with a passion for farming and a love of teaching. Having cerebral palsy means it’s not easy for Makara to walk long distances or speak clearly, but his greatest challenge has been the discrimination he’s battled all his life.
‘My parents sent me to the local primary school. When the teacher told us to raise our hands in class, both my hands would move [due to muscle tightness] so the teacher would hit me. I dropped out of school in year six because the high school was far from my house and it was too difficult for me to walk there. For ten years I just stayed at home, helping my parents grow rice and vegetables. I didn’t want to meet new people, because I thought they would be scared of me and think I was crazy because of my disability.’
In January 2011, KPF opened a Day Center near Makara’s home. KPF team member Somphuos, invited Makara to start coming along to the centre: ‘We could see that Makara knew so much already, so we asked him if he could help teach the younger children with us. At first he said that he could not teach because he was a ‘disabled person’. We encouraged him to see that there are many people with disabilities who can do many things. He agreed to start helping out with the younger children and now he is so different to before, so much more confident.’
As the KPF staff began to see Makara’s passion for farming, they encouraged him to consider attending an agricultural course, to learn new skills to take back to the family farm. Now three weeks into the six month course, Makara is cautious but excited about the future. ‘Now my family grow just rice and vegetables, but after I finish this course I hope that we will be able to try new things, like raising different animals and starting a fish farm. Since I got involved with KPF I feel like I’ve changed so much. I’ve met so many people and learnt a lot. Now I’ve stopped worrying if people think I’m crazy! Now I feel normal.’
Now she loves to help us!
Just eight months ago, Socheat rarely dared venture outside her family’s simple wooden home. Intellectually disabled since birth, seven year old Socheat’s challenging behavior meant the other children in her rural village refused to play with her. She would stay at home, where her mum Sopheap says ‘she would cry all the time. She refused to wear clothes and ignored whatever we said to her. She could only say a few single words and wouldn’t respond to anyone, so we didn’t dare send her to school.’
Seven months ago, KPF established the ‘New Hope Center’ in a nearby village, as an informal school for children with significant disabilities. ‘Since she started going to school each day she has changed so much’ explains Sopheap. ‘Now, when I say it’s time for school, she starts to sing and runs to get her uniform. She’s learnt to dress herself and she is starting to learn to go to the toilet. Her speech has improved and she loves to sing and draw. Nowadays she loves to help us around the house too – preparing the vegetables with me and helping clean up after our meals.
‘Things are much better for our family too. Before, we always had to have someone stay at home to look after Socheat but now she is with KPF each day, we can get our work done so have more income. We grow rice to sell at the market, and vegetables and fruit for our family to eat. If Socheat keeps improving, we hope to send her to the regular government school. We really want her to be able to learn to read and write, so she can find a job to support herself.’
Before I used to worry so much
With a busy home and four children, the youngest with an intellectual disability, Sray Mom is used to juggling roles. So two years ago she was excited to secure a job in a relative’s hardware store, thinking she would be able to bring her son to work and watch over him there. But she found it almost impossible to care for 16 year old Sayha whilst working.
‘Sayha was always different, he didn’t learn to walk until he was five years old’ Sray Mom explains. ‘I used to worry so much. I’d never seen another child like Sayha before. He used to just stay home and play by himself. He couldn’t really do anything, I had to help him with everything.’
Sray Mom eventually realized that caring for Sayha while working wasn’t going to be possible. Yet the family desperately needed her salary, and there was no one else to care for Sayha.
Fortunately, one of Sray Mom’s relatives happened to see the students from KPF’s Activity Training Centre (ATC) out in the community one day a year ago. They were surprised to see other children with intellectual disabilities out in the community and approached KPF staff, to find out whether Sayha might be able to join in with the program.
‘I was so happy that KPF said they would be able to help Sayha’ says Sray Mom. ‘Today Sayha is so very different to what he was like before he started with KPF. He’s more confident than before, and he listens and can understand much more than before. He has started being able to control his emotions.
‘Before, when friends or relatives would come to the house Sayha didn’t know what to do. Now he knows and can welcome them, and he really loves to be around people, which he didn’t before. He’s learnt to shower himself and wash his hands. In the future, I want him to be able to keep learning, and hope he’ll learn to use the toilet by himself.’
No longer stranded at home
Soksan has spent the past 23 years lying at home, unable to speak, use his hands or sit up due to severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
When KPF opened a Day Centre near Soksan’s home, the staff were amazed at his positive attitude and keen mind. They provided him with a wheelchair, allowing him to sit up and move around his village for the first time. He loves attending the Centre each day and has a particular interest in numbers and math.