A Couple with Disabilities is Empowered

 

Sophat lost his left leg to a landmine during Cambodia’s civil war in 1985 when he was a 20-year-old soldier in the government’s army. He met Socheat, whose limbs are deformed from birth. They married in 2001, three years after the country’s UN-administered first democratic election agreed upon by fighting factions.

Sophat and Socheat then started to sell boiled potatoes and snacks to primary school students near their parents’ house, 300 meters from the section of the national road in Tram Kok district, approximately 10 kilometres from the provincial town of Takeo.

In 2002, Sophat learned from an NGO how to repair motorbikes and bicycles while receiving a government allowance as a disabled veteran. Following the vocational training, lack of capital prevented him from using his newly acquired skill to increase his household income. The couple continued with their boiled potato and snack business for three more years, with a daily income of US$ 1.25.

Sophat finally managed to put his skill into practice when he received his first loan of US$ 150 from VisionFund (Cambodia) in 2006 to buy the necessary equipment to repair bicycles and motorbikes. Socheat stopped selling the potato and snacks to help Sophat’s more profitable job.

Since then the couple has been living in a makeshift wooden hut they built on a plot of idle land with agreement from the property owner. They built their home on the national road, which they believe will expose them to more business opportunities.

With subsequent similar loans and growing income over the past years, this hard-working couple has expanded their business to selling coffee, gasoline and snacks in addition to the bicycle and motorbike repair service.

Now with three children, 7-year- old Karat in grade 1, 5-year-old Kiri in kindergarten, and 2-year-old Ratha, they have seen household income rise ten-fold, improving their living conditions and social relations as well as inspiring hope for the future.

“Since borrowing from the organization, our minimum daily income is US$ 12.50. There is a huge difference in income from US$ 1.25 to US$ 12.50,” Sophat says. “My family has experienced progress. For now, we have money to buy food; we are happy.”

“With our previous business, we were unwilling to buy dessert or fruits to eat. Now we are willing to buy them for our children,” Socheat adds.

“For our relationships with our neighbours, most of them appreciate our business and like to help by buying goods, having their motorbikes or bicycles repaired, and buying gasoline at our shop,” Sophat says.

 

They thank VisionFund Cambodia for providing him with loans requiring no collateral and charging lower interest rates than local private lenders.