The Kingdom of Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953 and remained relatively peaceful under the leadership of King Sihanouk until Cambodia became embroiled in the American war in Vietnam. In 1975, Pol Pot successfully led the Khmer Rouge rebels to power, a regime that led to the death of more than two million Cambodians over the following years. In 1979, the Vietnamese army toppled the Pol Pot regime and installed a government less hostile to their interests. The Vietnamese withdrew in 1989, leaving the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to face a loose rebel coalition that propelled the country into civil strife that continued sporadically until 1998. Since the July 1998 elections, Cambodia’s relative peace has allowed it to begin rebuilding its economy.
VFA in Cambodia
Veterans for America, or Veterans International/Cambodia (VI/C) as it is known in the country, began its aid to Cambodia in 1991 when its first rehabilitation center was established at Kien Khleang. Since then, VFA’s work has expanded to other parts of Cambodia with the opening of additional centers in Prey Veng and Kratie to provide comprehensive care and services. These centers not only aid amputees, but also individuals with mobility problems caused by polio, cerebral palsy, clubfoot, tuberculosis of the bone and other conditions. VI/C centers are the primary providers of orthotic services in Cambodia.
Kien Khleang, located on the outskirts of the capital city of Phnom Penh, was originally a repository for disabled individuals who were provided only with a place to live. In late 1991, however, VVAF opened a prosthetic workshop at this site to fabricate and fit amputees with prostheses. Additionally, the center trained Khmer in prosthetic production technology and sent several students to the Cambodia School for Prosthetics and Orthotics (CSPO). During the following years, additional services were offered including production and training in wheelchair fabrication, orthotics production, rehabilitative support services and an outreach follow-up program to provide rehabilitative services to clients where they live. To date, the center has provided aid to thousands of individuals with hope of reaching more.
In 1995, VI/C opened a regional center in the provincial capital city of Prey Veng to expand services into the densely population regions of eastern Cambodia. This center produces and fits a full range or prosthetics and orthotic devices and provides extensive community follow-up services.
The Kratie Physical Rehabilitation Center, located in the northeast region of the country, opened in 2000. With little or no support given to this region, the center provided a means of a better life for a population with significant numbers of people with disabilities. The center includes a comprehensive polypropylene workshop, where quality prosthetic and orthotic devices are produced in addition to wheelchairs. Additionally, patients are provided with physical therapy, gait training and repairs to prosthetic or orthotic devices as needed. The center also provides a dormitory for those who live outside the Kratie province, along with food and transportation subsidies.