A series of portraits of people with disabilities (PwD) in Cambodia taken in celebration of their capabilities instead of their limitations. It focuses on their journey of empowerment and crafts a life of independence for themselves. From a farmer to an NGO director, from a tailor to a fisherman, they all have the abilities to do what everyone else does and these photos show exactly that, not their disabilities. Created in collaboration with various local NGOs and Heinrich Böll Foundation.
Hip Phalla, hearing health clinician (31), Phnom Penh
Her hearing was impaired due to a toxic reaction to an antibiotic when she was in high school. She did not come to All Ears Cambodia as a patient until she was 26.
Now a staff of the NGO, she tests patients’ hearing abilities and gives treatment advices, after studying audiology and nursing in university.
“I wanted to contribute to the lives of people with the same problem as me. And I want people to know how to take care of their ears and fix problems early.”
Mom Phy, rice farmer (49), Thlok Chrov, Kampong Chhnang
A survivor of a landmine explosion in Koh Kong in 1987. With a prosthetic leg, he is fully independent in supporting himself and his family, including collecting palm sugar to sell.
Seun Kaiy, owner of a beauty salon (28), Tro Peangpor, Phnom Penh
Polio left permanent marks on her legs. Seun founded her own beauty salon and is currently training new interns.
“What helped me to overcome what happened to me was going to the NGO and seeing so many people with disabilities more severe than mine, and they were still fighting to get back on their feet. We always have to try our best to stand by our own self and not rely on others, not even our parents or siblings.”
Rous Mam, fisherman, cow farmer and musician (70), Amchang Rong, Kampong Chhnang
An amputee from an explosion in Kampong Chhnang in 1984. He now earns his living from various jobs, including playing music at weddings and running a shop with his wife.
Mey Samith, NGO director (41), Phnom Penh
Director of the Phnom Penh Center for Independent Living, an NGO that focuses on disability rights and access to services for people with disabilities.
Mey Samith has to use a wheelchair due to polio at a young age, but that didn't stop him from finishing a training in electronic devices repairing and a bachelor’s in management and business administration in 2014. He now works with the government to promote community inclusion, including a project that provides PwD with a monthly subsidy and a personal assistant. He has also helped implement a welfare taxi with access for PwD, after having set up an accessible tuk-tuk in partnership with the Agile Development Group.
So Chamreun, tailor (44), Orussey, Phnom Penh
“My message is to work hard and study hard to get success, do not feel hopeless. And do not discriminate disabled people, give them motivation to succeed."
Ieng Sovannara, IT manager and teacher (33), Phnom Penh
Text-to-speech technology has been revolutionary for blind people. In 2011, he started teaching ICT to blind children. He is also helping a recording studio that creates audiobooks for blind people.
“I started a YouTube channel called Sreyneang Chheun because there is a lack of content for blind people in Khmer. It's not easy to find books in Khmer Braille and there is no Khmer text-to-speech software so blind people who don't speak English have no way to use computers or smartphones.”
Chhoum Samnang, student (14), Prek Tasek, Chroy Changva
Due to a congenital condition, she still feels pain when walking and climbing all the stairs to school – but she is not discouraged.
“Some of the classmates bully me, say mean things or don’t want to play with me. But I keep studying and now I like to play football. When I grow up, I want to find an office job.”
Seng Morm, mechanic (61), Trouk, Kampong Chhnang
A leg amputee from an explosion in Pailin in 1986. He and his wife now own a successful shop that fixes motorbikes, sometimes making up to US$25 per day.