Scores of people who through birth or accident have no hands gathered in Phnom Penh on Sunday at the invitation of a wealthy businessman whose newly launched foundation aims to help handless Cambodians.
Meeting at the National Institute of Education, businessmen, donors and 146 people who lack hands listened as Chea Ratana, a tycoon and adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, discussed the difficulties facing the handless and his goals for the community.
“They are in a really difficult situation, which is why I think if we can try to help them, we must try to help them,” he said after the event.
“We have seen there are many handicapped people but some of these people do not know how to improve their situation,” said Mr. Ratana, the former vice president of Union Commercial Bank and the owner of the Sun and Moon Hotel in Phnom Penh, among other ventures.
He said that he had become interested in the plight of the handless after meeting a boy without hands in Pursat province seven years ago and deciding to provide the child with financial support. This interest ultimately moved him to create the Oknha Dr. Chea Ratana and Louk Chumteav Ly Heak Ratana Foundation in August last year, named after himself and his wife.
Attendees at Sunday’s event were shown a slideshow depicting the reality of life for those without hands and giving suggestions for how to live better independently. They were also given 1 million riel ($250) each, and provided with T-shirts emblazoned with photographs of Mr. Ratana alongside people without hands whom he supports.
Chen Darith, Mr. Ratana’s assistant, said that his boss had put out a call for people without hands through the popular ABC radio station. Several hundred responded, and 170 were chosen to become beneficiaries of the foundation, although Mr. Darith said he believed there were as many as 500 people in Cambodia without hands.
He said his boss hoped the foundation would eventually reach all of them to provide support for studies and vocational training, as well as helping them obtain artificial limbs.
Vun Vanna, 21, traveled from Prey Veng province on Sunday to receive his donation and learn more about the fund. He lost his hands in a construction accident four months ago.
“I now have difficulty when I eat meals, go to the bathroom or wash,” he said, explaining that his 8-year-old sister currently helps him.
“Today, I felt very happy and I will use the money to help my father, mother and brothers,” he said.
Banteay Meanchey province secondary school student Sath Sreypoch, 17, who was born without hands, said she hoped the fund would pay for her to have singing lessons to provide a future career.
“I will use today’s money to pay for my studies because I really enjoy studying, especially English.”