In Cambodia, one out of every 290 people is an amputee, a majority of whom are victims of land mines, a legacy left behind by three decades of war. This rate is one of the highest in the world and will almost certainly continue to grow. Although approximately 100,000 mines are being cleared every year, men, women and children living and farming in the affected areas continue to be in danger. According to the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), 4 to 6 million mines and other unexploded ordnances may still be left uncovered.
That’s why the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting local efforts to provide rehabilitation and opportunities for these victims of war. Veterans International in Cambodia’s (VIC) mission is to rehabilitate Cambodians living with disabilities, victims of war and poverty, and those living on the margins of society. Now through USAID’s Capacity Building of Cambodia’s Local Organizations Program (CBCLO), VIC will not only be able to continue their mission, but expand its reach and impact.
Since 1992, VIC has helped those living with disabilities lead more active, fulfilling lives. With clinics in four provinces and a mobile prosthetics team who reach landmine victims in remote areas, VIC has provided rehabilitation, physical therapy, wheelchairs, prosthetics, and crutches to more than 22,000 people with disabilities (PWDs). VIC also provides jobs for PWDs producing these items in their Kien Kheang workshop.
International Executive Service Corps (IESC) implements the CBCLO program, a USAID-funded program awarded through the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA). In 2014, IESC began working with VIC to strengthen the organization’s capacity. To date, VIC has received 10 training sessions and more than 95 hours of technical assistance from CBCLO staff. CBCLO achieves this by tapping into highly skilled volunteers to provide technical assistance. VIC received assistance from two expert American volunteers, Susan Gurley and Michelle Tolson. As the Executive Director of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Susan Gurley was able to share her senior leadership experience with her VIC counterparts through one-on-one support and mentoring. Together, they were able to refine and improve VIC’s strategic plan and internal management. Michelle Tolson, a communications specialist with more than eight years of experience, also worked with VIC to refine their report and success story writing skills, allowing the organization to more widely promote their cause and better communicate their impact.
Even after the volunteer assignments ended, VIC staff have continued to utilize the skills they learned. VIC Program Manager Ms. Hiep Phan said, “We have since developed a monitoring sheet to effectively track data. All of this helps me prepare strong proposals and progress reports with relevant sections such as indicators, results and logical framework.” As a result of these organizational improvements, VIC has recently received the green light from USAID on a 2-year extension fund, as well as a 1-year extension from UNICEF. Ms. Phan also stated that the targeted one-on-one assistance from CBCLO has brought immense positive impact to the organizations day-to-day operations and is constantly adding value to the capacity of local staff. This, in turn allows them to better serve their community—the victims of war who, despite their disabilities, are able to live fuller, more productive lives thanks to Veterans International in Cambodia.