The next thing I notice is that she’s in a wheelchair, which isn’t remarkable because she’s disabled, as there’s a large population of disabled people here in Cambodia for various reasons, but that she’s in a wheelchair - an expensive and rare apparatus for most common people.
Still, I see the smile as I pass, as she sits at the entrance of a shop along a street of shops to cater to the tourists as well as a beauty parlor and bookstore. At first, I smiled back, then started waving, then said hi, and finally, today, I stopped and talked to her in the heat of the afternoon on my way home from lunch.
I go inside and look at what they are selling, handcrafted purses, wood carvings, necklaces, and other knit goods that they make right in back. She proudly holds up a lime green knit coin bag and tells me that she made that one herself, pointing to the 1950s Singer sewing machine in back.
My new friend explains that the store is called Yodicraft, and hands me a brochure. It says that “it was established in 2009 aiming to provide training and employment opportunities for youth with disabilities to become more self-sufficient, to showcase the talents of these youths and to provide an income for ensuring the sustainability of our work.”
This is part of a series where I take approach a common but remarkable person in Cambodia and ask if I can take their photo. I do so but with a Fujifilm instant camera, so the photograph pops out and develops right on the spot. I then had them the photo, sometimes the only one they've ever owned. I then capture the moment by taking a digital photo of them holding their new gift.
You can read more about it here: Can I Give You This Photo, Please?
or just click on the Give a Photo category to the right.
Thanks for sharing this link: http://ow.ly/UF2re
If you happen to be disabled, the best-case scenario is that you have family to take care of you. Another mouth to feed that can’t work is a heavy burden even for families to bear. For most disabled people who are on their own or live in the city, they resort to begging. There are no prospects for a better life or opportunities to live even a moderately comfortable, happy life.
That’s why programs like Yodicraft, which are usually designed and funded by private individuals, international non-profits, or foreign NGO’s, are so crucial –and in desperate need. For for the same reason, this young woman, who is only 20 years old and came by herself from a remote province to work in Phnom Penh with Yodicraft a couple years earlier, is so inspirational.
We chat for a while and then I ask if I can take her photo. She agrees and poses as I take out my Fujifilm instant camera and snap a shot. She’s interested when the photo emerges from the top and I tell her it’s a special camera. I give her the blank white frame and watch her expression as she sees her image appear.
I peel off $2 and try to hand it to her. I tell her it’s a small tip for letting me take the photo, thought it’s no insignificant sum - $2 is the daily wage for many laborers and normal people here.
But she refuses. She says she can’t take tips or handle money other than the normal transaction. There are no security cameras is the one-room shop, nor any other employees present. She’s just being polite, I think, so I put the dollar bills on the counter, under her new photograph so they won’t blow away.
She’s gives me the money back apologetically, adamant that she will not accept any tips or personal donations. She is a proud, loyal, ethical, and diligent employee. She feels blessed and thankful just to have the opportunity to work, learning and growing as a person and earning respect, and that is reward enough.
In the end, I purchase a bracelet I’ll never wear for $3, my way of supporting Yodicraft and honoring my new friend – and in some small way, sharing her smile with the world.
Located at house no. 24, Street 3 (Sothearos Blvd a block away from the Royal Palace) in Phnom Penh.
Ms. Kangchana Meas