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Cambodia Study Tour Report


Visiting a wheelchair user at home

A fieldwork trip to Cambodia took place from Sunday, August 30 to Sunday, September 6, 2015 as part of the Practicum for a Convivial Global Society. Eight undergraduates and two graduate students took part.

Before the trip, participants attended a lecture by Yoshimi Nakata of People’s Hope Japan and Yuko Ito of AAR Japan that provided an introduction to the history of Cambodia and the current state of healthcare in the country. We learned that the civil war and landmines have left many people in Cambodia with disabilities and that the medical system is still struggling to recover from the murder of many of the country’s doctors during the war.

In Cambodia, we visited a wheelchair-manufacturing NGO supported by AAR Japan, some wheelchair users at home, as well as the JICA Cambodia office, Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital, and a village health center. We carried out research based on Q&A sessions with the people we met at each of these places. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to many people, including Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) and students learning Japanese at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC) located in the Royal University of Phnom Penh campus.

At the Association for Aid and Releif, Wheelchair for Development (AAR,WCD) , we were given a tour of the wheelchair workshop, which is run by Cambodian staff and where the wheelchairs are made entirely from Cambodian parts. Many of the workers who make the wheelchairs have disabilities themselves. It was clear how the added mobility a wheelchair brings can help to create employment and revitalize the economy.

With students from the Japanese class at CJCC

We had been told before leaving Japan that many people with disabilities are discriminated against in Cambodian society, because of the strong influence of Theravada Buddhism and its belief in karma and reincarnation. But listening to them talk about their lives made me see that they were all living their lives as members of the society, whether they had a disability or not.

At JICA Cambodia office we talked to some of the people who are involved in JICA’s cooperation projects, and were able to learn about the situation in the country today. Hearing about projects to improve water supply system, roads, and other infrastructure, education and health from people with first-hand experience gave us a better understanding of the kind of challenges Cambodia faces.

This was only a short trip of just eight days, but the opportunity to talk to so many people and visit so many places gave me a much deeper understanding of Cambodia.

The trip made me determined to work hard on my studies and absorb fully the lessons I learned in Cambodia.

(Riko Matsushima, 2nd year student, Department of Liberal Arts and Humanities,
Faculty of Letters and Education)

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