SENG SOPHAT: Electrical Repairman
If your radio, cassette player or CD player goes wrong and you live in Treng Trayoeung then you'll probably take it to Seng Sophat at his stall in Treng Trayoeung market. If it's beyond repair, then he can sell you a reconditioned model. In the same market, his wife runs her own stall selling bric-a-brac. When the children are not at school, they are helping their parents. The family lives in their own house near the market. They now seem like a typical Cambodian family, but they have had some very difficult years prior to now.
Sophat was a Government soldier, but was disabled in 1990 by a mine when he was patrolling the front line. For the next five years he received a disability pension of about 60,000 riel ($15)/month but this still was not sufficient to support himself and his wife, so he supplemented it by doing some small time trading - buying and selling groceries, kitchen equipment etc. Then in 1995 there was more bad news. His wife needed hospital treatment. In order to finance this care, he took a final settlement from his pension, which was equal to three years pay.
Shortly after his daughter was born, Sophat found he couldn't make enough money to support them all. In desperation he moved to Treng Trayoeung where he hoped things would be better. They were, but in a most unexpected way. Seng Sophat carried on trading, buying things from the Treng Trayoeung market and selling them on to customers. It wasn't long before he heard about CDRA as they had an office near the market. He joined the Association and the whole family moved to Veal Thom where they received land and built their own house.
For a while Sophat stopped trading and just concentrated on farming. He even managed to save some money. However the farming life didn't really suit him and his family. When WRF/PACE initiated the job training program, he inquired as to the possibility of learning to do electrical repairs. The program arranged training for him and also provided him with the tools he needed. Thus equipped and with the money saved, he gave back his land to CDRA, set up a stall in the market and bought a house nearby.
At first, Sophat had some difficulties with his repair work, as the training had only been practical, but not theoretical. This was not helped by the fact that electrical goods continually get more advanced and complex. However, he has now managed to build up his understanding and knowledge so that he can usually work out a solution.
Does he suffer any discrimination due to being disabled? 'No' he says 'people see me as someone that can help them. I'm recognized for my ability rather than my disability.'