As you may have seen last week in a prayer point on our Prayer Room page, for nearly six months IHSI/Sak Saum staff have been visiting a 9 year-old special needs girl in a nearby village. Though her name, Sokchea, means “healthy”, she has already survived so much: an attempted abortion, possible fetal alcohol syndrome, a botched medical procedure, flat head syndrome, and years of neglect and rejection. She has what appears to be cerebral palsy, and due to her family’s lack of education and fear she has lived her whole life being told she must lie still and not try to move. She never received therapy, adequate nutrition, or even kind words; in fact she would often hear her mother tell others just how much of a burden to the family she was.
Now, Sokchea has a new caregiver, and a new outlook on life thanks to daily visits by people who come to encourage her and help care for her. Simple things like bathing, sitting or drinking water pose difficulty for Sokchea. Despite the challenges, it has been so exciting to see her smiling with a sense of accomplishment after completing basic acts like moving her arms or legs to exercise. And even though she is currently non-verbal, she definitely is an opinionated and feisty little girl!
The years of neglect and rejection have taken their toll on Sokchea, but we believe that there is much more hope for her than her birth parents ever imagined. None of IHSI staff have any formal training in caring for special needs children, but as best we can have been trying to teach Sokchea simple stretches and exercises to improve her range of motion and strength. Despite our own limitations, we see a lot of positive growth in her ability to do basic motions that months ago she had little control over. Now she can even sit on someone’s lap and look around for a few minutes holding her own head up, which she had never done before.
Our team of church volunteers has brought Sokchea to Sunday services several times, much to her excitement. Even the short ride from her house to our campus seems to make her so happy. We envision someday being able to bring Sokchea to attend a soccer game, join Sunday School, or watch our annual kite flying contests! Surely it is God’s heart for her that she would become part of a community where she will be valued and included.
Small steps of progress and simple acts of love can add up to a big difference for someone like Sokchea. But she also has real physical needs that would be benefitted best by receiving professional care from a physical therapist or someone experienced in working with individuals who have cerebral palsy. We also are hoping to get her a retro-fitted wheelchair or one we can modify ourselves, because although Sokchea shows great interest in going outdoors and seeing new places, that is something which is difficult to facilitate currently.
We are hoping that as you read this blog post, you would start to dream with us on Sokchea’s behalf. Are you or someone you know a qualified physical therapist? Would you or they be able to spend some time, even just a few weeks, here with us in Cambodia as a volunteer working with Sokchea and training our staff in how to approach long-term therapy for her?
If that does not sound like you, what about helping to raise money for a wheelchair and/or exercise equipment? Your youth group, business, or circle of friends could find creative ways to help us broaden Sokchea’s horizons and give her a chance to experience more mobility and freedom than she has ever had.
How far does your love go? If this post has sparked something in you and you feel you could help Sokchea in any of the ways mentioned above, please go to http://ihsionline.org/connect/ and send us a message with the subject “Sokchea”. We look forward to hearing from you soon!