Austen Burns’ Visit to The Centre For Independent Living in Cambodia

Austen Burns, Information Office at CILNI, has recently returned from an informative visit to the Centre for Independent Living in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. The purpose of Austen’s visit was to learn more about the invaluable work of the centre, which is similar to what CILNI do in Northern Ireland.

In Cambodia, the centre looks to empower disabled people through the independent living movement. A movement which helps people with disabilities to work and to have equal opportunities in other areas to live independently.

Executive director of PPCIL, Mr Mey Samith, delivered a particularly informative presentation. It discussed the five main activities of the centre, which were namely; Social Awareness, Peer Counselling, Personal Assistant Service, Advocacy and the Independent Living Program.

A key aspect of PPCIL’s work is to liaise with and educate local authorities. They work to help those in power to understand the different needs and priorities of people with disabilities. Training, knowledge sharing, accessibility audits and inclusivity workshops are all tools which the centre employ in this area.

Whilst in Cambodia, Austen also had the opportunity to meet some of the people the centre work with. He observed some of the service users with disabilities working at a bakery. The bakery had been set up to help the employees learn independent living skills, enhance their employment opportunities and play a fuller part in the mainstream of society.

Austen reflected:

“This was an amazing experience. I was able to see first-hand the reality of being disabled in Cambodia today. Some of the issues that arose included – accessible transport, employment, housing, attitudes. Thank you to the PPCIL team who were extremely welcoming and went out of their way to make sure I had a fantastic experience.”