The History of Veterans International Cambodia
Over 20 years of armed conflict have left an indelible mark on Cambodia. When Bobby Muller of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) first arrived in Kien Kheang in late 1991 he found a squalid squatter’s town populated by disabled Khmer who were receiving virtually no assistance.
In 1992, VVAF opened Veterans International, Cambodia’s (VICs) first center, Kien Kheang Clinic with funding from USAID’s War Victims Fund. The mission was to provide rehabilitation services to people with disabilities (PWDs) who were victims of war and among the poorest of the poor and marginalized in society. The Kien Kheang center consists of a large workshop for the production of prostheses, orthoses, crutches and wheelchairs and a treatment center that provides gait training for amputees and physical therapy for polio victims.
In August of 2000, VIC opened its third center in Kratie Province on the grounds of the provincial hospital. This center also provides a range of rehabilitation services to those Northern provinces initially assisted through the now disbanded mobile teams. That same year VIC created the Community Based Rehabilitation Program (CBR) with priority activities on mainstreaming and empowering PWDs to lead a higher quality lives and become equal members of their communities with equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities.
In January 2009 Bobby Muller of VVAF transfered the American headquarters management of the VIC clinics to International Center. VIC still remains one of the main providers of prosthetics and orthodics in Cambodia. For over 20 years, VIC has provided rehabilitation services to more than 22,000 PWDs.
In 1994, VIC opened a regional facility in Prey Veng province to extend services to the disabled in the densely populated northeastern regions of Cambodia. This area is especially afflicted with birth defects such as Club Foot and Cerebral Palsy due to the Agent Orange sprayed in the region during the Vietnam War.
That year VIC also added a prosthetic mobile team to reach landmine victims in five other more remote provinces – Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondolkiri, Ratanakiri, and Preah Vihear. The mobile team, equipped with simple tools and supplies, treated over 650 amputees living in these more isolated provinces between 1994 and 1996, returning periodically to repair or refit limbs. The team also distributed 350 wheelchairs and hundreds of crutches to the mobility impaired.
Since the transition of VIC from VFA to IC, much work has been done to ensure the sustainability of the project. In 2012, a sliding fee model was finalized. This model provides a suggested amount of money that can be provided for services, based on socioeconomic status. No fee is required for services. Also, in 2012, VIC began discussions with The Handa Foundation regarding opening a private clinic. On January 31, 2013, tthe private clinic, known as The Handa Rehabilitation Center was opened in Phnom Penh. Also in 2013, VIC transitioned the day to day management of the three centers to MoSVY while continuing to provide financial incentives.