I'LL HELP THE BOMB KIDS WALK AGAIN; BIG HEART: Scots Teacher Puts Cambodian Girl through uni.(News)

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), October 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

I'LL HELP THE BOMB KIDS WALK AGAIN; BIG HEART: Scots Teacher Puts Cambodian Girl through uni.(News)


Byline: NATASHA WEALE EXCLUSIVE

A CHANCE meeting between a retired Scots teacher and a young artificial limb maker has given new hope to thousands of landmine amputees.

Sue Walters, 59, got chatting to Cambodian Sisary Kheng, 23, as they watched a graduation ceremony at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, last summer.

Kind-hearted Sue promised to help Sisary - in Glasgow for a conference on prosthetics - improve her skills to ease the suffering of 40,000 amputees and 50,000 polio victims in poverty- scarred Cambodia. Sue has raised pounds 1800 to put Sisary through Strathclyde Uni's world- acclaimed Rehab Studies course.

Sisary, who makes and fits artificial limbs, has treated 15,600 patients in the last year - and studies the Strathclyde course at home in her spare time.

Now Sue, who has battled cancer, is trying to raise a further pounds 3600 to put Sisary through the final two years at Strathclyde.

Sisary, who works for the Cambodia Trust charity in Phnom Penh, believes the knowledge she picks up on the course will allow her to treat her patients more effectively.

Since the Trust launched its first clinic in 1992, more than 17,000 artificial limbs have been fitted and 14,000 repairs carried out.

Here, Sue, from Glasgow, tells how their friendship blossomed and how she embarked on raising the cash to put Sisary through Uni.

And Sisary reveals her love and admiration for the woman who is helping her make the lives of ordinary Cambodians so much better.

If you would like to make a donation write to: The Sisary Fund, c/o Natasha Weale, Sunday Mail, One Central Quay, Glasgow, G3 8DA.

SUE'S STORY WITHIN five minutes of meeting Sisary I knew she was special. She was so warm, open and receptive to our culture.

Outside the university that day we didn't spend long chatting to each other but by the end of the conversation we had swapped e- mail addresses and promised to keep in touch.

In the early days, she told me how her parents had lived through the Khmer Rouge regime of the 70s and how her father had become a Christian minister. She often referred to me as her miracle, saying: "God sent you to me."

Later, when we had been writing to each other for some months she started addressing me as mum and ending her e-mails with "Your Cambodian daughter".

She was desperate to improve her qualifications and skills and felt the best way to do this was to study the Western techniques in prosthetics and orthotics. It seemed like such a simple wish, and for many people it would have been easy to turn into a reality, but I knew Sisary would never be able to afford it.

After a lot of research I discovered that there were two centres of excellence in Europe in artificial limb engineering - and one of them was at Strathclyde.

I knew that we would need to raise pounds 1800 for the first year and then a further two instalments for the following years.

When I first started doing this in January I never realised how hard it would be to get the money in. …

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