Artisan Impact: Rehab Craft, Cambodia
Rehab Craft Cambodia (RCC) is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization developed to create employment for Cambodians with disabilities. Many Cambodians are disabled due to injuries from land mines left after the war; land mines are still a major problem in the country. RCC recognizes the obstacles these Cambodians face and gives them skills to create a successful and meaningful business. Since people with disabilities have historically had few opportunities for training or employment, RCC does not hire on the basis of education or job experience. Instead, the organization is dedicated to providing training and opportunities for advancement within the company. RCC pays fair wages for skilled work; its artisans earn two and one-half to three times the average factory–production wage.
A Cambodian Success Story
“My name is Thik Hong and I am 29 years old. I live in a rented house together with my wife, 1-year-old daughter and other family members in the city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. When I was 2 or 3 years old, I had polio very badly in my right leg. I have had a disability ever since that time.
“After I finished 12 years of school, it was hard to find a job. Then I got a job for two years at a handicraft shop, but I didn’t earn very much money. Working as a producer at Rehab Craft Cambodia [RCC] for the past year has been good. Rehab Craft is different, because all the staff have disabilities and we understand each other.
“I’m glad that Ten Thousand Villages orders many recycled fish feed bags from us so that the workshop stays very busy and I can save some money. Someday, I hope to buy a little house for my family.”
There are not many opportunities for Cambodians such as Thik Hong, who live with disabilities, to find work or to learn skills to support themselves. Rehab Craft Cambodia provides a lifeline, however, training people with disabilities in handicraft production, and providing career opportunities within the organization. Rehab Craft is a non-profit, local nongovernmental organization that has been operating for 13 years. RCC was originally funded by a New Zealand organization, but has been financially sustainable and independent for the past seven years. Everyone who works at RCC has some form of physical disability, from the guard at the gate to the team leaders of the organization.
Recent research shows that approximately 4 percent of Cambodians are disabled, which is one of the highest rates of disabilities in the world. Some of these disabilities are the results of land mines and unexploded ordinance left over from more than two decades of war. There are also many people affected by polio, or who have limbs amputated due to untreated diabetes.
Rehab Craft runs a training program for people with disabilities to learn various crafts, including producing handicrafts from silver, silk, stone and wood. Some of these artisans continue to be employed by the organization, while others set up independent production in the provinces. RCC purchases and markets many of their products in their showrooms in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Management positions are generally filled from within the organization, so those with management potential have the possibility of working their way up in the organization.