‘Disability Shouldn’t Hinder Potential’, Paralyzed Student Asserts

At 22 years old, Pho Mari doesn’t want to let her disability prevent her from doing what she loves. Photo provided

PHNOM PENH – At 22 years old, Pho Mari doesn’t want to let her disability prevent her from doing what she loves. Originally from Prey Veng province’s Ta So village, Mari is a third-year student majoring in Accounting at Svay Rieng University.

The young woman was 6 when she lost the use of her two legs, after using inappropriate medication to heal her from another disease.

Since then, she spent her days in a wheelchair, which has been hard to accept while she recalls she used to run around with friends before the incident.

“I used to be so upset. While everyone was having fun, I was sitting in a wheelchair. My biggest wish for me was to be like them, but I only walked into my dream,” she said, adding that she felt very depressed by the idea she would never walk again.

But Mary could rely on her family and her many friends to support her through this dire period. Especially her parents, who did their best to foster her attraction to school and higher education.

She now wants to show that disabled people can also move forward in life and become who they want to be. Even though it is more difficult for her than for others, she strives to shower and dress up on her own, as a way to show she still has some liberty of movement.

The same spirit animates her when it comes down to education. She follows her parents’ and teachers’ advice to keep learning as if she’d never lost the use of her legs.

“No matter how hard it is, I have to study because only knowledge can get me a good job,” she said.

Thanks to that mindset, she has always been well-ranked at school and is now a member of the Financial Officers Committee in the Student Council. In addition to going to university, she often joins extra-classes programs that help her gain more knowledge and develop new skills, like speaking in front of an audience.

She recently participated in an eloquence contest for youth under the theme “Eliminate the Use of the E-cigarette to Improve Study Performance”, which she won.

She was then chosen to be Svay Rieng University’s representative to participate as a speaker in the program “Join the National Movement to End AIDS by 2025.”

When given the opportunity to speak on the podium in front of many people, Mary never forgot to send a message of encouragement to those with disabilities.

She urges them not to get depressed and not to lose hope, but instead to study hard and use knowledge and ability to work in society.


Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Te Chhaysinh for Cambodianess.

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