Self help groups

TMC has documented that chronic pain in mine accident survivors is one main obstacle for physical and social rehabilitation. The studies indicated that poverty itself acts as a chronic stress or trauma, feeding the pain syndrome. If this is so, then support for income generation to victimized families should act as a “pain-killer”. In 2006 – 2007, in cooperation with Institute of International Public Health at Oslo University, TMC undertook qualitative studies of self-help groups and microcredit support to Cambodian mine victims.

Photo: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen

The main findings are that the”chain of survival” should be extended from the point of hospital discharge to the end-point where the victims resettle in their villages. The study shows that peer support by a local and trusted medic helps regain self-esteem and social function. Networking with other mine accident survivors enhances new arenas of friendship and social inclusion. Life is still hard for poor villagers in Cambodia, and some of the members did not succeed in regaining income and social inclusion.

There is still a need for structural changes concerning rights to land, rights to health, and rights to a decent standard of living. The people in our study are working hard in difficult circumstances; their lives were shattered by someone else’s use of indiscriminate weapons. They have a justified right for compensation. Though it might be beyond expectations at the moment, we foresee that some of the self-help group participants may initiate strategic efforts to gain basic civil rights.

By 2010 several members of the self – help groups were trained to be instructors themselves. This adds valuable information back to the organization, and it also increases the instructors self esteem and respect.

Now self – help groups (SHG) in Cambodia include a total of 180 families in 8 different districts. The beneficiaries are families affected by mine/ cluster accidents, poor widows and very poor families in remote villages.