Tik Toy and Dara
Residents of the Arrupe Centre
Toy and Dara’s stories are not dissimilar to the stories of so many children across Cambodia.
A carefree life, spent helping family and playing with friends, changed forever in an instant as a result of landmine accidents. They are now counted among the more than 25,000 amputees recorded in Cambodia.
But, thanks to the Arrupe Centre, their futures are being shaped with a sense of hope.
For Toy that life-changing moment came as he was supervising his younger siblings and picking mushrooms on a nearby hill and stumbled upon an unexploded ordnance.
It was Dara’s curiosity that drew him to pick up something that intrigued him. He lost his hand and most of his eyesight when the landmine exploded as he held it.
The extent of their injuries didn’t stop with just Toy and Dara, but were felt by their families as the grappled with what their young children’s lives would look like as they faced their disabilities.
'When the villagers came to tell me of the accident, I felt as though my soul was flying out of my chest,' Toy’s Father says.
With very little money in the family, both Toy and Dara’s parents embraced the opportunity that the Arrupe Centre offered; ensuring that their children received a quality education, and the chance to learn to live independently with their disabilities.
At the time, they were only ten and eleven years old respectively.
"At the time, it was very difficult for the family, because we had to spend money to take Toy to the hospital," says Toy's father, "When Bishop Kike came, we felt hope and encouragement to keep going and give our son an education."
"We are very happy that Toy lives at the Arrupe Centre because we know he can study and get a higher education"
Today Toy has made many friends at the Centre. He enjoys his studies and computers, and plays basketball, tennis, soccer and has a particular love of swimming.
Dara too is rarely found sitting still as he enjoys all that the Arrupe Centre offers. He dreams of representing Cambodia on the sporting field some day.
The Arrupe Outreach team, led by the Centre's founder Bishop Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzalez SJ, knows too well the difficulties that face the families of children affected by landmines.
Toy and Dara’s families are supported by the Outreach team. Their younger siblings receive educational scholarships, assistance is provided in the form of basic necessities, food and microloans and to carryout necessary repairs to their homes.
A purpose-built village for families who have had to adjust to life with a family member affected by disability has been established.
Toy’s family are among those who have been provided with a new home and income opportunities. They receive a stable, living income while enjoying a close support network of parents who have experienced similar realities.
Even at his young age, Toy knows that the opportunities he embraces at the Arrupe Centre will go on to directly benefit his family, and he even has words of advice for Australian youth.
The Arrupe Centre goes beyond merely providing necessities for those who live there, and use its services. By restoring the dignity of all who call the centre home the effects are felt far beyond its walls and will be felt across the generations in Cambodia.
Their bodies now bear the reminder of the impact of landmines, but their lives will not be forever marked thanks to the Arrupe Centre.