Ponlork’s arms required amputation. Now he makes a living as a successful poultry farmer in Cambodia
Everyone faces adversity in different ways. Some, like Ponlork from Cambodia, manage to create opportunity from it. In 2011, the 23-year-old suffered severe electric shock while working as a welder. The injuries were so serious both his arms required amputation. Now, at 30, Ponlork makes a living as a poultry farmer.
Ponlork’s transition from welder to making a life without hands was incredibly difficult. “I’ve gone through countless times of distress, hardship, and intense hopelessness. But I tried to stifle and overcome all of them,” he says. “My life was empty. I felt like I lost everything. The accident happened at a time when I was physically energetic and mentally motivated. It was the time when I could earn good money.” Ponlork says with a deep sigh. “I was really depressed after the amputation. But once I got over the shock of the whole situation, I was determined to try to find ways to live my life as others do.”
In 2017, Ponlork joined the “Civil Society, Authorities and Markets for Sustainable Community Animal Production, Livelihoods and Environment” (CAM4SCALE) project, which aims to improve the livelihoods of over 50,000-smallholder livestock farmers across eight provinces in Cambodia. Ponlork was directly supported by People in Need and its national partners, Cambodia Institute for Research and Rural Development, Environmental Protection and Environment Development and Phnom Neang Kangrei Association. The project was funded by European Union and contracting authority by General Directorate of Animal Health and Production.
“Before joining Cam4Scale project, my income was 300USD a month. I had fewer than 100 chickens. After joining, the number increased to 1500,” he says. This allowed him to generate his gross income up to 1,250USD monthly. Smiling, Ponlork adds, “I have received adequate trainings on how to select the breed, vaccinate and disinfect the chicken coops. I find them very useful and I always practise the techniques.”
A few months ago, Ponlork suffered a setback when his flock was hit by disease. “I was caught up in stress and worries when disease attacked my chickens. It was out of control. I implemented all the techniques, but it was too late.,” he says. Ponlork’s flock now numbers about 300. He disinfected all the coops and plans to add another 300 chicks to build back up. “When I fail, I don’t give up. I try to think of what went wrong and start to change my strategy and seek help from others,” he say.
Investing Earnings into Education
Ponlork’s dreams are to enlarge his business and help his 12-year-old earn a university degree. Leakhena, who says her favourite subject is math, is heavily dependent on Ponlork’s financial support for her education. “I have put my niece through school so far because I know that education is very important. I do not want her to drop out. Some of my friends are well educated and they have very good jobs. I want my niece to be as successful as them in the future,” he says.
Taking Strength in Others and Forging a New Path
Despite his perseverance and positive attitude, getting things done is indeed difficult and time-consuming for Ponlork. His parents, siblings, relatives and neighbors have been a tremendous help. “With the loss of both my arms, I could barely do anything that I could before. I could not even eat by myself. Everyone was so kind and helpful. They made me want to live and stand up against adversity,” he says.
With their support, Ponlork had the confidence to create ways to stay active. For example, he figured out a way to keep driving his motorbike by inventing a pair of metal devices where he inserts his arms. “My message to other disabled people is: ‘Don’t Give Up’,” he says. Ponlork refuses to let his disability define him. He’s a great example of someone breaking down barriers to live a full life.