"Although the human rights case alone is sufficient to necessitate action, there is also evidence that promoting inclusion of people with disabilities is beneficial from an economic standpoint."
- From a report by: CBM, The International Center for Evidence in Disability & The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
March 2017 -- Well hello again from Phnom Penh! It's funny to say that things like sweating profusely the second you begin walking and hearing 'hello lady, tuk tuk?' are in a way comforting and welcoming. My flights overall went very smooth and so far, I am settling into the time and temperature changes as well as to be expected, so thank you all for the thoughts and prayers on that. After I go to church with a friend this morning, I am probably going to go find some place to get more of my hair cut off because anything I can do to stay cooler, I will do at this point!
I talked to many people about DSI while I was in transit, including a Cambodian man who immigrated to the US after fleeing the Khmer Rouge during the late 1970's with his wife and 3 children (one who was only a month and a half old) when they crossed the border into Thailand. Can you even imagine? Although he is now a US citizen, he was returning for a visit to see family. As we talked, he told me he had considered moving back to Cambodia in the 1990's, but was discouraged because he felt like it wouldn't matter how hard he worked, he wouldn't get ahead. And he explained that getting ahead to him meant better opportunities for his family, particularly his children. He didn't use words like inequality and oppression, but as he shared stories of people being "controlled" by others and working their entire lives in extreme poverty in the agricultural jobs that many in rural parts of Cambodia work in, this is what I couldn't help but think.
Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with a life spent harvesting rice in the countryside or working a hard and dirty job with your hands, but there is something wrong with the injustice of some working tirelessly and living desperately in extreme poverty the entire time. I speculate that these are the types of situations that lead people to abandon children with disabilities or kill them out of mercy, because they are suffering without any assistance to provide an explanation or alleviation.
I cannot help but continually be struck by such inequity that exists in our world.
This is part of the reason we decided to target developing countries specifically. We believe that we have to look at the cycle of disability and poverty and the many (often compounding) inhibiting factors that keep people in extreme poverty and celebrate not only the beauty of people with disabilities but also advocate for the economic benefits that are possible with greater acceptance and inclusion (hence the quote).
Bottom line, we cannot exclude people with disabilities from humanitarian work toward poverty alleviation, or we won't get very far. After all, they are the largest minority group on the planet (making up about 15% of our population or 1 billion people, according to the World Bank and World Health Org) and about 80% are estimated to live in developing countries.