Salford team meet Chhouk, the elephant with a prosthetic leg, on Cambodia visit

Categories: School of Health and Society

Academics and students from the University of Salford have returned from an outreach trip to Cambodia where they met with a number of prosthetic users, including an elephant. 

The group, who are part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Prosthetics and Orthotics (CDT) based at the university, explored the need for prosthetics in Cambodia and the work that is ongoing there to provide users with the best possible experience.

Professor Malcolm Granat and Dr Joanne Caldwell from the University of Salford and Dr Maggie Donovan-Hall from the University of Southampton, along with six UK-based CDT students, were visiting Sisary Kheng, a CDT student who is based in Cambodia. The trip consisted of clinical and hospital visits and observations as well as student volunteering.

The week began with the group making the trip to a wildlife park to see Chhouk, an elephant with a prosthetic leg. Sisary and her team at Exceed have been helping the team at the wildlife park create Chhouk’s prosthetics for many years. The group had the chance to see him lift his leg to change prosthetics, something they described as a fascinating experience. 

Exceed, a prosthetic and orthotics school in Phnom Penh, hosted the group the following day as the CDT students presented their PhD work to the Exceed students. Following this they visited several manufacturers of prosthetics, including a family run foot factory where they saw how prosthetic feet were made.

The students undertook a number of volunteering activities during their stay. Several went out on community visits to deliver wheelchairs, while others stayed in the Exceed clinic to help patients requiring prosthetics and orthotic fitting. The visiting academics, Maggie, Malcolm and Joanne, went to a meeting with Sisary at the Australian Embassy. 

Joanne tells us: “It was great to see Sisary in action talking about funding for the prosthetics and orthotics charity sector and we were honoured to be able to observe this meeting with other non-governmental organisations and charities. In the afternoon we went to see the Director of the Department of Disability Welfare for Cambodia, who listened to our presentations on the CDT and the way the prosthetics and orthotics sector works in the UK.”

After travelling to the coastal town of Sihanoukville, the group were taken on a tour of a provincial hospital and saw the range of services provided to the community in the area. The students also undertook some research for their PhDs at a local clinic.

Following a long drive, they reached Siem Reap, where they visited Safe Haven, a local charity which helps children with disabilities. Joanne says: “The team who run Safe Haven are incredible and travel across the province to support children and their families. It was very thought-provoking to hear how a small team often has to say no to volunteers and funding as they cannot provide all the services required while maintaining the quality needed.”

Saturday saw a visit to the temple complex at Angkor Watt and before the group left, they were lucky enough to visit a local charity who train rats to sniff out landmines. 

Joanne explains the impact the visit had on the students: “We were amazed by the dedication of the team there and the serious problem of leftover landmines and the impact that it has on local people, particularly in rural farming communities. The rats were adorable, and the CDT students are now looking to sponsor one to help with the costs of running the charity.” More information on the charity can be found here.

The final day saw the group take part in a reflection workshop where they all shared their thoughts on the trip, what they had learnt and the benefits of attending such an outreach programme. They ended the visit with a final dinner at Sisary’s, where her hospitality and cooking were praised as “irresistible”.

Joanne concluded: “We would like to take the current and new cohort out to Cambodia again in a couple of years, so it was very useful to get feedback on the students’ time there”.

“The whole trip was a success due to the time and dedication put into it by Sisary and her team at Exceed. While we are aware the Sisary is an outstanding student and well known in the prosthetics and orthotics sector both in Cambodia and worldwide, seeing her dedication and desire to make a difference was overwhelming and we are so proud of her.”

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