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'We just want them to have a chance'

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 20/03/2014
Phal NST
STRUGGLE: Cambodian man Phal, 30, before surgery, funded by tourists Anna Leclerq connected with.

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Phal is 30 and shuffles along with the support of two sticks wherever he goes.

He was born disabled - his right leg stretches out flat at a 45 degree angle, the other bent low to support himself.

Surgery was always out of the question as he earns just US$40 a month in his city of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Phal and friend Ra, who lost his right leg at age 7 when he stepped on a land mine, sell trinkets to tourists outside a hotel.

Without money, education and hope, this was to be how both Phal and Ra spent the rest of their days.

But a chance meeting with Waiake woman Anna Leclerq changed everything.

"I feel very strongly that everyone deserves a chance in life," Mrs Leclerq says.

Mrs Leclerq was travelling through the third-world country with her husband in 2013 and saw firsthand the conditions people live in.

"We asked Phal if he would like us to explore the possibility of an operation which would help to improve his mobility.

"He ‘jumped' at the chance," she says.

An Australian couple who were on the same trip as the Leclerqs volunteered to fund Phal's first operation which straightened one of his legs.

The Leclerqs paid the costs for two months' aftercare.

Phal needs another operation but once he's well will enroll in training to improve his earnings, Mrs Leclerq says.

Through Red Cross New Zealand, Switzerland and Cambodia, a prosthetic leg was provided for, Ra, she says.

The couple has plans to sponsor young girls through school and start an initiative to provide cows to families in a village.

"We can't bear to see these young men and women with no hope.

"We just want these wonderful young people to have a chance."

The Leclerqs are working with two other couples and want to hear from anyone who may want to donate to their Swallow Foundation.

All money donated goes directly to the families they work with, she says. Email cambodia bird@gmail.com to register interest.

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- North Shore Times

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