Reflections of the CNVLD and time spent in Cambodia
Reflections of the CNVLD and time spent in Cambodia
Molly Lao, who spent her summer with Cambodian National Volleyball League Disabled Organisation (CNVLD), shares her thoughts on the organisation, its local and international impact and what she herself has learned along the way.
Foremost, I would like to extend my warm appreciation to Chris Minko. Without Chris, I could not have learned as much as I did about every possible topic that came up this summer: international and development aid, sports and development, sacrifice, volunteer work, selflessness, social change, and even art and photography. Chris works with an ultimate goal that helps to guide his life, which is that Cambodia can win #1 in an international event.
His passion fills the room when he speaks (or yells), but those close to him understand that he does what he does, including having dedicated 16 years of his life, because he is passionate about helping Cambodian people. It may not be the easiest life, but he reminds me of how although social change is difficult, it’s not impossible. It just takes a clever and persevering person to maneuver around the existing structures. And with some luck, he has helped shed light and encourage progress to the normally eschewed disabled population of Cambodia.
The legacy of the WOVD World Cup
I often think of the night that Cambodia was so close to winning #1 in the finals of the WOVD World Cup. The stadium was completely filled, well over maximum capacity. The audience was cheering wildly, and their faces were filled with hope and anticipation as each ball was served. Although Cambodia didn’t pull off #1 that night, I felt proud of Cambodia and to be Cambodian. Just a generation ago, my parents survived and escaped the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. The leftover land mines left Cambodia with one of the largest disabled populations in the world. But this summer experience allowed me to witness Cambodia take some positive steps forward. Chris has helped pioneer Cambodia to the forefront of standing volleyball and disability sports, and in turn affords Cambodia a reason to be proud.
The CNVLD organisation
I met with my fellowship group today, and one of the things that I told the group about this summer was how I came to the CNVLD thinking that I would write about the ways in which this NGO was influencing the local community. But now I see how it has also influenced the international community, particularly in the disability sports sector. Some years ago, they took out standing volleyball as a sport in the Paralympics, and Chris has been working to get it back in the Games. As a result of his hard work, Cambodia has one of the largest and most successful disabled sports league in the world.
The CNVLD is unique in the sense that it works at the grassroots level, directly connecting with disabled athletes and allowing them the option to enrich their lives and mindsets through sports, particularly by offering small stipends to help jumpstart these athletes’ small businesses and enterprises. But there is also a treetop component to all of this as well, since the reason the government helped fund the World Cup was because of Chris’s connections with the Red Cross and the First Lady. This unique dynamic of the CNVLD enabled it to put on an international event and thrive in a situation where other organizations would fall to governmental bureaucracy and corruption.
Sports and development, like many things, is theoretically ideal but it is difficult to encourage in practice. Quick example: the roof of the indoor National Olympic Stadium arena leaked for multiple decades, and Chris had been pressing the government to raise funds to fix the roof for years. But it was not until the coincidental timing of a thunderstorm and the national live coverage of the cancellation of a World Cup game, that government officials took note. Apparently, Prime Minister Hun Sen had been watching the matches on his television at home, but as soon as the match was cancelled because of the roof leak, he called the Governor of Phnom Penh and other high-ranking officials to finally examine the stadium roof to get it fixed.
Molly Lao continuing to support the CNVLD
I will continue my involvement with the CNVLD as webmaster of its web sites, and as co-producer of future CNVLD events. If all goes as planned, I will travel to Egypt next year for the next standing volleyball world championships. Perhaps I’ll even be able to help out with the movie that will be made on the CNVLD. Nonetheless, it has been a lively and life-changing summer, filled with many opportunities. I look forward to this semester, where I will hopefully write some papers (utilizing the International Sport and Development Platform) on how the CNVLD has impacted both the local and international community. I start school tomorrow, but I am currently trying my best to strategize ways the CNVLD can raise some money. If possible, please help with our most recent fund raising project.
The CNVLD needs your help, and any financial contributions would further allow the cultivation of a burgeoning disability rights through sports movement. Please help spread the word!
Molly Lao's learnings
A lot of things on my mind, and this final blog regarding my work this summer can’t begin to capture all of my lingering and expanding thoughts on NGO work, the complexities of progress, aid and development, disability rights and its continued social stigma in many areas around the world (especially in Cambodia)—but this experience allows me to continue this lifelong dialogue and desire for change in difficult structures and organizations that often hinder positive change.
An important thing that I have long realized but have only recently began implementing, is that although I worked long days this summer, I tried to enjoy each moment and remember the larger altruistic goal of helping others. This helped me cherish the little and subtle things in life, and helped make my summer that much greater, even during difficult times. As Chris puts it, “forwards,” as always
[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]