Staff Profiles

Sao Heang

Starfish helped Sao Heang with materials for rebuilding her house after two of her three children started a fire while cooking. Everything was lost. The family now lives in a beautiful new house they helped to rebuild.

Sao Heang started as a cleaner at Starfish in 2001 and now she is a cook. Sao Heang was very miserable before her job at Starfish, doing a lot of hard work. Her husband was a soldier and was often away. He no longer works as he was stabbed in the leg. This injury still causes him a lot of pain.

Sao Heang explains that her disability started at the age of fourteen, with the onset of a fever (Polio). She was given an injection, to which she had an allergic reaction. Her family then used traditional medicine. A hole was dug in the sand and she was placed in it. After a long time she could crawl and now she walks with difficulty.

Sao Heang says that after her illness people were very nasty to her, including her father and sister. When her last baby was born and her husband was away with the military she was very scared. Everyone she knew refused to allow her to stay in their home; she felt very isolated.

Life is very different now that she has a respectable job, people are nice to her and she feels good about herself. Sao Heang has ideas for the future of running a small business or restaurant from home.


Meng is the Outreach Worker and Manager for the Starfish Project. He started a 4 year degree in Law at a local university in January 2006. He attends university six days a week from 7.30am until 10.30am. Since starting work at the cafe in late 2003, Meng has found great confidence, speaks English daily and generally feels happier.

Meng was hit by a motorcycle as a schoolboy in 1998. He broke his leg in two places. His family could not afford the hospital operation to put in the metal pins. He went home with an open wound which quickly became infected. After a month at home without treatment, the leg started to decay.

One of the school teachers came to visit him at home and saw the painful, infected leg. The school helped to pay the hospital, however he lost his leg after one month. Meng spent three years in bed recovering. At this time a friend taught him to paint and do sculpture. He spent his days doing art in the morning and learning English (self-directed) in the afternoon.

Meng dreams of starting an art gallery for people with disabilities and also running different art workshops.

Chan Seng

Seng is the soul provider for his family of seven. His wife has a heart problem and so cannot work. Seng still works part time collecting timber to make coal. This is very hard job and, before he began to work at Starfish, was Seng’s only form of income. This alone did not provide enough for food for the whole family.

Seng lost half of his left arm in a landmine accident in 1988. He was taken to the military hospital because he did not have enough money to pay for the public hospital. After three months he had another operation due to infection and lost most of his arm. It took one year for his wound to heal.

Seng and his family live in a small house, 4×5 metres, with only external walls. He is very happy to have his job as security guard 4 nights a week. He stays to help during the day as a waiter/cleaner because he lives a long way from town. Seng says that his job at Starfish is easy.

He dreams his five children will have a better life than him. He wants them all to study and he would like them to go to university, however he thinks he will not have the capacity to provide that. Seng would like to learn English.


Hant is the soul provider for her children aged 15, 10 and 8 years. In 1985 she stepped on a landmine in the north of Cambodia near the Thai border. She lost most of her left leg and was taken to the Red Cross refugee camp for help. Hant moved around on crutches until she received a comfortable prosthetic leg only six months ago. The previous prosthetic leg caused her a lot of pain, making it difficult to get on with her daily life. Hant’s husband left her seven years ago because his family does not like people with disabilities. This left her in a difficult financial position. Everyday she had to search for food in the mountains. The children could not go to school, as they had to go with their mother whilst she looked for food. At this time Hant had no house and had to rely on friends for accommodation.

Family life is very happy now that Hant has her job as cleaner at Starfish. Starfish supported her to move into a small rented place with her children. Now the children all study at school and the family has enough money to cover their basic needs.

Hant is happy to stay single. Her only care is that her children have a good future.


Sophea was born into a farming family close to the Vietnamese Border. She became sick when 8 months old and after a series of injections was unable to walk. Her Grandmother treated her with traditional medicine and after 2 months, one of her legs recovered while the other remained weak. Sophea still has some difficulty walking and finds it painful to use her leg for too long.

The area in which they lived was very poor and so the family moved to Sihanoukville in 1993, in search of better opportunities. Sophea’s father was unable to find work, so her mother supported the family by selling sweets. If she did not make enough money to buy rice, the family would eat sweets together.

At the age of 14, Sophea started to study with the help of the Cambodia Trust. She later trained to sew clothing at the CT centre and began to work in a garment factory at a salary of $7.50 for the first month. After 3 months, Sophea was earning $30 each month to work exhausting 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. She was unhappy but wanted to provide for her family.

On December 2nd 2004, Sophea began to work as Kitchen Assistant for Starfish. She is happier now and hopes to learn to make all different kinds of foods. Her dream would be to save enough money to open her own sewing business.

Chant Dara (meaning “Moon & Stars”)

Chant Dara has had an interesting working life, working for the Ministry of Cambodia, in the Post Office and also for the United Nations. Working became difficult when Chant Dara’s sight began to fail in 2001. She went to Takeo Province for an operation, this was unsuccessful and resulted in the loss of her vision.

Chant Dara is the only paid worker in her family of eight people, supporting her mother, husband and five of her six children who live at home. One child has moved away after being married. Four of her children study full time and the other son is out of work. Chant Dara�s elderly mother tries to sell vegetables at the market as it is difficult for one person to cover all costs of a large family. The family lives in rented accommodation.

Before her training at Starfish, Chant Dara relied on support from family & friends for the three years she did not work. She feels very happy to come to work as a masseuse at Starfish, her life has improved considerably. Chant Dara goes to work six days a week, learning new skills and meeting many people.

Chant Dara dreams of becoming a teacher of blind massage students.


Kee is one of the youngest in a family of 10 from Kampot Province. When Kee was two years old her older sister dropped her and Kee felt a sharp pain in her hip. She thinks that maybe it was broken. Her hip and right leg became swollen and Kee was crying all the time. After one year, she could finally use her leg again. Today, Kee’s leg still hurts sometimes.

Kee’s father, who had a job repairing bicycles, was able to send her to school until grade seven. When her family could no longer afford her schooling, Kee went with her sister to work in Phnom Penh, selling gasoline. She stayed there for two years and then went back home to help her mother with the big household. When in Kampot, a friend who had lived in Sihanoukville told Kee that Starfish was looking for masseuses. She now lives with the grandparents of one of her friends.

Kee likes to work at Starfish because she has all her Sihanoukville friends here. In the future, Kee wants to open a beauty salon with her sister, providing make up and hair dressing services.


Kunthea has worked in the Starfish kitchen since September 2005. As a baby, she fell ill with polio and still has some difficulty walking.
Being a daughter of a teacher in Kompong Cham province, Kunthea received some education herself and grew up to become a primary school teacher. During the Khmer Rouge regime, her father was killed and her mother was left to support her children alone.

Kunthea married young and soon gave birth to a son. One year after their marriage, her husband died in an accident and Kunthea decided to come with her older sister to Sihanoukville. Here, she made a job for herself making and selling cakes. She married again and now has five children altogether.

After some time working as a cleaning maid Kunthea found a job in the Starfish kitchen. The job at Starfish has been very important for Kunthea and she enjoys the work here.


Pary comes from a fishing family in Sihanoukville. When she was only one year old, she became very sick. Her mother took her to the doctor who in an attempt to cure her gave her a series of injections. Shortly after this, her right leg became swollen and useless. During the following two or three years Pary’s leg slowly recovered and she is now able to use it, although with some difficulty.

When Pary was 9 years old her father, who had been sick for one year, passed away. Her mother was left to support for the five children alone. She started a small business selling noodles and porridge. Through hard work, Pary’s mother was able to send all her children to school.

Pary finished high school and started university studies in Business before she joined the Starfish team in January 2007, enabling her to contribute to the family income. She is happy to work in the Starfish kitchen and continues her university studies after working hour’s everyday.

Pary’s dream is to someday be able to work with accounting, making use of her knowledge and education.


Ran is the second oldest brother in a large family of four brothers and five sisters. For a long time, the family depended entirely on the father’s job as a government official for their livelihood.

When Ran was two years old, he became very sick and his mother took him to the hospital where he was given an injection. His left leg became very swollen and for years, Ran was unable to walk. After three years, Ran finally recovered and he is now able to use his leg without difficulty.

NCDP helped Ran to pay for his four year university studies in Business, but when his university suddenly closed after only two years, Ran was hired as Starfish Internet Manager in August 2006. He says working here is easy and he enjoys the contact with foreign customers his job brings. Ran is working hard to learn how to master computers and says he doesn�t want any free time from his job with computers. Ran is now together with his father and two sisters who work in a Sihanoukville factory, supporting their entire family.

In the future, Ran wants to continue his university studies and go on to work in an office.


Tear was born in Kandal Province. When he was nine, he became very sick with polio and was taken to the hospital by his parents. After a series of injections Tear could no longer feel his legs and was unable to walk for one year. His parents took him to traditional doctors, but there was nothing they could do for him. After one year, Tear slowly learned how to walk again. Tear has never felt any pain in his legs but has some difficulty walking.

Despite his handicap, Tear grew up to become a rice farmer and married in 1978. He and his wife have four children—three sons and one daughter. Tear is now also the proud grandfather of two little children.

Three years ago, Tear heard about Starfish through the Cambodia Trust, an NGO working with disabled people. He came here looking for a job and became security guard, working three nights a week. Tear lives with his cousin�s family while his wife is still living in Kandal province with their children. Tear is now able to send some money back to his family and visits them as often as he can. He is very happy about his job at Starfish because it is one of very few employment opportunities he has as a disabled person.