It's been four years since eight female wheelchair basketball players from Cambodia travelled to Kuala Lumpur for an exhibition match against the Malaysian Wheelchair Basketball Federation, as part of the ASEAN Disability Forum 2015.
The trip, which marked their first flight abroad, was packed with excitement. In Malaysia, they not only improved their playing but also made new friends. They had the opportunity to meet with Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, the then Cambodian Ambassador to Malaysia, who continues to support the team even after returning to Cambodia.
On 20 August 2019, four of the players met the princess again, this time at a ceremony to mark the completion of a new roof over the basketball court in the regional Physical Rehabilitation Centre in Kampong Speu province in Cambodia.
Established in 1992, the centre provides services to 3,200 persons, around 35 per cent of whom are survivors of landmines or explosive remnants of war. The centre is currently run by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The ICRC has been supporting the women's wheelchair basketball team since July 2012. The team was officially recognized as the Cambodian Wheelchair Basketball Federation in June 2019.
In 2018, the ICRC met Princess Sisovath Kantireth, who facilitated meetings with potential donors and Her Majesty Norodom Monineath, the Queen Mother, for upgrading the centre. Soon enough, construction of the roof started at the end of April 2019 and was completed in mid-July.
With a spanking new roof to protect their training sessions from bad weather, the team is now determined to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics Games in Tokyo, Japan. The four players told us, through an interpreter, about how the trip to Kuala Lumpur four years ago sparked off a wonderful life journey for them.