Despite a rare genetic disorder known as tetra-amelia, Tuy Sokdung, a 24-year-old fourth year university student, has dreams of becoming a web developer.
Sokdung was born without fully formed limbs, and has no hands or feet. His limbs end just above the knee and elbow, so he requires assistance with many daily tasks. But none of this has stopped him from pursuing his dreams.
“I’m currently in my fourth year of studying Information Technology (IT), and my goal is to become a web or mobile application developer. I have plans to establish a social media platform and learning centre for students who want to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom,” he told The Post.
Born in Stung Sen district of Kampong Thom province, he now lives in rented room near the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), where he studies. His parents provide ongoing support, including assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating.
Sokdung explained how his parents and always supported him, often carrying him to school on their bicycles when he was young.
“My parents carried me to school every day until I was in the 9th grade. After that, my brother took over, as he had more energy than my poor, elderly parents. They were getting on, and had trouble with their knees,” he told The Post.
Despite the challenges, Sokdung’s strength of will drove him to persist in his studies and overcome his difficulties.
He said that he never had any intention of dropping out of school, as he believed that the knowledge gained from education would be needed to help in the future.
“Without knowledge, how will I find work in the future? As someone who lacks all four limbs, I cannot work in the same way as most people. Therefore, my only option is to rely on my knowledge and utilise my brain to earn an income and provide for myself in the future,” he explained.
He described the three factors that motivated him to keep studying even when he felt low.
“First, I wish to educate myself so I am not an ignorant person. Second, I want to honour my parents, who have worked tirelessly to help me get an education. Finally, I do it for the rest of my family. Several of my six siblings had to drop out of school to support our family, so I owe it to them to honour their sacrifices,” he said.
Despite having the full support of his family, he described how he was no stranger to the verbal abuse of others.
“I remember a villager telling my father that he should have smothered me when I was born. When I enrolled at university, someone told me that it was a waste of time for me to study. He said I won’t be able to find work when I graduate, so I might as well become a beggar,” he said.
“I didn’t respond to him, but I thought to myself that even if he was right and I cannot get a job, I will still be happy to have graduated. I am already physically disabled, so I don’t want people to say that I’m intellectually disabled, too,” he added.
In addition to the support of his family and his own motivation, Sokdung also receives encouragement from his teachers and classmates, who are always compassionate and helpful.
He explained how his disability meant he had needed to learn techniques that allowed him to do seemingly simple things like hold a pen or type on a computer. With time and practice, however, he has become extremely dextrous.
“I hold my pen between the ends of my arms and can write just as quickly as my classmates. I have mastered large and small scripts, although I do need to use a ruler to draw straight lines,” he said.
Sokdung’s father made the journey from Kampong Thom to support him during his graduation exam preparations.
His father escorts him to school in a tuk tuk, where his friends are waiting to carry him up to his classroom.
Chuob Vivath, a 22-year-old classmate, said he was happy to help his friend get to their classroom, on the second floor.
“His mother is old and not in good health. She has just returned to Kampong Thom, so his father comes to school with him in the morning now. I help carry Sokdung up to the classroom and take his books and laptop out of his bag for him. Generally, his father waits for him to finish and takes him home,” he explained.
“I usually come to school early to make sure I have time to get him to class,” he added.
While studying at the university, Sokdung has also taught online coding courses to his fellow students.
“I have attracted a substantial amount of students. I have probably run five or six courses now, and never had any problems,” he said.
He encourages people living with disabilities to not let themselves be defined by their disability, and to never forget the importance of education.
“Whether you have a disability like me or not, never give up on your dreams. Learn to create your own dreams, because their creation does not cost a penny. We may have to work harder to reach our dreams, but even if we don’t achieve them, it is important to know that we tried as hard as we could. Keep fighting and never stop trying,” he said.
Sokdung has participated in numerous campaigns aimed at motivating and encouraging young individuals who face health issues to persevere through obstacles and work towards overcoming them.
Most recently, he participated in the “Komchat Beysach Knung Chet” campaign, sharing his personal journey and encouraging people with depression.