Dr David G. Aston (1932–2011)
This gallery celebrates the life of David Aston, founder of the Cambodian War Amputees Rehabilitation Society (CWARS) - now known as the Lom Orng Organisation.
Born in Cornwall, David migrated from the UK to Canada in 1955. His diverse academic career saw him qualify as a nurse, a medical doctor, and finally a chiropractor.
David's long career in the NGO sector took him to Angola, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan. He finally arrived in Cambodia in 1991, to work with land mine survivors in a prosthetics clinic in Phnom Penh. The Cambodian civil war was then raging, and on his drives out to field hospitals in Pursat - where he worked with the injured, and saw "some truly horrendous sights" - he was escorted, front and back, by army vehicles armed with rocket launchers. In those days of unpaved roads the journey took nine hours. (Today it is three.)
Hundreds were being injured by land mines every month, and David knew he had to do more than build prostheses. So he made representations to the Ministry of Social Affairs, which donated buildings - a former Khmer Rouge barracks in Pursat, about 200km north-west of Phnom Penh.They were in poor condition, but with financial support from various Canadian organisations, in 1995 the Cambodian War Amputees Rehabilitation Society (CWARS) opened its doors to forty-three live-in students.
In David's lifetime CWARS built six such training centres, which graduated over 15,000 trainees (most of whom now run their own small businesses). As testimony to his faith in the capacity of locals, the organisation is today run entirely by Cambodians.
In the provinces where CWARS built centres, it trained nearly all the land mine survivors, so it branched out into other projects - for example in livelihood, school-building and cassava starch production. In early 2012 CWARS - by now a very diverse development organisation - changed its name to the Lom Orng Organisation.
David died in Phnom Penh in April, 2011, at the age of 79. Lom Orng stands as his memorial.
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