Cambodians with a disability are enjoying improved personal and economic independence through the support of Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency.
It’s estimated there are around 51,000 deaf people in Cambodia. They often face frustration and isolation, frequently remain in their homes, and have very limited economic opportunities to escape poverty.
But through initiatives like the Caritas Australia supported Deaf Development Program (DDP) in Phnom Penh, young people like Rattanak are learning essential skills, with which they can earn an income, and communicate better.
“Because of DDP, I’ve had the opportunity to develop and to learn and increase my knowledge, now I’m much more confident in everything that I do,” Rattanak says.
The Deaf Development Program (DDP) is run by Caritas Australia partner, Maryknoll Cambodia, and provides sign language, job training and interpreting services to people aged 16 and over who are deaf or hard of hearing. The centre is also raising awareness about deafness in wider Cambodian society.
Rattanak graduated from the program in 2010, where he studied Cambodian sign language, Khmer writing, social sciences and maths, for two years. He is now a barber, after setting up his shop in his parent’s village home, through the DPP program’s help.
“Before (deaf people) come to the program they do not have their language, they do not have their culture,” says Sokly, the Deaf Development Program’s Co-Director.
Sokly spoke of the positive changes that Rattanak has experienced as a result of his participation in the program.
“Rattanak is a good example. He’s very independent and he can make his own money, he can save money, he can set up his family, he got married and started a family.”
“His future is bright, there is no going back. His life can only improve for the better.”
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