DDP – Deaf Development Program, Cambodia

Phnom Penh has an interesting street system, all the streets are given numbers, but they aren’t in any sort of order, but it gets better, the numbers are all out of sync as well on the street. You will find number 1 next to 456, there is no odd or even side of the road, it goes by who ever got their first, so number 1 could be at the middle of the street & number 2 at one of the ends – & they often have the same number twice (which is what happened when we were looking for DDP) needless to say it took us ages to find where we needed to go.

DDP is located at No 7A Street 101, Boeung Trabek, Phnom Penh – they have a website too.

DDP is linked with a church organisation at the moment, although they are not linked with the church, that is just where some of the funding comes from.

We spent a lot of time talking to Justin, who is originally from England, he has been working at DDP since 2003. It was so nice chatting to him, he said that he really enjoyed chatting to us because I was using Auslan which is very close to BSL, & I enjoyed interpreting for him as well (mostly voicing for Geoff) because BSL is so similar to Auslan.

DDP was established in 1996. There are at least 2,000 known Deaf people in Cambodia, who go to Krousar Thmey schools or have contact with DDP, but there are estimates that there are about 50,000 deaf people in the country, however there isn’t any reliable data available. DDP is working hard to try to find as many deaf people as they can.

DDP has 7 projects currently underway….

1/ Education of Adults
Krousar Thmey (KT) is focused on the education of children, but once they are too old to go to a KT school, then the only option that they have for schooling is to go to DDP.

DDP often takes in many students who drop out from KT schools, often because their parents need them to work in the fields & help to support the family or perhaps they have failed.

We met students in grade 1 & 2, who were aged between mid-teens to early 20′s. They have had students in their 50′s though. Last year, Justin told us that there was a first for Cambodia, 2 Deaf students graduated from KT, athough it was only 2, it’s a good start.

There is a HUGE need for teachers of the Deaf to help with schooling of their many students.

2/ Interpreting

They have 7 of the 8 Interpreters (Professional Interpreters) work at DDP. All of them know English, as many of the NGO meetings involve people who speak English.

3/ Job Training

DDP helps to find Deaf people jobs & provides them with interpreters so that they can do job training for their jobs. Some of the jobs that they find for people are – hairdressing, metal work, motor mechanic, sewing etc.

4/ Linguistic Research

DDP is doing research into Khmer Sign Language & working towards making a SL dictionary. They have 4 booklets completed in a proposed set of 6, which will ultimately be combined into one dictionary. There is a linguistics expert from America, Tash, who is working with locals to collate the signs & a local Deaf (man) artist who draws all the signs.

5/ Finding Deaf people

As I mentioned earlier there are only 2,000 recorded Deaf in Cambodia, but the real number could be as much as 50,000 (maybe more) so there are a lot of people to find, it’s a big job & a job that Justin is in charge of.

Many deaf people, have not had any exposure to other deaf people. If they can get them to come to DDP to study it takes them a couple of months to realise that the room of people (their class that they are studying with) is full of other Deaf people just like them. They have no real mode of communication, as Justin said, he has never seen so many Deaf people without the ability to communicate in any way, normally mime or gesture can be used, but they can’t even do that – WOW!

6/ Establishing Community Cultural Centres/ Deaf Clubs

Many Cambodians are more focussed on working to live in the fields, rather than any sort of social affairs. DDP is trying to encourage Deaf people to come together & build a cultural history & foundation like so many other countries already have. Many have a history that focuses around sporting events & that is what Justin would like to see happen here too, but it’s a bit of a battle to achieve.

Justin would love to see some younger Deaf involved in sport in come over & help with this project – perhaps some from Australia?

7/ Welfare

This is a new project area, which has come about to provide “help” when required by members of the community need it, such as for hospital or doctor visits.

It was nice to have a tour of the building and meet everyone there, including the students. DDP is in need of people and money to assist in getting the work done that needs to happen. I would really like to do something there. Hearing about everything that is happening & all that they are trying to achieve, has really inspired me to look into working for an NGO, such as DDP.

I enjoy working as an interpreter in Australia, soon to be Canada, but there is such a need in Cambodia & other countries, maybe I could do something more. I enjoy working in the Deaf community, but am also aware of the fact that I hearing & a NERD (Not Even Related to Deaf) so I don’t want to be branded a “helper”. It’s a hard middle ground that has to be found, but I feel like maybe I could be of more use in countries like Cambodia, Mongolia etc.

I am determined to find out more about NGO’s, & if I could do any sort of work for DDP. Not sure how long I could do it for, Geoff has his permanent residence visa for Canada & he needs to spend at least 3 of the next 5 years in Canada. Justin mentioned that many people like to volunteer for 1 or 2 weeks, but that really isn’t enough, I was thinking maybe 6 months to a year or so.

I would love to work for DDP itself though. If some of my talents could be used &

Our last day in Cambodia was memorable & had a big impact on me, much like my last couple of days in Mongolia.

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