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Volume 1 Issue 9 April 2008

Cambodia Deaf Community:

The Seeds Have Been Planted Imagine yourself, whatever age you are – be it 10, 30 or 50 years old – never fully developing a language to express yourself, never completely understanding the life and people around you. Imagine never having an opportunity to go to school to receive a basic education, not even to read and write. Imagine living in total isolation, unable to effectively communicate, never meeting someone else like you to connect with. Dave Justice (back row, fourth from left) poses with What is your identity? Your family sees you as a DDP participants during a power outage. burden and your government does not support you. You are pushed aside as an annoyance your entire for many. The facts for Cambodia’s unique history belife. Imagine this life with the added stress of poverty. fore 1997 include: Your belongings can fit in a plastic garbage bag, your • NO sign language used tap water is contaminated, city power outages hap• NO schools for deaf people pen twice a day, your family earns enough to eat two • NO deaf organizations or services for deaf or three meals a day, maybe, and your public bus for people transportation is a pickup truck or a moped with a • 98% of deaf people have never met another trailer. deaf person (and even if they met each other, Just a decade ago, this was the reality for deaf peothey would still struggle to communicate withple living in Cambodia, and still remains the reality out a language) Cambodia holds a population of over 13,000,000 people, which means there are about 51,000 deaf and 500,000 hard of hearing people. So what is being done for their communication needs? After two weeks of traveling through Phnom Dave Justice and Christy Smith are travelPenh, Kampot and Siem Reap, we learned about the ing the world to learn and share stories of powerful influence non-governmental organizations empowerment, inspiration, and connection (NGO) have in Cambodia. One such NGO is the between international Deaf communities. Deaf Development Program (DDP) based in the nation’s capitol, Phnom Penh. With a jump-start from Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) is an the Finland Association for the Deaf in 1996 and opportunity to give deaf people worldwide ongoing support from Maryknoll, DDP Director a voice. For more information, photos, vidCharles Dittmeier has a vision to change all those eo logs, and newsletter stories, visit previously stated “NOs” to “YESes”!

What is DDW?

CAMBODIA, continued on page 5 April 2008 1

The Killing Fields The wide smiles and warm welcomes from local Khmer people in Cambodia are all the more powerful when you acknowledge the brutal history many of them have endured. Any Khmer person over the age of 30 has survived a gruesome genocide that took the lives of over two million men, women and children from a population of 13 million. During 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot, implemented one of the most gruesome revolutions in DDP student Pov Sopheap leads a tour through the world. Their goal was to make Cambodia a MaoTuol Sleng in Phnom Penh. ist, peasant/agrarian society, which meant if you were educated, you were executed. Those who spoke against the Khmer Rouge or aroused the slightest suspicion of their revolution were taken from their homes to prisons, such as Tuol Sleng in the nation’s capitol of Phnom Penh, where they were tortured, executed and buried in mass graves, known today as the Killing Fields. Let us remember this act of genocide and work for peace that it will never happen again. For more information, watch or read The Killing Fields. To learn more about the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, visit

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, a world heritage site, is the heart and soul of the kingdom of Cambodia. It was created to honor the Hindi God Vishnu from 1112-1152 A.D., and remains the largest religious building in the world today. The image captured in this photo is a symbol of national pride and inspiration for the Khmer people, and is the emblem of the Cambodian national flag.


Discovering Deaf Worlds

Happy Khmer New Year!

On April 13-15, Cambodia (as well as several other countries in Southeast Asia) celebrates the end of the dry season by throwing buckets and plastic bags of water and spraying anyone who passes with hoses. Prepare to get soaked!

Every Person is Counted “The wider the range of people, the richer the experience for those involved.” This is the premise behind Epic Arts, a truly inspirational organization set out to broaden people’s attitudes towards disabilities. The philosophy stands by integration, where disabled, able-bodied, deaf, and people from all walks of life can interact, build confidence and express themselves creatively. Established in the UK in 2001, Epic Arts branched out to Cambodia five years later. When Country Director Katie MacCabe arrived in Kampot, Cambodia, she asked the deaf community what they wanted. “Just a place to hang out,” was their response. Katie knew the kids often got together under a local bridge, which wasn’t very suitable, especially during the rainy season. And so the Epic Arts Café was born. Hiring disabled, able-bodied, and deaf staff, the Epic Arts Café offers an Katie MacCabe environment where and her son all are welcome. As we ordered our lime smoothies in Khmer Sign Language, Katie shared with us how the café has become a second home and family for many. It also serves as the home base for programs related to art, dance, drama, music, photography, animation, puppetry and craft workshops. These workshops often lead to community performances throughout Southeast Asia where professional performers and youth groups show their stuff! This café is changing people’s lives and opening eyes to what people can do. For example, we met a local deaf woman who came from an abusive family environment. She was often pushed aside as a “nuisance” and had little self-esteem. Her family was poor, as many families are in Cambodia, and they didn’t want the

Participants in a crafts activity make cards at the Epic Arts Café. added burden of a deaf child. After a few months of working at Epic Arts Café, however, she found a boost of self-esteem and assertion. Katie even explained how the woman went from hiding herself beneath long hair and clothes to wearing bulky earrings and a bright smile. Ironically, today, this woman is the only person from her family with a steady income. Epic Arts is currently raising funds for a wheelchairaccessible Arts Centre, the first of its kind in Cambodia, to provide unique opportunities for children in the arts, sports and circus. If you would like to learn more about how you can support a place where Every Person Is Counted, visit

Help DDW stay alive to the end! Donate at: www.discovering

April 2008 3

A Thank You to Our Sponsors The Next Generation of WebSites Take charge of your site Your website is your brand. It’s you, Your company, appearing in the landscape… Take charge today!

Ralph P. DeStephano Donate to DDW by going online!

add your logo or banner to the DDW website!

Over 15,000 cumulative hits from 86 countries! Contact for more information, options, and pricing.


Discovering Deaf Worlds

Shout -Outs! Shout Shout-Outs! -Outs! Ronise Barreras…Your company and guidance in Cambodia were wonderful. Have fun with them TukTuk drivers ;) Sandra and Peggy…Thank you for your support, thoughts and encouragement for us on our trip. You saved our butts! To everyone who has donated to DDW...A thousand, no, a million thanks!

Newsletter services provided by T.S. Writing Services, LLC

DDP’s Charles Dittmeier spreads his contagious smile. CAMBODIA, continued from front page DDP currently offers six programs: 1. A two-year, informal, basic education teaching sign language, literacy, simple mathematics and life skills 2. Employment skills development in sewing, motorcycle repairs, wood carving, barbering and cooking 3. Sign language interpreter training (currently there are six interpreters) 4. Cambodian (Khmer) Sign Language development through agreement on appropriate signs, creation of a dictionary, and teaching both deaf and hearing people sign language 5. Deaf community development to provide social

activities, self-identity, and connection 6. Social services to respond to family, medical, and poverty problems. In addition, DDP recognizes the importance of empowering local deaf women and men to become leaders Ronise Barreras shares within their budding her story with DDW. community. Ronise Barreras from Seattle, Wash., is DDP’s Residential Education Coordinator. While teaching workshops and supervising dorm life quickly fill her schedule, Ronise also recognizes the importance of building personal relationships with each of the students. She is a deaf role model in a new community that is still developing. Her assertive nature, pride and self-confidence set an example of what it takes be a leader. In six months of travel, we are blessed to have discovered such a diversity of deaf worlds. We have seen Cambodia at its roots and look forward to learning about its future growth. Keep spreading awareness, and encourage people like Charles and Ronise who strive to make the world a better place. Visit DDP’s website at

International Travel Tidbits Where does my money go? When shopping around for souvenirs in underdeveloped countries seek out Child Safe Networks or Fair Trade businesses that truly provide a safe environment for children and adults who are trying to make a better life. For more information, visit

Lucky me, there's an empty seat! If you hop on a bus in Southeastern Asia and realize everyone has crowded to one side, it’s not because they’re saving you a seat. They know the route and which windows the sun will be blazing through. So if you don’t want to arrive to your destination soaked in sweat from head to toe, join the crowd.

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Cambodian Sign Language In each issue, DDW prints the fingerspelled alphabet of a visited country. There is minimal information available online, as Cambodian (Khmer) Sign Language is currently being developed with a young history of 13 years. Here is a snapshot of their fingerspelling alphabet. For more information on the development of Cambodian (Khmer) Sign Language, visit highlighted-activities/kslc.htm.

Want a unique wilderness experience?

Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s 2008 summer schedule is packed with exciting advancements to existing programs and several dynamic new ones! Join us for some extreme adventure - Colorado style - and learn new skills along the way. Some of the programs include High Altitude Filmmaking, Deaf Chef Apprentice, Mountain Bound, KODA, Peak Experience, and Adventure-Based Leadership Education. To learn more visit our new website at!


Discovering Deaf Worlds

Giz on the Go

Christy and Giz The Deaf Traveling Gnome, aka “Gizmo,” was born in Tucson, Ariz., on December 21, 2004. The Giz is currently in Cambodia and on the move to meet other deaf travelers! For those with Facebook, join the group and visit

April 2008 Newsletter: vol.1, iss.9 CAMBODIA, continued on page 5 Dave Justice (back row, fourth from left) poses with DDP participants during a p...

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