Daily Life in the
Cambodia Deaf World



Visitors from the U.S. 6 December 2013

Today we had two visitors connected with Discovering Deaf Worlds, a US-based group that seeks to connect deaf people in the developed world with deaf people in the developing world. Sarah (left) and Mel (second left) came to us from the Philippines where they worked for three weeks. Here they talk to two of the DDP staff in the Sign Language Project office.


Visitors from APCD 27 November 2013

Today we had an unexpected visit from our friends from APCD, the Asia-Pacific Center for Development of Disabilities in Bangkok. They were in town for a meeting with CDPO and other NGOs for some development programs in Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam. We have had several contacts with APCD over the years and were pleased to welcome our visitors today.


Epic Arts performance August, 2013

Epic Arts is an NGO that teaches and produces performing arts involving both people with and without disabilities. Recently they have produced a dance performance called Moto, Moto on a theme of road safety, specifically safe driving and the use of helmets. All but two of the performers are deaf. It is a very powerful presentation that has been very well received.


Justin Smith at DCC 17 June 2013

We have rented another building for our Deaf Community Center but it has taken a long time to complete the repairs there and get the site ready for our activities. Today Justin Smith and Charlie Dittmeier went to DCC to see what still needs to be done. A LOT still needs to be done!


Japanese visitors 26 March 2013

Today a group of eight people from Japan visited the Deaf Development Programme. Three of them were deaf, four of them were CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults), and one was a sign language interpreter. They were a pleasant group and the Cambodian deaf people at DDP enjoyed meeting them. Here they pose with some of our trainees in the DDP barber shop.


DDP staff eating lunch 28 January 2013

In Cambodia, the culture calls for a two-hour lunch break, normally from 12:00 to 2:00 PM. Everyone goes home, eats lunch, takes a shower, takes a nap, and changes clothes before returning for the afternoon. Some of the DDP staff, however, enjoy eating together at the office. It saves money for gas they would have spent traveling home and it gives them a chance to enjoy their office time in a different way.



Cleaning a ceiling fan 29 December 2012

Some things are relatively out of sight and out of mind, but eventually someone notices the dirt accumulated on the ceiling fans in the DDP downstairs meeting room and then one of our cleaners has to take her job to new heights, assisted by one of our guards holding the ladder.


Leo Buckles in DDP barber shop 20 December 2012

This week the new country representative of Australian Volunteers International (AVI) came to the Deaf Development Programme for a get-acquainted visit. It was helpful to hear of each other's programs and activities. After the meeting, Mr. Leo Buckles went to the DDP barber shop for a trim. Looking on (right) is Selwyn Hoffmann, a deaf AVI volunteer working with DDP now.


Louise visiting DDP 25 October 2012

Louise is a young deaf woman from England who is now visiting Cambodia. Our Deputy Director, Justin Smith, and Louise attended the same oral deaf school in England as children and know each other's families. Louise is going to assist DDP for a few days as a photographer. Here she speaks with one of the DDP field workers assigned to Phnom Penh.


Veasna and Phirom 23 August 2012

Veasna joined the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme six years ago as an interpreter trainee. After finishing the training, she was hired as a full-time staff interpreter who worked mostly in job training. She is quite good as a Cambodian Sign Language interpreter and we appreciated her work and dedication over the years. Recently she married and her husband's family lives in Kampot Province so she has resigned from DDP. Today we had a farewell celebration for her and she spoke to our staff while Phirom interpreted into sign language for her.


Sokly receiving a gift 30 May 2012

31 May is the last day of work at DDP for Keat Sokly, the program manager, and today we had a celebration to bid him farewell. In four and a half years as manager, he has done wonderful things at DDP, in addition to being liked and respected by the staff. DDP will miss him tremendously as he departs now to study in New Zealand. Here he receives a gift from Sreythom while Charlie Dittmeier watches.


Auditing DDP 11 April 2012

Some funders require the use of their money to be audited every year and today DDP started an audit of its finances for the year 2011. It's usually a long process and can be very disruptive of the normal functioning of the office. Today Sokly, our manager (right), was working close to the audit team to be able to answer their numerous questions.


Susan Sporl, farewell celebration 6 April 2012

Today Susan Sporl, one of the eight Maryknoll Lay Missioners assigned to Cambodia, said goodbye to the staff of the Deaf Development Programme. Susan, who was a social worker in the United States, helped put together a social service project within DDP. She came at the same time as DDP's first social worker and helped to establish a structure, expectations, and a disciplined approach to clinical social work for deaf people. Now at the end of her Maryknoll contract, she returns to the United States to be with her grandchildren.


Lek Sinrithy 3 April 2012

Mr. Lek Sinrithy is our new program manager at the Deaf Development Programme. He was hired to replace Mr. Keat Sokly who will be leaving DDP to study in New Zealand. Rithy began work on 2 April and will work with Sokly until Sokly leaves Cambodia at the end of May.



Kristina Svartholm at DDP 22 November 2011

Professor Kristina Svartholm (second from left), in Cambodia for a holiday, visited the Deaf Development Programme and spoke to some of the staff about bi-lingual education (learning one native language first and then using that to teach a second language). Bi-lingual education is the method that DDP uses but our staff had never had a chance to talk with someone about its theory and practice.  Kristina, on her second visit to DDP, spoke in English and Charlie Dittmeier interpreted into Cambodian Sign Language.  Keat Sokly (third from left) interpreted from English to Khmer, and then Som Vichet interpreted from Khmer into Cambodian Sign Language for the local staff.


Students doing homework 17 November 2011

On a visit to Kampong Cham Province today,we made a quick stop at the DDP hostel there where about 35 deaf students live who are in our Education Project.  It was good to see that they have a place and a time set aside for doing their homework and that at least these three were serious about getting it done in their free time before supper.


Phaekdey replacing a light fixture 8 September 2011

This is Pheakdey, the DDP maintenance man, replacing a light fixture in our main meeting room.  Good lighting is especially important for deaf people using sign language.  They need to be able to see each other's faces and expressions in order to communicate fully.  This is also the room where we have some of our sign language classes which are in the early evening when darkness is setting in.


Testing two deaf men 9 August 2011

These are two young deaf men rescued from a government re-education center where a lot of poor and homeless people end up. It's not a nice place. A human-rights group brought these two men to us. Their learning capacity may be limited but we have had our staff working with them to see what we may be able to offer them.


Discovering Deaf Worlds at DDP 8 August 2011

A US-based group called Discovering Deaf Worlds visited the Deaf Development Programme today.  The visit had been in the planning for quite a long time and eight deaf and hearing people made the trip.  We showed them an overview of the work of DDP, then had a short tour of the DDP office building, and then some of our deaf teachers exposed them to some Cambodian Sign Language (pictured here). Finally the group went to DDP House, the hostel for deaf students learning job training.  All in all, it was a very nice visit.


DDP students 19 July 2011

It's the end of the school day at the Deaf Development Programme in Phnom Penh and these happy students are heading home in a tuk-tuk.  All of this group live with another NGO because they either have no family or their families live too far away, in other provinces.


Justin Smith at computer 2 June 2011

Justin Smith isn't making threatening gestures at his laptop.  Rather he is conversing in sign language with a deaf man in Japan about a future project. They are using the Internet service called ooVoo which allows a deaf person on each end to see the other person signing in real time.  It is very helpful for deaf people who use sign language.


Chhorda receiving a gift from Charlie Dittmeier 12 May 2011

For the past year and a half, Chhorda has served as administrative assistant to the management team, a post created to try and lessen some of the demands on management's time.  Now Chhorda is preparing to return to university to further her studies, so today was her last day at the Deaf Development Programme and the staff gathered to wish her well.  Charlie Dittmeier presented her with a gift to show DDP's appreciation for her time with us.


Wedding of Sokly and Chenda 17 March 2011

Keat Sokly, the DDP manager, married Im Chenda today, a happy event for all of the Deaf Development Programme.  This evening almost all the staff attended the wedding reception to celebrate with the new couple.  Here Susan Sporl, DDP's social work advisor, is greeted by Chenda and Sokly as she arrives.


Two couples visit DDP 14 March 2011

Today we had a pleasant visit from two deaf couples, seen here in the back row with Charlie Dittmeier. Both couples, one from Korea, and the other from the United States, were traveling alone in Cambodia and happened to meet in Siem Reap, the town where Angkor Wat is located.  They struck up a friendship and came to Phnom Penh together, and today they both visited the Deaf Development Programme.  Here they are in our office for the Sign Language Project with the deaf staff there.


Maryknollers getting haircuts 28 January 2011

In a shift in their Job Training Project, the Deaf Development Programme has started setting up their own training for deaf students rather than sending them to various hearing training centers.  One of the first endeavors has been this barber school.  Charlie Dittmeier (left) watches Kevin Conroy (far right) of Maryknoll get his hair cut while former Maryknoll Lay Missioner Jim McLaughlin gets his hair trimmed.



Charlie with two deaf staff 20 August 2010

The deaf association in Macau is organizing a youth camp for young deaf people from Asia later this year, and we have decided to send four deaf women.  They are all teachers in our project with Handicap International—France, and the trip to Macau will be something of a reward for their work in very difficult situations in the provinces where they are teaching sign language to deaf women with no education and no language.  And, of course, DDP will also benefit from their going to the camp and interacting with other young deaf people from many countries in Asia.



DDP's Kampong Cham classroom 22 December 2009

Today, when traveling to Kampong Cham province to negotiate rental agreements for buildings for our new project starting in January, we stopped in at the DDP classroom in Kampong Cham town. The dwindling numbers in these classrooms are one of the main reasons for the new project which will bring in students from remote districts and provide a place for them to stay during their education at DDP.


Pacific Systems technician at DDP
Pacific Systems technician at DDP
15 December 2009

We have had ongoing problems with our computer network at the Deaf Development Programme ever since we installed it. Sometimes they seemed to be caused by the ISP, sometimes by the network routers, and sometimes by the computers. And maybe quite often by the computer USERS! Today one of the technicians from Pacific Systems came to investigate slow Internet download speeds. It turned out there was one problem with the ISP but he also suspects one of our routers is bad so that will be replaced tomorrow. Here the technician is on the phone with the ISP technician and then is in another office on another floor trying to get things configured correctly.

Students at the end of school day 14 December 2009

We are lucky at the Deaf Development Programme that our students are highly motivated. They come to us about twenty years of age, after watching their younger brothers and sisters go to school over the years while they stayed at home and worked in the rice field. But even for motivated students, the end of the day is welcome. Here deaf students pick up their bicycles and head home at 4:30 PM.


Teaching sign language to DDP staff 27 September 2009

Every time we get a new staff member at the Deaf Development Programme we must teach him or her Cambodian Sign Language so that deaf people are fully included and can participate equally in the activities of DDP.  Currently we have four new staff and—luckily—we are also training a group of deaf people to teach sign language.  Part of the training of the new sign language teachers is sharing their language with the new staff every afternoon.


Charlie Dittmeier and Tashi Bradford 9 April 2009

Staff members who are born deaf, grew up in a deaf culture, and are native signers are extremely valuable for the DDP program, and DDP is fortunate to have both Tashi Bradford (pictured here talking with Charlie Dittmeier) and Justin Smith who recently rejoined the DDP staff.  They are able to serve as role models for the deaf youth of Cambodia and can help to interpret and explain various difficult situations that come up with the deaf youth here.


Preparing sign language classes 23 March 2009

Tashi Bradford (facing camera) is DDP's resident sign language linguist. She is helping to promote the teaching of sign language in Cambodia, especially by training deaf people as teachers. Here she speaks to four of the DDP staff about teaching sign language.


New chess sets 10 March 2009

Cambodian people love to play chess and the DDP students love it, too.  A visitor to DDP, Rita Bocher, brought three chess sets with her from the United States, and today the students put them to good use during their long lunch break.




Making mailboxes for DDP staff 23 May 2008

26 of the 34 staff of the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme work in our five-story building in Phnom Penh.  No one enjoys running up and down the stairs so internal communications have long been a nuisance. Now we are experimenting with a staff mailbox system for distributing messages and papers for the staff. Stephanie Linder, an advisor to the job training project, took responsibility for making the mailboxes happen. Youra, one of the DDP guards, helped her assemble the plastic boxes which will be placed on rattan shelves in an area near the one stairway.



Centipede in DDP House 22 May 2008

Last week four different students living in our hostel for deaf youth studying in job training centers woke up with extremely swollen arms or legs.   The painful swellings all had what looked like a bug bite in the middle but it was obviously not a mosquito!  Two of the bites were so bad and continued to swell and hurt so much that we took the students to the local doctor.  When asked what might be causing the bites, the students mentioned seeing centipedes, usually coming up out of the drains in the bathroom floors, so I asked them to catch some for me.  This is one centipede they turned over to me.  Whether this variety of bug is actually causing the problem, we don't know, but we have sent the photo to the website What's That Bug to see if they can help identify it and recommend an antidote if others get bitten.  The problem is compounded because although we provide beds for the students, culturally they prefer to sleep on a thin reed mat on the floor.




DDP chess players in Phnom Penh

Martha Dittmeier Reed, Charlie's sister, gave him two simple chess sets to bring back to Cambodia where chess is a national pastime.  The students at the DDP center in Phnom Penh quickly took advantage of this new fun option, and now everyday at lunch time there are impromptu matches between students. Charlie was worried the deaf people would not know how to play since they are not exposed to so much of the culture that is available to hearing people, but many deaf students, both boys and girls, already knew the game and have started teaching the others.