Greater independence for people with hearing impairments 

People who are deaf or have a hearing impairment so often face discrimination in their communities. The Maryknoll Deaf Development Program in Cambodia helps people with hearing impairments become independent and grow in confidence.

Pa Bros and his classmates at barber school

About the program

The Maryknoll Deaf Development Program (Maryknoll DDP) helps deaf people and people with a hearing impairment become independent and more confident. The program teaches participants sign language, and provides training in literacy and income-generating skills. Maryknoll takes a proactive approach to identify those with the greatest need. Maryknoll staff visit Cambodia’s poorest communities to identify people living with hearing impairments and invite them to take part in the program in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Kampot. All costs, including living expenses, are covered by the program.

For most of the young adults in the program, this is the first time they’ve had a chance to learn, make friends, gain confidence and fulfill their potential.

“Many of the young people’s families have no idea what deafness is and they don’t know that deaf people can be educated,” says Maryknoll co-director Charlie Dittmeier. “We try to turn all that around.”

Bros's story

Bros is a young deaf person who comes from rural Cambodia. His story is typical of young Cambodians living with hearing impairments.

“When I was smaller I didn’t have any sign language. I couldn’t hear and communicating was a problem,” he says. “I only had gestures.”

Without access to education and the ability to communicate beyond his family, Bros faced a life of isolation and limited opportunity.

Bros’s life changed the day the Maryknoll (DDP) came to his village and invited him to join the program. When Bros started at Maryknoll DDP, he knew he was in the right place. “Once I got here I thought: this is what I want to do,” he says.

Maryknoll staff tell us that Bros has a voracious appetite for learning. Over a two-year period, he not only learnt to read, write and sign in Khmer, but he also developed accomplished social skills. He smiles as he explains that he can now communicate confidently with both hearing and non-hearing members of the community.

“I worked hard, did the training, learnt how to communicate, read and write,” he says. “I learnt to be successful for the future.”

In Cambodia, around 51,000 people are deaf or have a hearing impairment. Maryknoll DDP helps these people become independent, providing them with life choices that mean they can break free from poverty and life on the margins.

Program details

  • Issues: Disability; Education; Job training; Protection
  • Partner Agency: Maryknoll
  • Funding in 2017/18 financial year: AU $100,000
  • Geographic location: Phnom Penh; Kampong Cham; Kampot
  • When established: 2008
  • This program is supported by Australian Aid.