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Deaf Cambodian Frees From ‘Prison’

VIDEO: Sign Language Frees Cambodian Deaf From 'Prison'

PHNOM PENH - At a hairdresser's shop in the Cambodian capital, there is none of the usual chit chat you might expect when getting a haircut because the barbers are all Deaf.

They have graduated from the only education course for Deaf adults in Cambodia, where the vast majority of people with hearing problems never had the opportunity to learn sign language.

"I didn't have any contact outside of my family. It was like being in prison. I was stuck there. I couldn't do anything. I didn't have any money. I didn't have any education," barber trainee Oeun Darong, 27, explained in Cambodian Sign Language. Until the late 1990s, Cambodia was one of the few countries in the world without its own sign language.


But that is changing thanks to the work of American priest Charlie Dittmeier, who began to develop the kingdom's own version with help from foreign linguists and researchers after he was posted in the Southeast Asian nation 13 years ago.

"We get people coming to us at the age of 25, 30, 35. They have never been to school a day in their life. They have no language," said Dittmeier.

His Deaf Development Program (DDP) is one of only two groups running schools for people with hearing problems in Cambodia. The other one is for children.

About 30 Deaf students aged 16 or older are currently taking a two-year course at the DDP centre in Phnom Penh, learning simple sign language, writing, reading and other life skills, said Dittmeier.

A third year is spent in job training like at the barber shop, where the students receive instructions given in sign language on how to offer hair cuts, shaves and ear cleaning.

'I couldn't talk to my family' ... Read more: http://gmanetwork.com/news/story/lifestyle/artandculture/sign-language-frees-cambodian-deaf-from-prison

Related:
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Deaf Girl Forced Into Sex Trafficking
National Geographic - Deaf Culture in Cambodia
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