Charlie Dittmeier estimates that there’s around 51,000 profoundly deaf people living in Cambodia. “And we’ve worked with only around 2,000 of those since we started in 1997,” he says.
Charlie works for the Deaf Development Programme here in Cambodia, run by global Catholic mission organisation, Maryknoll. They educate over-16s and young adults, teach them Cambodian sign language, give them vocational training, keep a registry for the deaf and perhaps most importantly of all, help them to feel part of a community.
The problem is, there isn’t really such a thing as a deaf community in Cambodia. Often those still out there on their own won’t know what’s happened to them, why they can’t communicate with others, or that there are others just like them.