The Courageous Duo Battling to Educate the Blind in Cambodia

Collection with 22 media items created by Lola García-Ajofrín

United Arab Emirates 27 Mar 2015 00:00

“Neither the government of Cambodia nor its families care about blind children”
 
"No – absolutely not." This is what the Cambodian Minister of Education said to Benoit Duchateau-Arminjon in 1993 when he proposed to open the country’s first school for blind children. "If you want, take the money and invest it in normal schools,” he remembers being told.

“No,” other families said to Phalla Neang, a cambodian teacher, when she drove her small motorcycle from house-to-house, asking if there were blind children there. “Some people shut the door in my face,” she recalls. Now she laughs about it. At the time, blindness was considered a curse in Cambodia. But Benoît had promised a blind child, Wanna, that he would go to school. With that promise he convinced Phalla to join his organization, the Krousar Thmey Foundation.

"It was crazy," he admits. "I looked for her and I told her: I know you can help me but I’m only able to pay you $100." And she agreed. Phalla Neang, one of ten finalists under consideration for the “Nobel” of teaching at the 2015 Global Teacher Prize event held in Dubai, became the first teacher of Braille in the history of her country. Wanna, their first student, is now a professor of music.

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Education Teachers Cambodia Refugee Disabilities Blind Children Politics School Government Society Cambodian Global Teach... 2015 Krousar Thme... United Arab ... Dubai

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Blind children Cambodia 01
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Wanna today. Despite his disability, he is now is a Music teacher in the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 03
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Mar 2015

In 1993, Phalla Neang opened the first school for blind children in Camboda. She was one of 10 finalists for the "Global Teacher Prize," an honor that awards $1 million to "the best teacher in the world."

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Blind children Cambodia 04
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Mar 2015

In 1993, Phalla Neang opened the first school for blind children in Camboda. She was one of 10 finalists for the "Global Teacher Prize," an honor that awards $1 million to "the best teacher in the world."

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Blind children Cambodia 05
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

Phot Wanna in 1993 being taught to read an braille book. Wanna, was the child who gave Benoît the inspiration to open the first school for blind children in Cambodia.

Photo by Krousar Thmeu.

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Blind children Cambodia 06
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

Wanna 20 years later with Benoît (founder of Krousar Thmeu Foundation, back row, third from the right) and Australia actor Jack Thompson.

Photo by Krousar Thmeu

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Blind children Cambodia 07
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

Photo by Krousar Thmeu. Benoît Duchâteau-Arminjon and Phalla Neang. Benoît is the founder of NGO Krousar Thmey. He started in Thailand’s refugee camps over 20 years ago. In 1993, Phalla Neang and the NGO Krousar Thmey opened the first school for visually impaired pupils in Cambodia and Phalla became the very first Braille teacher in the country’s history. She also contributed to the development of the Khmer version of Braille.

Since 1997, Krousar Thmey, which is supported by LIGHT FOR THE WORLD (a European development federation), also provides education for deaf pupils. Today Phalla Neang serves as a teacher trainer, school director and as the coordinator of the national ‘Education for Blind’ program. The ‘Education for Blind’ program involves five schools for blind and deaf students, 72 integrated and inclusive classes in regular schools, and nationwide advocacy campaigns.

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Blind children Cambodia 08
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

The opening of the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 09
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

The Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation

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Blind children Cambodia 10
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

Phnom Penh Thmey School. This is the school where Phalla currently works. The program has now expanded to 69 teachers and 250 children in 4 Krousar Thmey schools. There are an additional 29 integrated classes in public schools across the country.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 11
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Wanna teaching a class in the present day. Wanna's journey from a child who yearned for education, to now being a teacher is the success story that spurred the creation of schools for blind and deaf children in Cambodia.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 12
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Wanna today with his team.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 14
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Students at the Phnom Penh Thmey school.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation

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Blind children Cambodia 15
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Students at the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation

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Blind children Cambodia 16
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Students at the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 17
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Students at the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 18
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

A Student at the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 19
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

A Student at the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 20
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Students at the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 21
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
30 Mar 2015

Students at the Phnom Penh Thmey School.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation.

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Blind children Cambodia 22
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Jan 2014

Ly Khemara checks braille script as it emerges from the braille printer - the only such machine in Cambodia.

Photo by Krousar Thmey Foundation. Phnom Penh, 16 January 2014