When he was still an infant, Vat Venn’s parents could tell that something was different about him.
The young boy in Prey Ampil, a village in Cambodia, was slow to reach many of the milestones that other children achieved.
By the time he was a toddler, his parents knew he had an intellectual disability. His speech was delayed, and he didn’t sing, count, or talk to others the way other children did.
In many parts of the world, there are few programs available to help children with disabilities overcome their limitations, and community schools and programs are far from accessible. Parents worry that their children with disabilities will be ridiculed at school and will not be able to benefit from the teaching. Instead, they keep the children home, believing that their child will be completely dependent upon them for the rest of their lives.
In 2009, World Renew began an inclusive education initiative to change this reality in Cambodia.
“Before World Renew began to work with Cambodian communities to promote inclusive education, most children with disabilities were not sent to school,” said World Renew staff member Kathleen Lauder. “Instead, people with disabilities were often viewed by their families and their communities as being inferior and even an embarrassment.”
Together with its local partners, World Renew has encouraged communities to consider inclusive education. This included inviting parents and teachers to attend a workshop where they were given ideas about how to work with children in the classroom to overcome disabilities.
Parents were also taught that inclusive classrooms are important for lessening discrimination and improving understanding of disabilities within the community at large.
“By the end of 2015, 16 of the19 children with disabilities in World Renew’s target communities were attending school,” Lauder stated.
Vat Venn was one of them. After attending training on inclusive education, Venn’s parents decided to send him to the community kindergarten. With the skills from the inclusive education training provided by World Renew and its partner CFT, Venn’s teacher was able to encourage and teach him, step by step, until he eventually learned to sing children’s songs, count, and answer questions posed by the teacher.
Venn is now 10. His parents are no longer ashamed or afraid to send him to school, and Venn is excited to continue his learning with other children from his village. Venn’s teacher has even had the confidence to make him a class leader.
While Vat Venn will continue to have many learning challenges ahead of him, he is being equipped to reach his full, God-given potential.