The Cambodian charity Krousar Thmey (New Family) has won the 2013 Impact Award for Education in the Asia-Pacific region on International Day of People with Disabilities.

Krousar Thmey works with underprivileged children in 14 provinces across Cambodia, enabling deaf and blind children to have access to education. The charity has created five special schools to meet the needs of disadvantaged children as well as 36 integrated classes in rural areas. Through special programmes, the charity ensures thousands of children can study the curriculum, from kindergarten through to high school, and later integrate into wider society.

Today’s Cambodia is still scarred from the Khmer Rouge regime which ended in 1979, and although it has been developing over the past decades, the country is still poor and its education system limited. There are no provisions in place to educate the deaf and blind, and as a result, an estimated million people are believed to have disabilities. It is believed 250,000 people are either deaf or hard of hearing and 170,000 blind or visually impaired.

Student and teacher sign together in class, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Pic: Kimlong Meng/Majority World

International Day of People with Disability is a United Nations initiative, which has been celebrated since 1992. Its aim is to promote an understanding of disability issues and raise awareness about the dignity, rights and well-being of people who live with a disability.

The Stars Foundation’s Impact Awards were set up in 2007 and recognize charities from Africa-Middle East & Asia-Pacific for their work in the areas of Health, Education, Protection and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). By awarding the Krousar Thmey charity their Education prize, the Stars Foundation recognises the positive impact the charity has had on the community.

Indeed, many former students have been able to integrate the classic education system, advancing to university or finding employment. The charity has also been involved in mainstreaming resources such as live signing to national TV broadcast. As a result, the Government of Cambodia has announced all Krousar Thmey teachers will be registered as official government employees, and the Special Education programme will transition to the country’s Ministry of Education by 2021.