Saturday, October 28, 2017

Simple measures, big difference for children with disabilities in Cambodia: Ty’s story

By Lenka Tavodova

Ty reading her favorite book.  ©DRIC/2017/Kristina Seris

Battambang Province, Cambodia, October 2017: It is a humid afternoon in O’Choam, a small village in Battambang Province. Members of the Disability Rights Initiative Cambodia (DRIC) – a joint programme between UNICEF, UNDP and WHO - are on a field mission. Our group shelters under a small roof to shield ourselves from the rain, which is where we meet Khoeun Ty. Between shy giggles and proud smiles, 12-year-old Ty reads us her favorite story: 


“Once upon a time there was a fox that jumped into a well.
- Hello fox, what are you doing, asked a goat who passed by the well.
- I am drinking! If you want to have a sip, just come down, said the fox.”

Ty’s enthusiasm as she continued to tell the story was contagious, and we kept on smiling for the rest of the day. We could have never imagined that just six months ago, Ty could barely speak at all.

When Ty was just a baby she developed a high fever and parts of her brain became dangerously inflamed with meningitis. After that she started to have epileptic seizures.

“The first seizure left her hand paralyzed and her development slowed significantly. Ty was not able to learn how to walk and talk like other children of her age” Ms. Kuo Suon, Ty’s mother, reveals.

Like many, it is impossible to know what might trigger a seizure. It's hard for Ty’s family see her suffer the sometimes violent effects of the seizures, including severe body shaking, but they have learned how to help her through it. Fortunately, Ty is a resilient and strong young girl.

“Ty needs to have someone by her side all the time. One time she got a seizure in school, and it was so strong that the teachers got very frightened and did not know what to do. Since then Ty’s sister sits next to her all the time”, adds Ms. Kuo.

Despite her struggles, Ty is still very much a child like any other. She loves going to school, learning, painting and playing with other children. She has lots of friends and is full of positive energy and genuine curiosity about the world.

Two years ago, community workers from Khmer NGO for Education (KHEN) - an organization that promotes children’s rights and accessible and inclusive education for all - met Ty and began supporting her in reaching her full potential.

With the help of KHEN community workers, Ty was referred to a physical rehabilitation center where she received a wheelchair. They also referred Ty to hospital in Battambang where she was given medication to help her manage her seizures. The medication worked well; it made Ty more attentive and she is now able to attend school more regularly.

Ty in the wheelchair she received from the physical rehabilitation center.  
©
DRIC/2017/Kristina Seris

To help Ty catch up on the schooling that she missed because of her health, KHEN established home-based lessons for her. Ty’s family received training on ways to teach her at home, which would complement her school activities. Ty received a box full of teaching materials such as reading, coloring and mathematic books to assist her home-learning experience.

“I always make sure to spend time with her every day to help her learn”, Ms. Khoeun Sok Sin, Ty’ s older sister, says. “When she's not well or we can't go with her to school, I teach her at home.” Sok Sin will often spend two hours a day teaching Ty at home.

Ty, her sister and her mother with her home schooling kit. 
©
DRIC/2017/Lenka Tavodova

Having the possibility to be home schooled has made a big difference in Ty’s life. With this extra attention, dedication and access to medication, Ty has been showing wonderful development in her learning and social abilities.

“She can now talk almost effortlessly. She is also able to count and recognize the letters of the alphabet. I am surprised seeing Ty making such big progress”, her sister says. “Seeing her grow and learn makes me so happy! I couldn't be prouder of my little sister.”

Ty sitting at home with her home-based learning materials.
All children are born with great potential and have to right
 to equal opportunities for learning and living.
 
©
DRIC/2017/Lenka Tavodova

All children, with and without disabilities, have huge potential that needs to be unlocked through the right care, education and participation in society. Access to education is critical for children’s development and Ty’s case proves how equitable measures can greatly improve the lives and capabilities of children with disabilities.

Khmer NGO for Education (KHEN) is one of 15 civil society organizations that are supported by UNICEF and Australian Aid through Community Disability Inclusive Fund (CDIDF). Since 2014, Ty and 67,276 other children and persons with disabilities have benefited from services through CDIDF.

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