To mark International Deaf Development Day in Cambodia and International Week of the Deaf we’d like to share one of dancers stories.

When I was young I lived with my mum and dad in our family home, they wanted me to go to school to learn but I found it difficult to communicate. They took me to school but other students didn't understand me. That year I had a lot of sadness the other students teased me and called me names, I stopped going to school.

I stayed at home all the time, my parents would hit me because they were frustrated that I didn't understand them. I was lonely.

One day I got sick, I had a problem with my bones and I couldn't stand up, I stayed in hospital for what seemed like forever. I am so glad I got sick, it changed my life

Whilst I was in hospital I saw something I’d never seen before I noticed from across the room a girl who wasn't communicating with words. Somehow she had figured out how to communicate using her hands and facial expressions, I was mesmerized and at that moment I wanted to do that. Her name was Mary.

 The people who had called me "stupid" had been wrong all along, I wasn't the only one she couldn't hear either!

I’d never seen anyone who was like me before, I was so excited, I wanted to talk to her but I didn't understand. “She must be the cleverest person in the world,” I thought gazing across the room. Had she’d invented a way to talk to other people?!

My mum and dad were staring at Mary with amazement they thought the same as me, how had this young child worked out how to communicate?

Curiosity got the best of my mum and she spoke with Mary’s mum. It turned out that Mary hadn’t come up with the idea of using her hands to talk all by herself. 

It was called Sign Language we’d never even heard of sign language. Mary’s mum told us that Mary was on a course with an organization called the Deaf Development Programme (DDP) in Kampot where she was learning Cambodian Sign Language (CSL)

As soon as I left the hospital my mum and dad took me to enroll at DDP.  At that moment my life changed, I’d never been able to communicate with anyone not even my own family. I was 12 when I learnt sign language

Now my life is great, I work as a dancer at Epic Arts, I’ve danced all over Cambodia, Singapore and last year I even went to the UK for two months. I am surrounded by people who use sign language even thought not everyone is deaf. Some people are visually impaired, use a wheelchair, have learning disabilities, or are non-disabled but we all share a common language and I can communicate with them. 

When I look back at my 12 year old self I would never have imagined that I could be a dancer.