In January 2015, our school (KCDI) began giving traditional Mohori music lessons to blind children as a form of both therapy and vocational training. In October of 2015, their shelter closed down and so together with their parents, local authorities and the children themselves, we decided to take the step of caring for them at our school, rather than sending them hundreds of kilometres away to an institution.
Many blind people have no access to education through Braille and no rehabilitative training and are destined to a life of extreme poverty and suffering. There is still much social stigma associated with disability and blindness and our children coming from rural areas, suffered humiliation and prejudice from extended family members and their local community.
Following our decision to house our blind students, we then organised Braille teachers to assist them during their school lessons. It is our school that financially supports the specialist Braille teachers, who teach our children to use Braille whilst following ordinary classes for sighted children, because the subsidiary the Braille teachers receive from the state, is too little to live on and often arrives months late. Our blind children in learning to do their studies on parallel levels, helps them to adjust to living with sighted people and not to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.
Our blind students live at our school along with their special housemother, they are accompanied by our staff and sighted children to state school for lessons using Braille in the morning and then back to our school for lunch and music lessons in the afternoon. We also have workshops in physical movement, arts creation (using modelling clay) and trying out other kinds of instruments to explore sound and touch. We also plan to develop computer studies and other vocational activities.
Since our first group of blind students arrived at our school, the local Department of Social Affairs has also given into our care other, smaller non-sighted children some of whom were abandoned by their parents.
Some of our children were blinded by early childhood Glaucoma, but many were born with a congenital defect and have no eyes at all.
The use of traditional Cambodian music is a wonderful form of rehabilitation, not only as therapy, but also as high level professional training. Our students in studying Mohori, also study Plein Ka (wedding music) and if they wish Pin Peat (sacred music). Traditional Cambodian music is used from the cradle to the grave. Forming a professional ensemble can bring our blind students a source of income for the rest of their lives.
One of our students has already performed as a traditional singer together with our Pin Peat music master, on invitation by the Cambodian Ministry of Culture, for the ASEAN Conference in Thailand.