In this blog post, we pick up where we left off with the last blog post – “Part 1- A Conversation with OIC.”
For a refresher, we sat down with the Director of the Organization to Improve Communication and Swallowing Therapy Services in Cambodia (OIC), Chenda and OIC University Strategy Manager, Ruth Bryce. OIC is the very first speech therapy program here in Cambodia. They also provide help with swallowing and eating. As of 2013, there were no speech therapists in Cambodia. Though there were organizations working closely with children with disabilities, they lacked the training resources to provide speech therapy even though it was a serious need so OIC began.
Chenda explained that they have five strategy areas for development of speech therapy in Cambodia:
- University Programming
- Capacity Building
- Research and Resource Development
- Advocacy and Support Raising
- Direct Speech Therapy
Currently in Cambodia there are no professional speech therapists, only a few private sectors. Speech therapists need a university course. Cambodians have “speech teachers” which have experience but are lacking in clinical skills that are severely needed. There is a limitation to growth because of a lack of resources.
OIC’ says they will exit when “100 Cambodian University-qualified speech therapists are integrated into Cambodia’s public sector by 2030.”
That is Ruth’s job and she is resolute. It is a considerable, long term goal, but they are determined to do it. However, this goal must move at the pace of the university.
Sadly in Cambodia, there are simply no resources around for speech therapists. OIC is also working on creating some informational booklets that will come out soon. This will make the speech sector more accessible.
“It is time to utilize allied health professionals. There are strengths to Cambodian culture that other cultures simply do not have. This has to come with realized inclusion.” -Ruth
The communal side to Cambodian culture is made for advocacy just like this.
OIC recently teamed up with the National Hospital. OIC did not publish it, yet quickly the word spread. In three months they had 100 sessions. The waiting list is now 60 children long. This proves there is a need, and people are eager to receive help.
With this in mind, OIC hopes to create a team to work in hospitals, focusing on rehabilitation style therapy. Parents would receive basic education about speech therapy and would work together with them in order to learn how to care for their child. This coaching from the OIC technical team would free them of needing to wait for long term help. Communities are then empowered to do it themselves.
The limitation to speech therapy in Cambodia is lack of advocacy and awareness. And that’s where you – the reader – come in. It’s time to start the conversation because, as Ruth explained, “Communication is a fundamental human right. But, even more than just a right, it is the essence of who you are…” We owe it to our community to give them every opportunity to thrive.
That is the irony – communication (on our end) is what is necessary to help others communicate. Each person becomes their own sphere of influence.
How you can help:
“Start with small ways, start with what you can.” – Chenda
If you are interested in helping out, there are many ways:
Support them through fundraising opportunities.
Simply talk to them if you have personal experience.
Or follow them on social media: