No Task Too Big for Intellectually-disabled Residents of Damnok Toek in Kep

Residents of the Damnok Toek centre, a home for people with intellectual disabilities, look beyond their challenges to attempt new things, having learnt skills, made friends and understood the lessons in life
Residents of the Damnok Toek centre in Kep
Residents of the Damnok Toek centre in Kep

Damnok Toek Organisation hosted an Awareness Raising Campaign to Support the Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities in Kep province.

This event on August 25 was part of a larger initiative to increase inclusivity of people with intellectual disability in the local community.

Damnok Toek residents have been organising regular beach trips, visiting markets and participating in events with NGOs while volunteering in local area clean-ups.

Sam Sovannarith, executive director of Damnok Toek, said the community is together to create awareness on disability rights and increase social inclusion and employment for people with intellectual disabilities.

“We plan to have more events like this in future and to continue collaborating with other organisations, which work in the field of disability to achieve our goals,” he added.

Damnok Toek has been operating the residential centre in Kep for young adults with intellectual disabilities since 2016.

It recently launched the Semi-Assisted Living Arrangement (SILA) where residents are responsible for their day-to-day tasks, while learning skills that would enable them to live and work independently in the community in the future.

Caring for residents, chickens

Among them is Ieang, who was born with cerebral palsy. He told Kiripost that although he has trouble learning and remembering things, he does not feel limited by disability.

He is happy living in the Damnok Toek community and has people speaking or helping him with his wheelchair, and that most people are friendly and nice to him.

At times, he has noticed some discrimination against the other Damnok Toek residents, which he said is because some of them cannot speak as well, so people are afraid of them.

In the organisation, he helps to look after the other residents and also farm animals bred in the home. “I keep the residents from fighting with each other and help the staff. I also take care of the chicken, tend the farm and learn to care for sick animals.”

During the event, Leang gave an impassioned speech, talking about the time he lived on the streets. “Before I came here, I was forced to beg. I did not have food or shelter. Then I was rescued. I was treated well by this Damnok Toek. I received education here and I am now joining daily activities. I can take care of the younger residents, I can plant vegetables and make tea,” he said.

Having mastered all that, a cheerful Ieang looks forward to fixing electrical items, including televisions, in the future.

“Hopefully, I’ll have my own shop where I can sell them too.”

Chicken rice shop

Another resident, Sreysros, has difficulty learning and problems with her eyesight, but it has not stopped her from learning some new skills offered by Damnok Toek centre in Kep.

“The people in the community treat me well and with respect. They also wish me good health. I have learned gardening and cooking and how to clean and wash my own clothes, and to live by myself,” she said.

Before coming to Damnok Toek, her life outside was very difficult as she was treated differently but all that changed when she came to live in the centre. “Now, I want to open my own shop and sell rice, but first I need to learn more Khmer and English to open my shop,” she told Kiripost.

Beach and resorts

Meanwhile, executive director Sovannarith aims to increase people’s awareness of intellectual disability and interactions between community members with and without disabilities.

He wants to do this to encourage employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in Kep.

The NGO has organised several recreational activities including visits to the beach for people with disabilities or to tourist resorts to gradually make people aware of those with disabilities.

He explained that only people with disabilities who live in the centre are taken to hospitals, schools, public places, pagodas as these places provide facilities for them while also helping them assimilate in mainstream society.

“We are urging for more attention and support from relevant departments and local authorities to look into issues involving people with disabilities in Kep,” Sovannarith said.