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Our Disability Curriculum Project

"I have parents of children with disabilities who come to my school. We try for 1-2 weeks but I meet with the parents and we cry together because I have to turn them away because there is nothing I can do."

– School Principal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Young Cambodian boy with disabilities sitting on the floor smiling

Every person living with A Disability

deserves to live a full life



The Need

  • There are an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide
  • 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries
  • Today, in the wake of the Khmer Rouge's brutal reign, approximately 1.6 million Cambodians (10% of the population) live with disabilities
  • The typical top-down and short-term approach to aid for countries like Cambodia often means members of local communities are not given the agency to identify problems or be a part of sustainable solutions
  • Development projects in Cambodia only rarely reach people with disabilities
  • Primary and secondary school teachers are not yet sufficiently equipped with the knowledge and concept necessary to create inclusive classrooms

Our Vision and Process

DSI was founded in 2016 with the goal of responding to the immense unmet needs of people with disabilities in developing countries. Our work is guided by the vision of a world where these needs are met because every person with a disability receives adequate care and support from their local communities and is empowered to contribute to their society. Unlike many aid organizations based in the Western world, at DSI we put in-country partner organizations and disability professionals at the center of our work, from start to finish.

First, we rely on in-country partners to help us understand what problems are most pressing for their communities. 
Next, we collaborate with our in-country partners to design and implement programs that make sustainable progress toward those problems' solutions. Along the way we work together to identify partner organizations' strengths and realistic capacities, resulting in programs that are practical and achievable.
Finally, when the time is right, it is our goal that our in-country partners fully take over the programs we have built together, so that they can continue to grow and change under local control.

Disability Curriculum Project

Our Disability Curriculum project seeks to equip a new generation of disability professionals in Cambodia with the skills and tools to train educators across the country on critical disability topics.  
Identify Problem
DSI conducted needs assessments with our key Cambodian partners and in-country disability stakeholders across 2016–2018. These assessments helped identify a critical need for culturally-relevant teacher trainings on disability topics. Disability services in Cambodian primary and secondary government schools are virtually non-existent. Many teachers do not yet have the tools or strategies to serve children with special needs or to create inclusive classrooms. Cut off from educational opportunities, children with disabilities in Cambodia today are much too likely to become caught in a cycle of poverty and lifelong cultural exclusion. However, as our partners showed us, Cambodia is poised for change. In-country momentum to expand capacity in inclusive education and education for children with disabilities continues to grow, from individual teachers up to the government level.

I want the specific strategies to deal or teach this child, and real practice, not only the theory because at the moment I feel it’s hard to teach her as I don’t have enough skills to help her learn.”

– Classroom Teacher, Kandal Province, Cambodia
Check out some of our Cambodian Disability Curriculum partners: 
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Maximizing Impact:
Training of Trainers Model
Our 20 Master Trainers gain skills to train 20 Cambodian teachers at a time. Repeated across Cambodia, future impact is limitless.
Build Solutions 
Model &
Pilot Module:
Answering this call for assistance, in 2019 DSI assembled an Advisory Working Group of professionals with expertise ranging from international development, to disability rights, to inclusive education, to public health. This group began by studying what our Cambodian partners have told us about local needs, capacity, and learning norms. Then they determined the most appropriate training model to use and began carefully building our first Disability Curriculum training module: “Helping Children with Disabilities Learn.”
The project follows the "Training of Trainers" model. Working alongside our in-country partners, DSI will help teach 20 Cambodian "Master Trainers": 1) the content of our first training module; and 2) how to successfully pass this content on to other groups of teachers across the country.
Our Advisory Working Group is creating and embedding diverse resources that range from sample inclusive lesson plans and scripts to use during training sessions to careful evaluation tools so that we can measure how well our training materials work for our Master Trainers, both during and after training sessions.
Adequate funding will allow us to pilot our "Helping Children with Disabilities Learn" module in Cambodia in 2021.
Learn more about our: Advisory Working Group
Step Back
& Scale
DSI will work carefully with our partners and our Advisory Working Group to revise our first module after implementing and learning for the pilot monitoring and evaluation data. After that, we will create and train Master Trainers on additional modules on more specific disability topics. In the meantime, we will continue checking in with and evaluating Master Trainers involved with our first module. We intend to unveil at least three additional modules from 2022-2024, while empowering our in-country partners to take more responsibility and leadership over the continuation of the project. This will smooth the way for us to hand over primary control of the project to our partners in Cambodia.

At that point, we will consider adapting and scaling the project into one of the numerous disability organizations in other countries that have reached out for our assistance and partnership with DSI.

What We Need to Make it Happen

Our Disability Curriculum Project is ambitious. We are grateful for the resources our supporters and volunteers have provided so far, but we can't make it happen without more community support!
To date, our Advisory Working Group members, Board members, and other skilled volunteers have already contributed 1,237 hours of recorded labor toward our Disability Curriculum Project. To see our pilot through, we will need at least 1,500 more, including invested time from our Cambodian partners.
=100 hours of skilled volunteer labor
We have raised $7,000 for our Disability Curriculum Pilot Project
Please help us reach our goal of $72,700
How we will use your contribution:
Pilot costs for planning stage, such as translation of teaching materials, culturally-relavant graphic design work, and supplies for Advisory Working Group Meetings
Personnel costs, including for DSI staff and interns, as well as stipends for Advisory Working Group members
Travel expenses,
including plane tickets, lodging food, and Visas for 6 skilled volunteers from among DSI's Board of Directors and Advisory Working Group members
In-country costs for Pilot trainings, including translation, training session space,supplies, and food and transportation for Cambodian trainees (future Master Trainers)  
Equipment and other expenses, 
including data, insurance, AV recording equipment, and computer software.
Have specific questions or want to talk more with us about this project?
Contact us and let us know.
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