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Meet a DSI Changemaker: Kalyan

Ms. Kalyan SREY is one of DSI’s Cambodian Master Trainers and currently serves as a government officer at the National Institute for Special Education, one of DSI’s partner organizations. She started working in the disability sector over 20 years ago with the National Center for Infants and Children at Rabbit School Organization. Kalyan is a passionate and gifted educator and leader who has dedicated her professional career to training teachers and working with children with intellectual disabilities. We are so privileged to watch her competence, confidence, and impact continuously grow.

Image of Kaylan, Cambodian female with long brown hair seated at a desk holding a pen and smiling

We asked Kaylan a few questions to learn more about her journey and dedication to this mission work:

Why do you do this important disability work?

“I grew up in a poor family in Cambodia, and as such, was forced to drop out of high school. However, in 1997, I was selected to work as a volunteer in the Nutrition Centre in Phnom Penh. Around this time, they immediately identified the need for special education services for children with intellectual and physical disabilities in the centre and decided to set up the Rabbit School to address this need. The first class had just 12 students and I was employed as a teaching assistant for the class”.

Kaylan continued to work for Rabbit School for many years as the organization grew. She grew her professional skills through her direct work and also received training from some organizations, such as Krousar Yeoung and Handicap International, as well as from working with specialists from the USA, Britain, and Australia, improving her knowledge of preschool pedagogy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and adolescent mental health. She was also fortunate to attend training in India for 3 months, where she gained additional knowledge and experience in working with children with intellectual disabilities.

“In 2014, I was delighted to be promoted to the position of technical trainer for the Rabbit School. My current work involves not only providing technical support to all Rabbit School teachers, but also coordinating with outside specialists, and providing field training for teachers who work with children with intellectual disabilities.

I am happy to be the technical trainer because I enjoy sharing knowledge and skills with others as well as learning new things from them.

I am very grateful to the Rabbit School for their support over the last 20 years. I would also like to thank all the colleagues and volunteers whom I have worked with in the past. Without their support, my life would not have changed. I wish Rabbit School all the best”. 

Kaylan (seated in red) with a group of Cambodian colleagues and teacher trainees seated and standing around her smiling.
Kaylan (seated in the middle in red) with colleagues and teacher trainees.

What is improving or changing for the better already?

I feel so confident in training other teachers, helping children learn, addressing behavior issues of students. The teacher also becomes more confident and happier to teach children with Intellectual Disabilities.

They have improved knowledge and skills such as in addressing behavior issues, teaching plans, strategies, class management, developing teaching materials, etc. The students behave better, learn better, communicate better, play together as a group, know how to wait, etc.

Kaylan holding resources and talking to other teachers in classroom with students seated on wooden crates

What is one continuing need now for teachers and children with disabilities in your community?

There are many more needs. A few that Kalyan identified are: 

  • Master Trainers need more specialist support to support her with additional technical support, attending workshops/training on special education, help learning assessment, assistants, and opportunities to do exchange visits overseas.

  • Teachers need more teaching materials, support and coaching frequently, access to computers for teachers to do searching and studying, and replacement teachers when one is absent.

Many children are on the waiting list because we don’t have enough classrooms and teachers.

  • She also shared about the high numbers of students in a classroom who do have access currently. There are also many challenges for students to access school, including lacking curriculum for special education, teaching and learning materials, games and toys.

4 Cambodians including Kaylan seated on the floor with training resources while many others look on

What do you hope for the future of all children with disabilities in Cambodia? 

“I hope for the teachers to have professional skills in supporting children with intellectual disabilities to learn and hope for children to be successful at school and they have a good life in the future”.

Is there anything else you want people to know about teacher training and inclusive education in Cambodia?

Kalyan wants people and authorities to understand more about the benefits of inclusive education for children with intellectual disabilities and [to be] willing to support it.

Kaylan smiling and pointing to a handdrawn visual on the wall showing a smiling face and four word bubbles with khmer text
Kalyan created and showcases her own 'rights of the child' - protect, study, living and social - to share her beliefs.

3 ways to show your support:

  1. Acknowledge by liking this post and/or adding a comment below

  2. Share this post with a friend to help raise awareness

  3. Give to help us continue to be there for Kaylan and other Changemakers like her


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